McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh says any push toward three-car entries would be wrong for Formula 1, and that it is more important to ensure the sport is cost-effective for smaller teams.
Last weekend, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo renewed his push for F1 teams to be allowed to run third cars, insisting fans would prefer to see top squads fielding additional entries rather than the current backmarker teams. But, on Wednesday, Whitmarsh disagreed, declaring that the smaller squads gave F1 a diversity that is vital to its appeal – even though he acknowledged that McLaren would potentially be interested in running three cars.
"The statistic that I live by is the one that since McLaren entered Formula 1, being moderately successful in winning over a quarter of the races and on the podium for more than half of them, during that time 100-odd teams have disappeared from the sport," he said. "I think that really just demonstrates the volatility of the sport.
"We have, in the last few years, evolved from really being a subset of the automotive sector back to a more pure Formula 1 set of businesses. I think we shouldn't underestimate how hard it is for the smaller teams. It's fine for perhaps some of the bigger teams who feel quite confident about their future, but the fact is we need 10 or 12 teams in the sport to race against.
"Personally, I think that it's going to generate grid size with three-car teams, and I understand why some people are attracted to that. If it was necessary, it has some interest for McLaren. But for Formula 1, it's the wrong solution. Formula 1 requires the diversity of entry, and I think we therefore have to work hard to ensure that to achieve all of that there are sustainable business models for all the teams in Formula 1."
Di Montezemolo had said that Ferrari would stand firm in its beliefs over third cars, and the need for changes to testing and aerodynamic regulations.
"We will support our views as we see fit, in the best way possible, but let's be clear, for those who agree, that is fine, but otherwise they will just have to accept it is our position," he said. "If Formula 1 still wants Ferrari it must change and go back to being at the cutting edge of research, while always keeping an eye on costs. We are not in Formula 1 as sponsors, we are constructors."
Whitmarsh played down the chances of di Montezemolo's stance opening up a new rift between F1 teams.
"I think Luca is an extremely charismatic figure within Ferrari, within Italy and within motorsport, and in fairness to him I know how off-the-cuff comments can be construed and amplified," said Whitmarsh. "I think he is passionate about Formula 1, I think he's very proud of Ferrari's history and heritage, and he will inevitably push with great passion his personally held opinions and views.
"I think on a day-to-day basis Formula 1 is much better when the teams and governing body work together to develop regulations. We've demonstrated over three years slightly calmer environments without paying too much attention to external rhetoric, and we've made some good decisions.
"I think the show that we generate has improved – there is much more overtaking, we've had some great races the last two years, and I think we should be very proud of that and I think that's been achieved by the teams working together with the FIA to develop sporting and technical regulations to achieve those aims."