The death of independents moves a step closer

The FIA announced details from Thursday's F1 Strategy Group meeting in a press release on Friday afternoon, among the changes discussed are refuelling, wider tyres, louder and higher revving engines and more aggressive looking cars.

However the statement brushed over the important topic of cost cutting measures, which could prove key to the survival of a number of teams, most notably Sauber, Force India, Lotus and Manor.

It simply stated that "a comprehensive proposal to ensure the sustainability of the sport has emerged," but what exactly do they mean by this?

The 'cost cutting' paragraph in full 

Furthermore, in light of the various scenarios presented by the independent consulting company mandated by the F1 Strategy Group, at the initiative of the FIA, to work on the reduction of costs and following a constructive exchange, a comprehensive proposal to ensure the sustainability of the sport has emerged. The Strategy Group member Teams have committed to refine it in the next few weeks, in consultation with the other teams involved in the championship.

It actually relates to a proposal to provide independent or new teams with customer cars, rather than find a true answer to Formula 1's huge and often unsustainable budgets.

The memebrs of the Strategy Group (Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams, Force India, the FIA and FOM) actually rejected proposals to reduce costs substantially, by, for example, reducing engine costs or banning wind tunnel use.

"Fundamentally, what is absolutely clear from it all is that the grey areas have been removed, that there will be no cost control initiatives brought in," explained Force India's Bob Fernley to Autosport.

"There won't be any consideration given to an equitable distribution of income, and the engines are not going to be reduced in cost."

Essentially the smaller teams have been told to find a way of surviving under the current rules, accept the use of a customer car, or exit the sport.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff described the "solution" as a way to ensure the survival of small teams in Formula 1.

"We need to find a way where the small teams can survive, and we don't want a situation where each of them is spending more than it earns," he said.

"The Strategy Group teams are prepared to offer a works-spec car to the other teams or potential new entrants."

But is it really good news for small independent manufacturers such as Williams, Sauber, Lotus and Force India?

It will likely mean a more competitive grid, as an extra two Mercedes, two Ferrari's, two McLaren's and two Red Bull's - albeit run under a different livery and name - will see the cars closer together in terms of pace.

Yet a grid full of customer cars isn't such a rosy proposal. They won't be allowed to beat their 'bigger brothers' and so will still be competing for second best.

It will also signal the death of the independent manufacturer. How can they compete against a grid full of manufacturer-backed cars on half the budget? That's something Fernley alluded to after the meeting.

"The difficulty you have, with the costs of Formula 1 constantly increasing, is that it makes it difficult to be competitive as a constructor.

"That's the issue, because at the end day there is a difference between competing and participating," he added.

"We are still not convinced the customer car idea is the right route, but obviously that is the way it's going to go now.

"So we either have to adjust accordingly to ensure we stay as a constructor, or we embrace the customer car process in time."

A decision as to when to implement the use of customer cars hasn't been announced, but it's likely to happen within the next three years.