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APRIL 14, 2007

Richards appears in Bahrain

David Richards popped up in Bahrain, saying that he was "on holiday" with his family in nearby Kuwait, which is funding his purchase of Aston Martin. Richards says that there the company has decided that there will be no involvement in Formula 1 for at least five years but he does not rule out taking the Aston Martin name back to F1 in the longer-term. He says that the name of the new Formula 1 team he will run next year will "probably" be Prodrive and says that the team is no great hurry to run a car, and intends to keep a lot profile until December when it will go into action with a car which will be acquired from one of the existing teams. This Prodrive can do but there are still questions about whether or not the team will be allowed to score points. Richards is confident that the FIA will let that happen and even seems to be under the impression that Bernie Ecclestone will be extending his payments to the teams to all 12 entrants as opposed to the traditional top 10. Ecclestone has always argued that the final two should not get the TV and travel money because it helps to reward the successful and keeps out organisations that might exist simply to pick up cash. Ecclestone might agree to change that as it does not matter to him whether the 50% of the income he generates goes to 10 teams or to 12 teams. However this will mean that the others will get less and thus it is not likely that everyone will agree to that unless they can be talked into it.

The question of whether Prodrive can score points is a question of interpretation as he argues that the rules state that the Constructors' Championship is awarded to "the make" which has scored the the most points and that definition of "the make" is different to the definition of "the constructor".

The constructor owns the intellectual property rights but "the make" is the name that a constructor attributes to a car and thus if McLaren builds some cars for Prodrive and gives them the name Prodrive, they can score points.

If this interpretation is accepted it will reopen the can of worms over customer cars with the smaller independent teams likely to be up in arms as this will mean that the possibility exists that they will be squeezed out of the sport by the manufacturers expanding to run more cars in order to create more cost-effective programmes.

Richard was spotted visiting McLaren, adding to the widely-held belief that he will be running rebadged McLarens as Prodrives next year. This deal is likely to be expensive but if Richards can squeeze a little money from his friends in Kuwait he will be in a strong position to do well.

However a lot more water will have to go under the F1 bridge before that can happen, as several teams say that the Memorandum of Understanding that they signed a year ago would be invalid if the fundamental principle of F1 being for constructors only was altered.

It seems, sadly, that this story has a long way to run yet.