JUNE 2, 2009
Who is serious and who is not?
The entries for the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship are now closed and the FIA says that it would "inappropriate" to comment about who these have come from - and even how many entries there are. There are various stories about new teams and it is hard to know what is serious and what is not serious, largely because it is not really clear what rules will be adopted. The one team we know will be involved is Williams. There have been announcements from Prodrive and USF1, but nothing official has been heard from either Lola or Campos Racing (which is not the same as the former Campos Grand Prix, which has been transformed of late into Addax Racing). Campos is rumoured to be planning to run with Dallara chassis and Cosworth engines. The Northampton engine company is expected to also supply USF1 and Prodrive, but things are still relatively fluid at the moment. A lot has been written about USF1 but there is still no official word on who the money is coming from, although the team is reported to have a deal with US advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. This is owned by the giant Omnicom Group and boasts clients such as Haagen-Dazs, Adobe, General Electric, Comcast, Denny's, The Commonwealth Bank, the NBA, the California Milk Processor Board (for which it dreamed up the hugely successful "got milk?" campaign), Quaker Oats, Sprint, Elizabeth Arden, Hewlett-Packard and Frito-Lay. This means that the team will have access to the board rooms of some of America's biggest companies.
Campos has a similar plan and is allied with Spanish sports marketing firm Meta Image SA, which was founded by Enrique Rodriguez, who made his name in the sports marketing business, working with the likes of Arancha Sanchez, Miguel Indurain and Rafael Nadal. The motorsport division of the firm is headed by Jose Perez, who has played a role in developing the Real Madrid brand in in recent years.
There is no word on Lola's plans, but we understand that the entry was submitted on Friday morning. The team is saying nothing publicly. In recent days there has been talk of a Superfund-owned team from Austria, run by Alexander Wurz. This would be housed in an existing F1 factory and would use existing F1 people (which would help teams that may have to lay off staff) but would eventually be moved to Austria. If the money is there, then anything is possible.
That goes for many of the other potential entries and although some are still hoping for a $45m budget cap, others say that there is no point in waiting to find out what the situation will be and it is wisest to find a budget of $80m which will cover most eventualities. This is easier said than done when there are no confirmed entries. The other big problem for new teams is that it is hard to design a car when you do not know the rules. The FIA rules say that there will be no refuelling, the FOTA team wants the rules the same as this year. The design process is thus impossible as the size of the fuel tank is an essential element in defining a car. Of those who had been mentioned as possible F1 teams Ray Mallock Limited (RML) has opted not to submit an entry. It remains to be seen whether Joan Villadelprat's Epsilon has made an entry. Certainly the desire exists and Villadelprat said at Monaco that he was very close to a deal.
One intriguing rumour in recent days has been the idea that the March name will return to F1. The rights to the name and the trademarks are owned by Andrew Fitton, a businessman who acquired them back in the early 1990s.
"I have always hoped that the name might be used again in some form and have had a number of proposals over the years," Fitton says. "With the recent rule changes and the desire to attract some new independent teams now seemed like a good time and this initiative came out of a recent contact."
Fitton, who now runs a communications company called United Wireless Holdings Inc, and is also chairman of Swindon Town football club, seems to be only peripherally involved in the project.
The slightly worrying thing at the moment is that the nine FOTA teams that have entered provisionally have done so on the understanding that the rules will be the same as this year and that there will be a new Concorde Agreement by June 12. There is no sign that either of these demands will be met by the FIA.