Friday, July 17, 2009

A Formula For The Future

There are plenty of teams vying for the 2010 season.

It would be interesting to see most of the teams given a chance. On the downside, scenes similar to the plights of Super Aguri, Spyker and MidlandF1 will serve a detrimental voice of the pressures involved in the sport. On the other hand it would be like the 80’s and early 90’s all over again. Pre-Qualifying times would determine who would make it to Saturday qualifying. And the reintroduction of the 107% rule may keep much more interesting as well.

Formula 1 will not survive if major teams, eight of the current lot, decide to start a breakaway series. The Australian organisers have refused to let F1 on its track without Ferrari in its ranks. Major tracks, including the Gilles-Villenueve circuit in Canada are in contention to hold the pre-nascent Breakaway series as well. But if Formula 1 does lose the teams, alternative teams are already at hand.

The financial struggle of Honda’s Formula 1 team, ever optimistic with complete independence from sponsors, led to its departure from the sport at the end of the 2008 season. This year the team was taken over by Ross Brawn, a supreme strategist, and has converted the struggling team into an all-brain, all-brawn outfit. Honda had won one race in its three years. Their win came about in their very first year since taking over BAR in 2006 with Jenson Button’s victory in the rain soaked Hungarian GP. Now, they seem near unstoppable. 2008 also saw the departure of another team. Super Aguri had to quit after just four races due to financial difficulties and the twenty two car grid shrank to twenty.

Before 2002, the sport had at least eleven teams running in the championship for years. Sixrteen teams participated in 1992 alone. Now after a gap of fourteen years, the 2010 grid will feature thirteen teams provided the FIA-FOTA dispute is resolved.

The budget cap gave hope to a few teams planning to get into the sport, a provision which was the very source of the financial war. The future looks good in numbers but would be bereft of history if teams like Ferrari and McLaren were to bid adieu.

But the budget cap is a double edged sword.

iSport for instance is a successful GP2 team and had confirmed that they were to take a step up only if the budget cap was in place. Even Super Aguri were rumoured for a comeback.

Racing Engineering, another GP2 team is aiming to enter in 2011 provided there is limitation in the annual spending for every team. Italian MSC’s N.Technology had also submitted its entry for the following year.

Lola was one of the few older teams that wanted to taste the sport once again, after a gap of twelve years, but unexpectedly did not make the final cut.

F3 team Litespeed was also another contender for the grid which would have seen Force India engineer Mike Gascoyne back in the sport. Litespeed were to use the Lotus brand but were embroiled in a legal controversy over the use of the name. Lotus was in Formula 1 for thirty four years from 1958 to 1994 with seven Constructor’s championships in their name.

Brabham was another team expected for a return since its last race in 1992. Brabham has had a phenomenal history. The current owner owns the rights to the Super Aguri team as well. Brabham has won the Drivers Championship four times and the Constructors twice. Two drivers championship came under the aegis of Bernie Ecclestone, the current Formula 1 boss, back in the 80’s. However, the Brabham name was used by a firm name Formtech and legal action was taken by the Brabham family for the infringement and their non-affiliation of the name with Formtech. Brabham/Formtech did not make it either.

1987 and 1988 Minardi driver Adrian Campos’ team, Campos Grand Prix , would be making the grid for the 2010 season. He used to run his own GP2 team till last year.

Following on the lines of Adrian Campos, former F1 and Le Mans driver Alexander Wurz was also confident as team principal that his team Superfund would be selected. The Austrian based team was left out.

USF1 has been four years in the making and may see a female driver, Danica Patrick, in the seat. Lela Lombardi was the last female driver back in 1975. The driver line up is yet to be announced although drivers have already been selected and will most definitely feature drivers from the American talent pool.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, now for two successive years, wherein hyper-inflated plans of getting into F1 whizzed away, was former BAR-Honda owner, David Richards’ Prodrive. Prodrive was to get in the Aston Martin brand, a resurrection after almost five decades with a mere six entries to its credit. But as was with last year, they pulled out in the last minute.

All three new entrants, Manor Grand Prix, Campos Grand Prix and Team USF1 would be running on Cosworth engines. And that too has created a controversy. The rejected teams have claimed that they were “forced” to sign a deal with Cosworth engines only as one of the stipulations for an entry for the 2010 season.

Jim Clark in a Lotus, 1962

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