FEBRUARY 28, 2006
He can talk the talk but can he walk the walk?
David Richards has any number of reasons to want to run a Formula 1 teams, both from a personal perspective and as an ambition for his company Prodrive. It also helps his pals Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone to talk of a new Formula 1 team being out there in the mists, at a time when they need more teams to worry the car manufacturers into accepting a deal for 2008 and beyond. Our spies tell us that Ecclestone met with the car manufacturers last weekend and that they are now close to a deal but that Mosley has a different agenda and may be more of a sticking point. He wants to reform F1 as he thinks it should be and the car manufacturers have a different vision. There are things they want which Mosley does not want - and vice versa. There is therefore the basis for negotiation and that is the process we are seeing at the moment. It remains to be seen whether the power of money will triumph over the power of Mosley but the most likely outcome is a compromise of one form or another.
The question that needs answering at the moment is whether or not Richards has the cash to mount a serious F1 programme, or whether he is spinning his wheels and hoping that someone will come along and pay for him to go Grand Prix racing. He has shown that he knows what it takes to make an F1 team work and he has an organisation full of good people, located in the right place, with its own 250-acre testing facilty at Honiley, near Kenilworth.
A big sponsor, preferably an automobile company, would be a start. Richards has long enjoyed a very close relationship with Subaru, a company which has long been involved in rallying. At the moment the company is moving into advanced boxer diesel development a move which Subaru president Kyoji Takenaka says is because he wants to increase European sales from 64,000 to 100,000 by 2010. This does not seem to fit with current F1 technological development although it might fit with Max Mosley's recently-aired plans to create a completely new F1 format in 2011 with the emphasis being placed on fuel economy and a free-for-all in terms of engine size and shape.
Having said that Takenaka has been around long enough to remember the company's one foray into Formula 1 in 1990 with a disastrously underpowered flat 12 engine, designed for the firm by Motori Moderni. The engine was turned down by Minardi but was sold to Subaru, which then went on to buy 51% of the Coloni team, that was struggling to survive at the time. The relationship did not last long. Against a background of poor financial results and the arrival of a new management, Enzo Coloni's efforts did not survive long. After four months he was ejected from his own team but when there was no improvement the entire programme was axed and Subaru turned to rallying with Richards.
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