Aston Martin could make a shock entrance into the world of Formula One after Company Chairman David Richards revealed Prodrive is undertaking preparations to enter the sport next season.
Read the detail news from The Times Online by Kevin Eason below:
ASTON MARTIN ENTICED BY MAX MOSLEY’S PLANS FOR CUT-PRICE FORMULA ONE
Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One’s billionaire commercial rights-holder, has cut through the recession to offer £30 million in aid to put three new teams on the grid next year.
His generosity, encouraged by necessity with the threat of more leading manufacturers fleeing the sport as the credit crunch bites, could bring one of the most famous names in British motoring into Formula One — Aston Martin.
David Richards, Aston’s chairman, is waiting for Max Mosley, president of the FIA, motor sport’s world governing body, to push through next week radical financial reforms that will cap the annual budgets of teams at £30 million. If Mosley gets his way for the start of a cut-price Formula One — and the president is most persuasive — Richards will push the button to enter a new team next season.
As many as eight candidates are vying for three places on the grid, with Lola, which left Formula One 12 years ago, considering an entry and a new American squad already formed.
But Richards, with a prospective entry from Aston Martin, is the most exciting and intriguing. Richards has been this way before, as a former team principal of Benetton-Renault, the only successful team principal of the Honda outfit that folded last year and the man who rescued the career of Jenson Button from the scrapheap.
He attempted to launch a team two years ago, before Formula One’s arcane politics and infighting scuppered his plans. He had a £45 million budget in place and, with backing from the Middle East, he believes that breaking into Formula One this time will be easier, provided that Mosley can deliver a financially sensible future.
“This is a great time to come in,” Richards said yesterday. “If budgets are capped to a sensible level, everybody will benefit. Instead of Formula One being a contest of the teams with the most money, it will become a championship for engineers with ingenuity and great drivers who can show their skill, as it was years ago.”
The importance of new blood is underlined by the extraordinary decision of Ecclestone, chief executive of Formula One Management, the company that runs the sport’s commercial business, to plough almost £7 million as seed capital into each team and then pay at least £3 million more for their travel costs for a season.
The sudden departure of Honda late last year was the reality check that free-spending Formula One needed. Speculation abounds that Toyota could yet follow its Japanese rival, while there is uncertainty over the future of Renault and whispers are growing that senior executives at even Mercedes-Benz, which owns 40 per cent of McLaren, are having doubts over the wisdom of spending in Formula One when their car company is suffering in the recession.
Mosley is aghast that any team can contemplate spending up to £300 million in a season and is determined to slash budgets. It is expected he will tell the teams next week that £30 million will have to buy both chassis and engines, although they will be free to pay their drivers what they like, which will come as a relief to Lewis Hamilton, who signed a five-year, £75 million deal with McLaren last season.
The budget cap is the catalyst to bring in entrepreneurs such as Richards. He will have talks with his Middle Eastern backers next week and that will help to determine whether he launches a team with a sponsor brand or a squad under the Aston Martin banner.
“Nothing is decided yet,” he said. “But the key to all of this is the financial reality that the budget cap will bring. Take a £300 million budget and, in reality, all you really need is a tenth of that. Things just got hopelessly out of control. What Max has come up with is not just eminently sensible but crucial to the survival of the sport. This way, new teams can become involved at a sensible price and with a chance of being competitive.”
Richards has facilities ready and built, including space at his Prodrive factory in Banbury, Oxfordshire, where the World Championshipwinning Subaru rally cars for Colin McRae and Richard Burns were built.
Just how lean and mean the new Formula One could be will be exemplified by Richards’s team, which will have a staff of 142, compared with an estimated 1,000 at McLaren and 750 at the old Honda team, now rebranded as Brawn GP.
The budget cap has also opened the way for the resurrection of another evocative name among motor racing fans. Cosworth, the engine company based in Northampton that left Formula One in 2006, is offering relatively cheap engines to start-up teams to help to keep their costs.