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Dave Richards joins the stampede to F1
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Dave Richards joins the stampede to F1
Posted By:   |  23 Apr 2009   |  10:33 am GMT  |  0 comments

All of a sudden we have a rush of people heading for the revolving doors into F1.

Hot on the heels of the news that Lola is lining up an F1 entry, comes Dave Richards, former head of BAR Honda and before that Benetton.

Richards has unfinished business in F1. His time at the BAR Honda team was cut short after their most successful season in 2004.

He has long been an advocate of cut price F1 and planned an entry with Prodrive which did not materialise because his plan was based on customer McLaren Mercedes cars and the rules on customer cars did not come through as he had anticipated, in fact it became unviable to run customer cars from the end of this season onwards.

Now with the £30 million budget cap having been introduced for 2010, Richards has dusted off the F1 entry folder and has revised the business model and is seriously considering coming in with the Aston Martin brand, of which he is chairman.

Aston Martin is better known as a Le Mans team, as were Jaguar, but Aston did compete in Grands Prix in the later 1950s. I remember when I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s seeing an front engined F1 Aston Martin single seater doing very well in historic events.

The document issued by Richards today suggests that there are perhaps seven or eight parties interested in joining F1 next season.

I’ve always said that I think the budget cap will end up being set higher than £30 million, more like £50 or £60 million, but there is a lot of negotiation to take place before that is all resolved. FOTA will be involved in that, although they have gone very quiet since the budget cap was announced and then the teams had their spat over the double diffuser.

What is happening here alongside what is going on on the track this year with teams like Brawn and Red Bull having their turn at the front, seems to me to be a move away from the elitism which has dominated F1 in recent years.

I noticed that quite a few people agreed with what Flavio Briatore was saying in China about the sport losing credibility if the top names are not fighting it out at the front. That is the elitist view and it appeals to some fans of F1, but it seems to me that behind the scenes forces are trying to change the sport into something more accessible, both for teams and fans.

In part this development is obviously to do with reducing the power of the biggest teams and manufacturers as well as keeping the teams’ share of revenues down, but the teams will surely have their say before it’s too late and it will be very interesting to see what kind of a fight they put up.

The elite drove the costs up in F1 over the past ten years to ridiculous levels and the credit crunch and global car market collapse presents an opportunity for F1, in all sorts of ways, to take a reality pill. But to what extent is the marketing an appeal of F1 based on the idea of the ‘best of the best’, the absolute elite? Certainly the drivers have to be the elite for the series to have credibility, but what about the teams?

Aston Martin is a prestige brand, a car for life’s elite. But they have not wanted to compete with the elite in F1 thus far, because the costs have been prohibitive. There is a certain irony in the idea that a massive democratisation of the sport allows a brand like Aston to get a foot on the ladder…

So far FOTA has presented some ideas for controlling costs and improving the show, but they are going to have to raise their game quite a bit and force the issue if they are to get the kind of F1 their roadmap prescribes. That time is fast approaching.

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  1. Martin P says:

    James, as a comparison, do you know what sort of cash other series spend in a season – such as IRL?

  2. Oliver Drew says:

    I agree with you James. Formula One is “on the up” at the moment with the cost cutting, along with Brawn and Red Bull (along with Toyota) being at the front fighting out the podiums and wins – for surely Toyota will win a Grand Prix at some point this season?

    I don’t like the elitism coming from Briatore – considering Renault as a front-running team is like re-writing history, for only in 1994, 1995, 2005, 2006 and the back-end of 2008 have Renault been anything like a “front-running” team. Ferrari had a dire 1980′s and 1990′s and McLaren we dire in the mid-90′s too, and of course, didn’t win anything between 2000 and 2007.

    Williams, perhaps the best example of the problems private teams have had over the last ten years, are more of a front running team than Renault in my view.

    Saying that, nobody has a divine right to be at the front of the grid. At least McLaren have kept quiet about being at the back of the grid (unlike Ferrari and Renault) and have started the fight to get back to the front.

    I sincerely hope that the three available spots on the grid for next season are filled. Hopefully USGPE will make the grid – a United States-based team would be good for the sport. If Lola get a spot then it gives them a chance to put aside horrifying recollections of the 1997 Australian Grand Prix; and I would love to see Aston Martin in the sport…what a great name that would be!

    So yes, so long as the budget cap is reasonable (now that they’ve removed drivers salaries, motor homes and hospitality, £50 million should be the very most that it needs to be), these teams could come in and compete. That can only be good for Formula One.

  3. martin says:

    If they get the rules and budget cap right next year we could really see the dawning of a golden age in F1.

  4. Gary Davidson says:

    An Aston Martin F1 team with British Racing Green livery would be a site to behold!

  5. Benjamin says:

    Don’t forget USGP. It will be crwded in 2010!

  6. Dave H says:

    The only problem is Bernie’s cap on grid size.
    With Aston Martin, Lola, USGPE, and any others that may raise their heads when the budget cap’s finalised; there are 6+ cars bidding for 4 free slots.
    24 is the maximum grid size that Bernie set a few years back, has this changed?

  7. Simon A says:

    Aston Martin F1 and a full grid, the elitists can bog off (and I don’t mean buy one get on free, although in theory they could).

    I for one can’t wait.

  8. Rich says:

    Pitpass quotes Dave Richards as saying:

    “The key to all of this is the financial reality that the budget cap will bring. Take a £300 million budget and, in reality, all you really need is a tenth of that. Things just got hopelessly out of control.”

    If this is indeed the case, why has nobody entered F1 with a £30 million budget already? If one can, in reality, go Grand Prix racing for £30 million why hasn’t it been done already?

    Surely this is proof that it takes more than £30 million to run two cars, 17 times a year.

    Does anyone have a breakdown of how an F1 team spends its money?

  9. The “elite” teams in F1 are, and have always been, the teams that are winning. Were not Brabham, Lotus, Tyrell, Williams all once elite? The difference is, with the exception of Lotus, these were all race teams rather than “brands” that you could pop out and buy.
    Flavio seems to think that “Elite” needs to directly relate to some aspirational product like an SLR or Enzo. But he should give the fans more credit and understand that we will bestow “eliteness” on whomever does the consistent winning.

    Humans value cleverness and competitiveness more than we do McMercs and Enzos. The only reason these are aspirational vehicles is because they’re connected to wins. Not the other way around.

  10. Oliver Drew says:

    @Dave H

    Bernie said earlier in the year that he was looking at having 26 cars on the grid next year as the circuits can handle that many cars.

  11. Phil says:

    if the grid fills up will they bring back the 107% rule do you think?

  12. Realyn says:

    Wiki says(to 2010) :

    Ecclestone reportedly said that 26 cars would be on the grid at the start of the season. [9]

  13. The Kitchen Cynic says:

    26 used to be the limit…ah the good old days of ‘DNQ’. We haven’t seen that since … well since the last time Lola turned up, with their Mastercard monstrosity, vapourware engines and a business plan that would have had them fired from The Apprentice.

    However we don’t want to return to the bad old days of half-assed teams like Andrea Moda, and even serious teams getting lapped 5 or 6 times in a race. Is the 107% rule still on the books?

    With the new qualifying system things could get very crowded in session one. Would we need some kind of pre-qualifying ? (though hopefully not like the nightmarish system of the early 90s – listen to some of Eddie Jordan’s stories about that!)

  14. Finn says:

    Is that Dave “here-we-go-again” Richards?

    If I had a pound for every F1 pose he’s made, I’d be able to bail the country out if its financial crisis in a moment.

    Huge mouth, minuscule trousers.

  15. I don’t care if a team has a brand to sell or not! It’s only the racing that matters to me.

  16. I think it is realistic to determine the number of cars starting the race according to the circuit.

    24 would be quite enough at Monaco but some of these huge new circuits could easily accomodate 30 or more!

  17. Leo Allen says:

    How quickly some people forget…as has been pointed out in these comments. Williams name was on everyone’s lips less than ten years ago. It was thought in those days that the natural order of things contained Williams, Ferrari, McLaren at the very top.

    Even further back, who could ever imagine an F1 grid not containing a Lotus or a Brabham at or near the front ? Where are they now ?

    So to imagine that some of todays most powerful names cannot fade is simply wishful thinking. It is entirely possible that this massive recession will kill off or reduce the power of some of the top names.

    Lack of money is a very great leveller. A serious reality check to some who still think that they are invulnerable, their world will never fade; can never be distroyed.

    One thinks of 200 million years of Dinosaur dominance at the KT boundary. The sun still shone, the Earth was warm and sustaining….then bang. All gone.

    And in this situation no-one in F1 today is safe either….

    Sorry to be Mr Gloom. Hope Prodrive, Lola and US-F1 all make it next year.

  18. EC says:

    Greetings from America, where some of us think James Allen’s blog is the best F1 blog in the English language.

    I suspect Dave Richards’ interest in forming an F1 team has a correlation with the exit of Subaru from WRC and the consequent loss of revenue for Prodrive.

    The entry of more teams will be good for F1. It will mean more viewer interest and more sponsorship money. It will also increase FOTA’s power, which for everyone aside from “you know who” can only be a good thing. I’m willing to bet that when he smells the money, “you know who” will arrange for the maximum grid size to increase, because it’s painfully obvious money drives a huge percentage ( 100% ? ) of his behavior.

    Having said the above, I think the return of F1 to North America is overdue. Last time I checked, the populations of the US and Canada buy more cars
    ( and everything else ) than the population of Qatar, or the population of Malaysia.

    The US F1 venue should NOT be Indy ! It should be Laguna Seca, which is a much more interesting track. And the Canadians want their race back too.
    There are a lot of people in North America who are not happy with the current state of affairs, to put it mildly. Not all of us watch NASCAR, you see.

    Racing geared toward maximizing the TV audience at the expense of driver safety and the racing must end ASAP, before a terrible accident makes the necessity more apparent. No real fans want to see someone get hurt as a consequence of a conveniently timed TV broadcast. I’d hoped that FOTA would take a firm position on this, but to the best of my knowledge this hasn’t happened. James,
    can you comment on whether action toward ending
    such race scheduling is in process ?

  19. Mattw says:

    With companies like Lola and Prodrive coming out an not only saying the £30 million is achievable, but also ‘Sign me up’ – this gives Max much more power to his proposal

  20. George says:

    “I noticed that quite a few people agreed with what Flavio Briatore was saying in China about the sport losing credibility if the top names are not fighting it out at the front. That is the elitist view and it appeals to some fans of F1″

    Probably the glory supporters with all their Ferrari merchandise ;)

  21. Leo Allen says:

    @EC

    ‘you know who’ was recently brilliantly labelled
    as …..

    ‘everyone knows he is coin operated’ !

    The image is bloody good !

    …and describes his character absolutely.

  22. Mattw says:

    I bet Dave Richards must be kicking himself now for passing over the oportunity to buy the Honda/Brawn team just 3 months ago. Oh how times change :)

  23. virtualmark says:

    Can’t help thinking that the real motivation behind Max & Bernie’s idea of the 30m budget cap option is to put a crimp on the team’s share of the commercial revenues.

    I accept that Bernie has a soft-spot for F1′s future. But I’m sure it’s always trumped by his cold-blooded desire to grab as much of the $$$ for himself as possible. (And I don’t think CVC give a rats arse about anything except the $$$ too).

    Personally I think Bernie’s strategy is to introduce 3-4 teams operating at a 30m cap, and then use that as negotiating leverage to get the rest of the teams to drop their demands for more of the commercial pie.

    And Max is just Bernie’s [moderated]. I think he’ll pull whatever strings it takes to make sure Bernie is happy and continues to keep Max comfortably setup in Monaco in the manner to which he believes he’s entitled.

  24. virtualmark says:

    Ooops. Edit. I accept that Bernie has soft-spot for F1′s **past**.

  25. sean says:

    Im a bit confused apparently as of next year for 30mill will buy you a very competitive car on next years grid someone should tell ferrari,mclaren,bmw,renault & red bull now they dont need to spend 10s of millions on new floors and dd is this a wined up. Brawn has spent hundred’s of millions of honda’s dollars on that car toyota is the largest spender on the grid , newey is on possible 10mill if not more a year at red bull ther’s a third of your’e budget gone all ready.Lola’s last car was 40sec off the pace but now because can spend less than the other teams they are going to have a car that’s faster than everyone else.How come the more money you have the easier it is to part you from it . These aren’t stupid men yet here they are lining up for bernie to part them from their hard earned cash,how long will it take until they relies that 30mil ant enough . Richard’s should know better the team he run’s in the aussie V8 Supercars is the biggest spender.F1 is always about the teams with the most always win.In a past life a bet you bernie was a snakeoil salesman.

  26. Martin P says:

    I found this on Wikipedia, so it must be true;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:F1_team_budget_split.svg

    Not sure where travel sits though unless it’s under “bills” heading.

  27. Richard says:

    Presumably the point is that it only takes more than £30 million if everybody is spending more, if you see what I mean. It can be done for that money but it would not be competitive with those spending £300 million – but if everyone was capped to £30 million then the show wouldn’t really be diminished.

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