Sakhir, Saturday: As the Formula One circus gears up for the Bahrain Grand Prix, the news this weekend is that several groups are planning their entries into the F1 world championship for 2010.
Chassis maker Lola, failed former F1 applicant Prodrive and car manufacturer Aston Martin have all been linked with moves to the sport next year, their enthusiasm rekindled by sweeping cost cuts proposed for the new season. FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone has already hinted that the grid could be allowed to expand beyond its current maximum of 24 cars, to make way for all the new entries – and that a return to the pre-qualifying of the early 1990s could be necessary.
Peter Windsor, motorsports journalist and key figure in fellow 2010 applicant USF1, told reporters why the motivation to enter F1 has never been stronger:
“Obviously the massively reduced costs have made some impact,” Windsor said, “but the main thing is that with the withdrawal of Honda at the end of last year, there is a niche in F1 to be filled.
“USF1, Lola, Prodrive and others will basically be competing for the privileged spot of F1’s laughing stock.”
The role, filled in the past by such entries as Andrea Moda, Pacific Grand Prix and Forti Corse, is said to be prestigious among motorsport bosses, as it is difficult to make a team so woeful without a special effort. “And with costs dramatically coming down, being a good businessman will no longer be a requirement to running an F1 team,” Windsor added. “This paves the way for all sorts of inept and disorganised lunatics to start competing in the very near future.”
Hopefully, shoestring-budget race teams will also allow dangerously rich and marginally talented pay drivers into the sport as well. “Skill is too important a factor these days,” Windsor confessed. “We want drivers who can pay, even if they are hilariously useless.”
The need for rich, underperforming drivers will be a relief for Nelson Piquet, whose F1 dreams may not be over just yet.