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Culture: F1 Teams threaten legal action against each other
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 Written by Richard Brunton
Colin Kolles, Spyker Principal
There's another big argument brewing down the ranks of Formula 1 between the Spyker, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Super Aguri teams, an argument that calls into question the eligibility of the teams in Formula 1.

Colin Kolles is the team principal of the Spyker team and he recently talked to press about how both the Toro Rosso and Super Aguri teams should not be allowed to score team points in Formula 1.

While the Spyker car was being launched, Kolles was confirming reports that he's considering looking to the courts to seek an injunction against these teams racing in Formula 1, going over the heads of the FIA and trying to prevent them from racing in Melbourne.

So why is there such a problem with these two teams racing next year? Well the argument is that they aren't constructors and should, at the very least, not be allowed to gain points as constructors.

Kolles is gunning hard for the teams and in comments reported over at ITV-F1, he says that running these cars in Formula 1 is damaging the sport.

...I am not against running these cars – even though this is already damaging for F1 – but they are not constructors...

...A customer car is a customer car. It is not a constructor’s car, so it is very simple...And we have a constructors’ championship, so they are not entitled to get constructors’ points...

...It is not a Toro Rosso, it is a Red Bull. It is not a Super Aguri, it is a Honda.

The issue he, and other teams have, is that these cars are simply copies or extensions of existing cars, and Red Bull and Honda are merely selling their chassis's to these teams. This makes them customer cars and not constructors. Since Super Aguri and Toro Rosso are not actually constructing their own cars, just buying the engines and chassis' from other companies.

Now this might sound like semantics, when put like that it does to a degree, but there are a couple of issues raised here. Both Red Bull and Toro Rosso are gaining advantages in running four cars throughout the weekend, and they could use these customer teams to provide them with extra levels of development and testing. It could also be argued that they are unfairly elevating themselves to a competing against constructors without putting in the time, effort, and cost.

On the other hand, it could be argued that this is indeed just semantics. Already engine suppliers are selling their engines to two teams, one as constructor and one as customer, does this make them illegible for the constructors championships as well? Red Bull run Renault's engine, Williams run Toyota's, and so on. Is this not the same argument?

To get a better understanding of what teams are running what engines and chassis combinations, have a look at the Formula 1 2007 season preview.

Frank Williams and Patrick Head of the Williams team are taking a similar stance to Kolles who says:

"To be a constructor you have to own the intellectual property and it is singular in the Concorde Agreement...You cannot share it. That is the is not fair that they are saving lots of money while we are investing lots of money...They want to save the money and get the benefits. It cannot work like this."

Frank Williams of Williams
In The Guardian through they have Frank Williams comments on the whole affair:

"I am adamantly opposed to chassis sharing and we at Williams do not believe it is legal under the current rules...We are what you might call a traditionalist racing team which believes that we are out there competing for two world championships, one for the best driver in the world and one for the constructor who builds the best car in the world...As far as I'm concerned it is absolutely in the regulations in black and white that every team must make its own chassis."

Patrick Head of Williams
Patrick Head believes similarly, as he says through

"We are running at the moment under the '98 Concorde Agreement, and it is absolutely plain and clear in there that each team has to be the designer and the constructor of their car...And no amount of smoke and mirrors, like inventing another company or handing the IP (intellectual property) around for a Euro or something, changes that."

Right now, as is so often in Formula 1, the FIA are yet to issue any official ruling or clarification, and while nothing is said from the governing body, both Williams and Spyker teams are threatening to seek arbitration if these two teams present cars that are so obviously customer cars in the first race in Melbourne.

This seems to suggest that both Williams and Spyker are awaiting the official launches of both Torro Rosso and Super Aguri, the last two teams to make their cars public before making the verdict on just how "customer" they are. Too "customer" and we can expect the threat of court action to become stronger. Interestingly Super Aguri aren't set to launch their car until six days before the first race.

Kolles was damning of the Red Bull press releases so far on the Torro Rosso car:

Adrian Newey now with Red Bull
"Even their technical director has said they are using the same car except for the mounting points on the engine...He said this to the press in front of people, so they cannot turn it around by changing company names from Red Bull to Red Bull Technology overnight and things like this."

This looks set to be the first real controversy of the season, and it won't look set to be resolved until the FIA get involved and find some form of common ground between the two groups of teams.

The whole issue would be pretty black and white if teams weren't selling customer engines on as well, after all these have been accepted, but now that we see the chassis of a car being classed as customer, are the teams no longer constructors but assemblers, and does that really matter?

It may be up to the courts to decide in Melbourne if Spyker and Williams have their way.