Crisis averted…for 2 weeks, anyway
The news that all 9 of the current teams that hadn’t entered the 2010 F1 World Championship have now entered wasn’t a particularly big surprise but it is a relief. Too much focus has been on politicial issues in recent weeks so it’s about time we got talking about the racing.
It seems the teams have agreed that a compromise with the FIA – the £40m budget cap is delayed until 2011, with a £100m cap and assistance for new teams for 2010. So the teams have now entered on the proviso that the FIA agrees to this (likely given that this is rumoured to be what they were discussing in recent meetings and Ferrari and Toyota blocked from being finalised there and then – have a guess why) and that a new Concorde Agreement is signed by 12th June, the day the 2010 entry list is revealed. That won’t be easy given that we’re currently in a situation where the teams want more revenue, the new teams entering want revenue, and CVC, the holding company that owns Formula One Group, has a massive debt which comes from when they bought it and is struggling to pay off.
Talking of the new teams, it seems we are going to get a few credible entries for the FIA to sift through. Campos Meta F1 is run by former Minardi driver Adrian Campos. He sold his GP2 team to co-owner Alejandro Agag in the winter and was said to be working on a new project – it now appears that this new project was an F1 team, with backing from Meta (no, I don’t know who they are but apparently they have cash) and an association with experienced Italian constructors Dallara, who built a few of Scuderia Italia’s F1 cars back in the 80s and 90s, as well as both GP2 chassis and the current IndyCar. Then there’s Team USF1, which is said to be coming together quite nicely but who knows what’s going on over there.
Today, Prodrive and Lola have so far joined the entries. Prodrive is one of the most successful organisations in motorsport, having run the Subaru rally team, the Honda and Ford BTCC teams and the Aston Martin Le Mans operation. David Richards is of course the boss, and the Welshman is not only the owner of Prodrive but also the co-owner of Aston Martin, along with a group of very wealthy Arabs known as Dar Investment. It is unsurprising, then, that Dar are backing the Prodrive F1 bid – something they didn’t have last time they tried to secure a place on the grid for the 2008 season but failed to make it when the FIA decided to change the rules on customer cars. The backing from Dar has also led to speculation that the team could be branded Aston Martin, and indeed a variety of reports stated today that the team would be switched to the Aston name in 2012 (providing they get in, of course). The whole plan is said to involve having Mercedes engines for 2 years before switching to a proper manufacturer outfit in 2012, which I guess includes some meaty Astons in the back. Complete with Gulf Oils livery, what a comeback that would be for a brand that last competed in F1 in the 1960 British GP.
Lola’s last F1 adventure was a bit more recent – the infamous MasterCard-backed attempt in 1997 that last half a weekend. That was actually the first time Lola had entered with their own team. On previous occasions, they had gone in with another team – Reg Parnell Racing in the 1960s, Embassy Hill in the 1970s, Team Haas/FORCE/Beatrice in the mid 1980s, Larrousse in the late 80s and early 90s, and Scuderia Italia in 1993. They also have a strong reputation in sportscars, and are currently working with none other than Aston Martin on their new prototype. They’ve got the history, the pedigree and (hopefully) the money – they should be pretty reasonable, certainly better than last time.
As well as these, there are plenty of other rumoured teams at it. F3 minnows Litespeed confirmed they were working on an entry a while back but no one rates their chances. Spanish sportscar constructors and World Series by Renault team Epsilon Euskadi, led by Joan Villadelprat and Sergio Rinland, have said they are considering entry but money may be a stumbling block. Experienced sportscar and touring car team Ray Mallock Ltd, Super Aguri asset-purchasers Formtech and top GP2 team iSport were on the FIA’s list revealed at the recent hearing over Ferrari’s injunction bid, with former Simtek boss Nick Wirth’s Wirth Research company, who are repsonsible for the Acura sportscars, said to be interested in partnering another team. Other names that were rumoured included GP2 teams Addax (since denied), ART and Racing Engineering, a 2nd American team alongside USF1 (according to Bernie – rumoured to be either Andretti Green or Penske) and Colin Kolles, who was linked to Formtech’s bid.
Although there will be the inevitable list of “paper tigers” like last time (who can forget Craig Pollock’s Baram F1 and the entry from Filmty Interactive?), it does seem as if we could have a full grid of 26 cars next year. There are a few credible entries out there, as opposed to last time when there was just Prodrive, Direxiv and Carlin, who all would’ve needed customer cars to get in. Although the £40m cap has been delayed, it hasn’t perturbed the likes of Lola, Prodrive and Campos. I now can’t wait to see the liveries…