Monday, May 1, 2017

Musings From the Weekend: What Would Formula One Look Like With 40 Cars?

Penske had a great weekend. IndyCar didn't have a great night in Phoenix. Pirelli World Challenge had an even worse weekend in Virginia. Valtteri Bottas won his first grand prix in Russia with help from Felipe Massa to hold off Sebastian Vettel. Rally Argentina was decided by a fraction of a second. World Touring Car Championship has had four different manufactures win in the first four races. I bet you can guess who won in World Superbike. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

What Would Formula One Look Like With 40 Cars?
I am not sure how I got to thinking about Formula One with a NASCAR sized grid but I think it was watching any number of the NASCAR races this season and watching Derrike Cope or Reed Sorenson or Timmy Hill or Corey Lajoie take up space and hardly get noticed.

Who would be the Derrike Cope of Formula One if the grids were such a size? You really can't compare the two grids now because there are 20 Formula One entries and you can't just take one of the bottom three and match him with Cope. There are too many factors that get in the way like a dud of a McLaren or an underfunded Sauber. But what if the grids were the same size?

There are a lot drivers who either don't have Formula One experience and probably should but time (and money) wasn't on their side or there are drivers who got a shot only to get it too young or have it taken from them before they had properly had a chance to show what they could do.

If Formula One were going to expand to 40 cars it would take more teams. Granted, a few teams could probably field a third and possibly even a fourth car. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull could all likely field four. McLaren, Renault and Williams could all field a third but that would only get us to 29 cars. Half the teams on the grid can barely support two cars but there is a reason only ten teams are in Formula One and the series couldn't double the amount of teams. However, customer cars could make it possible. You might get a new team or two that would build their own cars, especially if they received a chunk of the television money, but customer cars would be the easiest route to 40 cars.

Let's say Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all ran four cars and McLaren, Renault and Williams all ran three cars and the remaining four teams ran two cars, we are at 29 cars. Just to get it to an even number, let's say Haas ran one customer car and for the sake of it, that car is a current Ferrari. I know there is a big disparity between 2016 and 2017 cars but I am sure there is a way to update last year's cars to get them in the ballpark with this year's batch of competitors.

ART Grand Prix has been highly successful in the series formerly known as GP2 and the GP3 Series and the team ran a Mercedes team in DTM for two seasons before the reduction in the DTM grid for this season. I think the team could take on two updated Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrids. Prema Powerteam has been highly successful in Formula Three and won last year's GP2 title in the team's first season in the series. The team should also be fairly well funded with Lance Stroll money and with its Ferrari connections Prema could run a pair of year-old Ferraris.

Christian Horner founded Arden International and if Mercedes is going to have six cars on the grid and Ferrari is going to have seven cars on the grid, there mind as well be six Red Bulls on the grid, even if two of them are year old cars. DAMS has been heavily involved with Renault in Formula E and seeing as how Renault's 2016 car was a dud DAMS running a year old Renault would be foolish but the team could run two R.S.17s, which have been competitive and it would give the French manufacture five cars on the grid.

We have two cars to fill and just because they are working on an LMP1 program and seem to have loads of money, let's say SMP Racing develops its own Formula One car and let's say its SMP chassis will have a Ferrari engine.

Now, where are we going to get 20 drivers from? The easiest answer is raid sports car racing.

Not too long ago, Sam Bird was Mercedes' reserve driver and I think he would be a good fit in that seat but Mercedes is going to need a German and I am not sure it can bring back Nico Rosberg. All of a sudden the abundance of German options have disappeared. I think the team's best option is bringing Pascal Wehrlein up from Sauber, leaving the Swiss team with a seat to fill. Rio Haryanto isn't busy and has some fund. Sauber could use the Indonesian.

Ferrari has two open seats and I think Antonio Giovinazzi would be one of them. The Italian was second in GP2 last year and he did well with Sauber in testing and Australia and Malaysia wasn't great but every young driver has a rough weekend. Joining Giovinazzi at the Scuderia will be James Calado. The Briton was winning races in GP2 and he has been in sports cars since 2014 but he has been top notch at AF Corse.

Red Bull will reshuffle its deck. It will move Carlos Sainz, Jr. up to Red Bull from Toro Rosso to keep Ferrari from poaching the Spaniard and the team will move Pierre Gasly into the fourth seat instead of having him in Super Formula. Daniil Kvyat would stay at STR and joining the Russian would be Alex Lynn, a former Red Bull junior driver and now stud sports car driver.

Renault could benefit from bringing in another veteran driver to go along side Nico Hülkenberg and Jolyon Palmer and seeing as how Sébastien Buemi is doing in Formula E and considering his Formula One experience, the Swiss driver would be a smart grab. Williams has a former Formula One driver as its test driver and I would love to see Paul di Resta back on the grid. McLaren isn't that great and it was a toss up over whether Stoffel Vandoorne would replace Fernando Alonso or Jenson Button so I think Button getting one final year makes the most sense for that team.

As for the one customer Ferrari for Haas, Charles Leclerc just won the GP3 Series championship and he has had a few outings in Friday practice sessions. This would give the 19-year-old race experience without taking a Ferrari seat.

Now for the dedicated customer teams. Gary Paffett has been a Formula One test/development/simulator driver for over a decade. ART Grand Prix finally gives Paffett his first race seat and joining him at ART would be Robert Wickens, a DTM race winner for Mercedes-Benz and runner-up in the 2010 GP3 Series.

Felix Rosenqvist would be Prema Powerteam's lead driver. Rosenqvist is a talent driver who beat many current Formula One drivers in Formula Three and won the 2015 FIA European Formula Three championship with Prema. Next to Rosenqvist could be Lucas di Grassi, an Audi factory driver without a ride and one that is good enough to be in Formula One.

Red Bull Arden International needs an experienced driver and why not bring in another familiar face in Jean-Éric Vergne and why not pair him with the likes of Mitch Evans, a GP3 champion and GP2 race winner? And as for DAMS? Felipe Nasr is available and Nicolas Prost has been respectable in Formula E and that could be a respectable duo.

If we are going to add all these teams and drivers, there are going to need to be a few older drivers who are hanging on and if SMP Racing is going to enter Formula One, first off it is bringing Vitaly Petrov back to Formula One but next to the Russian could be Rubens Barrichello as he pads his record for most Formula One starts.

With Liberty Media talking about 25 races, maybe 40 cars might not be out of the discussion either. The rules would have to be relaxed to allow that many cars to compete in a race. I can't imagine what the traffic would be like and safety car periods would have to quadruple but it could cause for some intriguing races.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Simon Pagenaud and Valtteri Bottas but did you know...

The #31 TR3 Racing Ferrari of Daniel Mancinelli and Andrea Mortermini won the Saturday SprintX race from Virginia International Raceway after numerous of pit lane penalties due to a timing and scoring error. The #2 CRP Racing Mercedes of Ryan Dalziel and Daniel Morad won the Sunday race. Nico Jamin swept the GTS races in his debut weekend.

Joey Logano won the NASCAR Cup race from Richmond. Kyle Larson won the Grand National Series race on Saturday.

Jonathan Rea swept the World Superbike races from Assen after Chaz Davies broke down on the final lap in race one and held off his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes by 0.025 seconds. Kenan Sofuoglu won the World Supersport race.

Thierry Neuville won Rally Argentina, his second consecutive victory but he won by 0.7 seconds over Elfyn Evans, the third-closest rally in World Rally Championship history.

Citroën's Tom Chilton and Volvo's Thed Björk split the WTCC races from Monza.

Ryan Dungey won the Supercross race from East Rutherford, New Jersey and retook the championship lead by nine points over Eli Tomac with one race remaining.

Coming Up This Weekend
Super GT will race on Thursday at Fuji.
MotoGP runs its first European round of the season from Jerez.
The FIA World Endurance Championship gets one final tune up before Le Mans at Spa-Francorchamps.
The TCR International Series will also be at Spa-Francorchamps.
NASCAR takes a trip to Talladega.
IMSA goes on its own to Austin.
The second round of the Blancpain Sprint Series takes place at Brands Hatch.
The 2017 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters season finally gets underway at Hockenheim.
Supercars trek across Australia to Barbagallo Raceway in Perth.
Supercross season concludes in Las Vegas.