The spending power of the bigger manufacturers could lead the likes of Caterham trailing
With the 2014 engine regulations set to shake up the sport of Formula One as never before next season, one team boss is of the opinion that it could alienate the smaller teams even further.
On the face of it, the switch from 2.4-litre V8 engines to 1.6-litre V6 turbo power plants represents a step into the unknown for every team on the grid and should lead to a more even playing field.
Will the 2014 engine regulation changes create a more level playing field?
But Caterham boss Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport on Saturday that he thinks it could have the reverse effect as the bigger manufacturer-backed teams such as Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault could flex their spending muscles even further to guarantee success.
I think it is a small opportunity for us in that it is an opportunity to join the midfield—but I believe that we will only join the midfield. There is a reset but the midfield will be quite far away from the leading teams because I see the amount of resources that some teams are capable of putting into this.
The other thing is that in 2015, you will have four players—Ferrari, Red Bull with Renault, Mercedes and Honda—that have an obligation to be successful. They need to justify the level of spending that is currently being put into it—and that obligation to win is going to create a massive arms race between them. That is a big danger for Formula 1—that it will be those four and the rest of us behind.
In an attempt to further reduce spending in F1 and narrow the gap between the giants and the minnows, teams have agreed to a cost cap in spending in certain areas from the 2015 season onwards.
But Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo doubts that this will have any significant effect due to the sheer weight of resources the big car manufacturers have at their disposal.
"For the first time it has been said that we have to define a [cost] cap. You know why I have doubts about the cap—because it is very easy to cheat—particularly for [manufacturer] teams. And Ferrari could be one," di Montezemolo is quoted on Autosport. "I could go to Chrysler in Detroit to ask them to do something for us. Mercedes could ask their company. We have to find something that is credible but the cost is the problem number one."
Of course, it is hard to predict what is going to happen until the first few races of the 2014 season are out of the way. But with only three test sessions for teams to adjust to the radical new changes, Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner told Autosport that he expects engine reliability to be a big issue.
Reliability is going to be a fundamental issue in the first three or four races whilst teams get on top of the issues. It's inevitable, as 12 days of running over three tests is not that much for such a big regulation change. You are going to see some early issues with these power units.
If Horner is right, then there is every chance we could see the likes of Caterham and Marussia creeping up into the midfield and securing their first points in F1.
How long that success will last is another matter entirely.