Soothing words put brake on F1 commercial panic

FORMULA 1 may face a commercially bruising time during any economic recession which may be just round the corner, but the doomsayers aren't having it all their own way. Some predict a more moderate impact on the sport, serious though it might be.

Sir Frank Williams commented this week; "The recession will have quite an impact, but it will not bring the sport to its knees. Right now there is a major slowdown in business, whether you're a bus driver, an investment company or trying to sell sponsorship. Everyone's feeling the impact, but it won't be catastrophic."

Ferrari Sporting Director Jean Todt broadly echoed those feeling when he said told Motorsport News in London; "It's true that there is a world economic crisis and with all these tragedies I would say we are a world at war. But even the economic experts don't know how the stock markets are changing from one day to the next. But Ferrari has long standing partners, so our situation remains positive for the coming years."

However, FIA president Max Mosley counselled caution, making the point that it would be bad for the sport if there was an exaggerated disparity between the richest and poorest competitors. "All you require to compete in Formula 1 is a car with a three-liter engine and a chassis," he noted. "OK, you might not be competitive, but the scale of the rest of the expense is up to the individual teams and the individual team owners.

"Teams will always spend as much money as they've got. What we don't want is a situation like you had in the fifties when one team has got all the money and it is disproportionate to the rest, but I don't think that is going to happen."

Minardi team principal Paul Stoddart took a less optimistic view. "The economic impact is going to be grave," he ventured, "and not just for the airlines. We haven't seen the end of the trading losses yet or the end of the companies going down. I won't be surprised to see all the teams that are not manufacturer-based are not around any more."

Meanwhile, F1 teams have agreed on a schedule for testing next season with the mid-year test ban extended to include the whole of July. The only exception to this will be 50km shakedown sessions prior to each race.

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