April 28, 2006 – David Richards’ Prodrive team was granted entry to the 2008 Formula One World Championship. In total 22 applications were submitted that time – 11 from that time existing F1 teams, 11 new ones. All existing teams were granted entry to the 2008 F1 Championship. So basically 11 F1 wannabies were bidding for 1 available slot.
This is what Max Mosley had to say at that time:
Question: What was the process the FIA went through to reach this decision?
Mosley: “After the World Motor Sport Council decided that entries for the 2008 Championship would open on 24 March 2006 and close on 31 March 2006 we informed all of the current teams as well as other organisations we knew to be interested. We also issued a press release to inform anyone else who might want to tender an entry.
“We soon received applications from the 11 current Formula One teams as well as another 11 teams. Where necessary, we wrote to teams to ask for further information about their financial position and experience in running motor sport operations.
“Once we had gathered all the information we informed the World Council of the list of potential entries. A fax vote ensued and Prodrive was chosen as the 12th team.
“The World Council concurred that there was no reason not to accept the current teams as they are already in the championship and have confirmed their ability to compete effectively. Prodrive was chosen mainly because of its financial position, capabilities and experience.”
To be fair to Prodrive, not only them, but most of the other teams entered the “tender” under assumption that the customer cars will be allowed to race from 2008. The other hot candidate for the 12th spot – Jean Alesi lead Direxiv bid – was based on running McLaren chassis and Mercedes-Benz customer engines as well.
Now however, with no new Concorde Agreement in sight, it looks like the current one will be used next season. The current Concorde Agreement does not permit use of customer cars.
So now, there is a situation when a team who applied for F1 entry may not be able to enter because the rules and conditions are different than the conditions they expected at the time of their application. Who is to blame for this ? Max Mosley said this on April 28, 2006:
Question: Why do you think there was such a significant response?
Mosley: “Hopefully because of the new rules we’ve introduced to the sport. The 2008 Sporting Regulations have reduced the cost of competing and should improve the sporting spectacle at the same time. It makes for a very attractive prospect.”
How could he be so sure that the 2008 rules will reduce the cost of competing (by allowing customer cars among other rule changes)? How could he be sure the new rules will be passed? How much less is it going to cost to run the F1 team in 2008 than in 2006 ?
Part of the blame falls on Prodrive as well. It had to be clear to them for at least several months if not for the whole 18 months since they won the 12th spot, that there is no guarantee there will be an agreement on running customer cars… It does not look at all like Prodrive had a plan B in place. Talking with 2 other teams besides McLaren does not count as plan B, as all their talks were about customer car supply…
If Prodrive wants to make it on the 2008 grid they have 3 options as I see it:
1) Hope for miracle and new Concorde Agreement. This is unlikely even if considering only the
opposition from Williams team.
2) Build their own car – Not likely to be done at this stage, especially with no team of engineers and probably without enough budget to that, as they had never planned to build their own car. And one does not build a new F1 car from scratch in 5 months …
3) Purchase existing F1 chassis from non F1 entity – menas going the Super Aguri way. As far as I can remember, the most modern F1 chassis that may be available to purchase is 2001 Prost… The last entity I can track the ownership of the Prost chassis to is a consortium fronted by Phoenix Finance, run by Charles Nickerson, a friend of Tom Walkinshaw (Arrows). There is always the Cosworth V8 engine available, so Prodrive may be able to assemble a car, that after some modifications may make it on the grid. But I am sure Dave Richard’s ambitions are not to be 5 seconds off the pace of Spykers …
Of course, they can still sell the entry to another party, but anybody who takes over would face exactly the same issues as Prodrive does. Having 12th team on the grid next year looks very unlikely now …
I am not sure what happens, if Prodrive does not make it on the grid next year. Will they be still considered for 2009 or will there be new selection ? This is more of what Max Mosley had to say on April 28, 2006:
Question: What have you said to the teams that didn’t make it this time?
Mosley: “We informed all the teams that were not successful, although we did not tell them which teams were. We asked them to keep in touch in case a vacancy occurred.”
It looks like there may be a vacancy…