FIA president Max Mosley has said that he expects perhaps half the current F1 field not to lodge an entry by the deadline of May 29th. This deadline is now less than two weeks away.
Tomorrow the Ferrari injunction against the FIA over the process by which it drew up the 2010 rules package will be heard at the High Court in Paris. If the injunction succeeds it opens the way to a full legal challenge of the way the rules for next season were drawn up.
“I think that we will probably get anywhere between three and six teams by the deadline, depending,” said Mosley, he told Autosport.
“After that they become a late entry and if there is a space they can take it, and if there isn’t space they cannot.
“They have to make up their minds what they want to do. If they want to continue racing in F1, then they can come and talk. And if they want to go and do something else, then they have got to start making a car.”
There are believed to be several teams seriously thinking about entering a team in the 2010 world championships, including Lola, Prodrive, USGPE and GP2 team I Sport.
One of the options for the manufacturers is to start their own series and, as it happens, they commissioned a detailed study into the feasibility of this when they were formed into the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association a few years ago. But that was at the height of the economic cycle, when car sales and media rights were at a peak.
Now the landscape is very different.
It is a huge undertaking to start a new series and there couldn’t be a worse time to do it, with the car industry in a once in a generation global crisis. The manufacturers involved in F1 all have far bigger problems to deal with than investing heavily to start their own series. This is the calculation Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone are making.
They could join forces with an existing series, but in either case one of the hardest parts would be getting a really good television package together, because without that there would be no sponsors and no wider media interest. The deals for F1 are signed up well in advance and with many of the world’s leading broadcasters, like the BBC. A split, whereby Ferrari and other manufacturers race in one series and Brawn, Force India, Williams and others are in Formula 1 would not work for either series.
F1 would be a pale shadow of its former self and the new series, despite Ferrari’s presence, would be quite a tough sell in the current TV market. They would probably be able to get some prominent space with terrestrial broadcasters if they offered the coverage for free, or subsidised it but it would be extremely hard to sell rights to a new series for the many millions F1 commands.
Something similar happened in America with the Indycar series in the mid 1990s when Indianapolis boss Tony George split with the CART teams, so what had been Indycar was forced to rename itself Champ Car and lost its most famous race, the Indianapolis 500. TV deals were divided and it was a disaster for both sides, one they have yet to recover from.
I don’t think it will come to this, but there is no doubt that were are passing through a very painful moment for the sport.