OCTOBER 1, 2004

Briatore, Cosworth and Mecachrome

Flavio Briatore is reported to be talking about a bid to buy Cosworth Racing from the Ford Motor Company. This might sound like a nice idea but it is going to be very expensive. Cosworth does a nice business in motor racing of various forms but it does not generate enough budget to fund its own F1 engines without outside funding. This year we believe the company will receive $45m from Ford and around $20 from the engine deals with Jordan and Minardi.

Ford may be keen to get rid of Cosworth but it cannot simply sell the business for a dollar and leave because it is legally-bound to ensure the future of its staff for the next two years, which would be a very substantial investment, given that Cosworth employees around 600 people. Thus the buyer will need to make a commitment to a very substantial investment.

It is a nice idea to think Briatore could do what he did a few years ago with the old Renault F1 engines and set up a nice little deal which reaped large benefits for supplying old engines. The fact that F1 does not really know its engine regulations for the future make a Cosworth takeover a huge risk, unless the company is going to be run without any involvement in F1.

It could be that Briatore might like to try to corner the market on F1 engines at some point in the future, but this is to assume that the automobile manufacturers are going to leave the sport and small engine companies will rise up to dominate the F1 engine supply business. This is a very big risk because there is no hint that the car manufacturers are going to desert F1 and indeed are more and more willing to supply teams with customer engines for the future. If Cosworth is to compete with this a great deal of money will have to be spent.

The suggestion that Briatore might work with Mecachrome is an idea but it makes little sense because the French engineering company already has an engine facility in Switzerland. The former Heini Mader factory in Switzerland is currently producing 4-litre V8 engines for the new GP2 series, in which Briatore is believed to have a shareholding.

Briatore may, of course, consider that F1 is going to collapse and that the future will belong to a new GP1 series, some kind of hybrid formula to be developed from GP2 if no agreement can be made between the Formula One group and the GPWC, something which appears to be Bernie Ecclestone's back-up plan if all else fails.