Following yesterday’s developments it now looks like there could be as many as 14 teams racing in F1 in 2010.
It would be fabulous to see 28-car Formula 1 grids, but is it really likely? I’m not sure.
The new teams
Back in the dark days of the budget cap row, the FIA opened a tender to allow three new teams in and named USF1, Campos Meta 1 and Manor Motorsport as the entries.
Then, when BMW announced it was pulling out of the sport and declined to sign the new Concorde Agreement, the tender process was re-opened for another team. Yesterday the Malaysian government-backed Lotus project was named as the winner.
However the FIA also declared itself impressed with the quality of a re-application put forward by the buyers of the BMW team, backed by a Swiss investment foundation called Qadbak. It has said the team will have first refusal on any further vacancies that should arise, and will try to have the entry list expanded to 14 teams for 2010 to accommodate them.
This last point is interesting because the FIA clearly believes it is possible under the new Concorde Agreement to increase the entry from 26 to 28, but not to allow teams to run a third car, which Mosley dismissed as “fantasy” earlier this week.
Getting the other teams to agree to a 14th entrant might not be easy: it means less room at the tracks and more competition for points, prize money and sponsorship. However, a 14th team might not be necessary if other entries are pulled.
Who could drop out?
It was hard to ignore the fact that the FIA’s decision to grant BMW the ’14th slot’ came as new developments were breaking in the Renault case.
The offer of immunity to Pat Symonds is a clear sign the FIA believe the crash plot did not begin and end with the director of engineering and Nelson Piquet Jnr. The prospective of a heavy punishment for the team looms, and given their lack of a title sponsor for 2010 (as far as we know) and the poor state of the new car market, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Renault quit the sport. They could repeat their actions of 1985, where they wound up their factory race team but remained as an engine supplier.
Doubts remain over Toyota’s F1 future as well. The team are still without a win as their eighth season in the sport draws to a close, and following the arrival of Akio Toyoda as president of Toyota Motor Corp the decision on the team’s 2010 budget has been deferred until November.
Meanwhile at least one of the proposed new entrants for 2010 – Campos – has complained that its original plans for how it would afford to compete in 2010 have been thrown into jeopardy because the budget cap rules weren’t passed.
The teams that signed the new Concorde Agreement pledged to remain in F1 until 2012. Presumably there are financial penalties for teams that withdraw but the fact remains that we’ve lost two manufacturer teams in less than 12 months and more could follow.
Faced with this it’s hard to believe there could actually be 28 cars on the grid next year, though it is an appealing idea. If we end up with more than the 20 we have this year – and the new entries are competitive – I’d consider that a result.
More on the 2010 F1 teams