What many, me included, have suspected for long time has been confirmed. Prodrive will not make it to the grid for 2008 season. The customer car row, the delays in agreeing on the new Concorde agreement are obvious reasons. This is what Dave Richards had to say to German Auto Moto und Sport magazine:
“There was a dispute about our eligibility. In addition, the new Concorde agreement has been repeatedly delayed. We asked the FIA to be able to start mid-way through the season: our request was rejected. So for 2008 there is not a realistic chance of there being a Prodrive formula one team.
Secondly, we must wait for the new Concorde. Only then can we fully assess our options. Our ambition is still to be in formula one. But there was the risk of legal procedures because we wanted to use a customer car. As a result, our entire business plan was put into doubt. So we have chosen to re-group instead of simply race ahead blindly.”
Well, that’s it then for 24 cars 2008 grid….
However the speculations started almost immediately about another way to F1 for Prodrive.
There are people who expect Renault to be looking for a way out of F1 if they are hit with a fine of McLaren proportions for their spy related crimes against McLaren. Some believe Carlos Ghosn may withdraw leaving Renault team with all it’s infrastructure on the market. What would be the scenario ? Well, the idea is Renault engines still could be supplied on customer basis through Meccachrome (where Flavio Briatore has some interests) and the team could be bought by Dave Richards’ Prodrive. Sounds likely ?
The part about Renault’s withdrawal can never be ruled out. Carlos Ghosn stated clearly that Renault will only stay in F1 for as long as it makes commercial sense. He may not find paying huge fines very commercially sensible … But I doubt he would just snap the fingers and say “We are out!” The last thing he wants is to write off the entire value of the team. He is not a stupid guy. He would want to sell and get a fair value for the team. Could Prodrive offer that to Renault ? That I find very unlikely, all the money that Prodrive have budgeted for their F1 entry was just enough to pay for a pair of cars, few engines, some spare parts and 100 or so staff … Unless Prodrive teams up with another manufacturer, they can’t afford Renault. And if another manufacturer looked into F1 entry, why would they need Prodrive? They could simply buy the team off Renault completely, including Flavio …
So for now on we can erase Prodrive from our 2008 line up. There will be only 22 race seats available…