This morning the FIA has published the entry list for the 2010 Formula 1 season. It was widely anticipated to be a huge news story, and the entry list certainly raises a lot of questions.
The first thing to note is that all ten currently existing teams are on the list in some form or another. Five of the Fota-aligned teams are at the bottom of the list and have asterisks next to their entries. Conditions are still attached to their entries, so their participation in the 2010 season depends on how talks between Fota and the FIA proceed.
There is a deadline of 19 June for the situation to be resolved. That will no doubt be another big news day as the FIA will have a few extra teams up its sleeve ready to take the place should any Fota teams pull out.
Provocatively, the FIA has entered three of the Fota teams — Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso — and listed them as unconditional entries. These three teams all signed agreements with the FIA and FOM back in 2005 — the last time a breakaway was on the cards. Ferrari feel that its agreements with the FIA have been broken already, therefore it does not have an obligation to enter in 2010. Ferrari have reiterated that they have no intention of participating in the 2010 season unless its conditions are met.
Meanwhile, Red Bull feel that the FIA has reneged on its assurances that customer cars would be allowed. This is a matter upon which Red Bull’s agreement was apparently based. Red Bull have made clear that they have no intention of taking part as either Red Bull or Toro Rosso as things stand.
No matter what contracts have been signed by whom, you do have to wonder exactly how the FIA intends on forcing teams to participate when they have absolutely no intention of doing so. What is to stop Ferrari or Red Bull from competing half-heartedly in protest, sending out underdeveloped cars and a small team who are uninterested in taking part and fail to qualify, or retire after lap 1?
It wouldn’t exactly do much good for Formula 1’s image. I guess the FIA are banking that such a stunt would be bad for the image of Ferrari and Red Bull too, which would put them off doing it.
The most uncontroversial element of the entry list is the inclusion of Williams and Force India. Both teams were recently “expelled” from Fota as they felt obliged to submit unconditional entries due to previous commercial agreements.
The three new teams are USF1, Campos and Manor. This is a surprise to me. I — and I think most others — expected the three teams to be USF1, Prodrive and Lola.
USF1 were always going to be a dead cert. They had announced that they would enter the 2010 season even before there was a suggestion of a budget cap being in place. Indeed, the team has shrugged its shoulders over the idea of a budget cap. It is perfectly content to participate without a budget cap, which rather undermines Max Mosley’s contention that no new teams will enter without a budget cap.
Campos will probably be a solid operation. The team will be headed up by former Formula 1 driver Adrián Campos, who has been a successful team manager in lower formulae. The original Campos Motorsport won the first three seasons of the precursor to World Series by Renault, winning the championship with Fernando Alonso in 1999. In later years, Campos concentrated on GP2 and became one of the best teams on the grid, winning the 2008 Teams’ Championship. Adrián Campos sold that team which is now known as Addax.
Manor is an alliance between Manor Motorsport and Nick Wirth, two solid names. Nick Wirth was a major force behind Simtek. When the team collapsed, he went on to work at Benetton.
Manor Motorsport has a strong pedigree in lower formulae, having run successful British Formula Renault, British Formula 3 and F3 Euroseries operations. Its Formula Renault team is probably most famous for having run Kimi Räikkönen in the year before the Finn took the unbelievable leap all the way up to a full F1 race drive. It also housed Lewis Hamilton when he won the British Formula Renault championship.
All three of these new teams are pencilled in to run with Cosworth engines, although James Allen believes that USF1 is considering switching to Toyota. The use of Cosworth engines is no surprise. Max Mosley’s threatened standardised engine was the Cosworth lump, and their engine which was used by Williams in 2006 is more-or-less up to date with the current regulations.
I find it highly surprising that Prodrive have not been given the nod. The last time the FIA invited new teams to enter F1, Prodrive was the team that succeeded in gaining the place. However, when the FIA decided to ban customer cars, Prodrive were unable to take that slot which has remained vacant ever since. David Richards knows what he is doing, and had a long-term aim to bring the Aston Martin brand to F1. It seemed to be everything the FIA was wanting, but seemingly that is not the case.
Lola also must have felt pretty confident about getting an entry. Although their last foray into F1 in 1997 was an unmitigated disaster, there were commercial reasons behind it and there was no reason to suggest that they would repeat the mistake. Lola is a classic name which fans of motorsport recognise. And unlike ghostly entries using the names “Brabham”, “March” and “Lotus”, this classic name is the real deal.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Prodrive and Lola are options for the FIA to fall back on in case talks with Fota fail. The ever-present threat that a manufacturer may pull out without warning is also there.
Another notable aspect of the entry is that Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Brawn are all currently without engine deals. But with the manufacturers threatening to jump ship, it probably doesn’t mean much anyway. But it does add further credibility to the idea that Red Bull is angling for Mercedes engines for next season.