As if participating in Formula One motor racing wasn’t expensive enough already, it seems that from 2011 new teams will have to produce a ‘deposit’ of £16m in order to demonstrate the seriousness of their intent.
The F1 supremo apparently introduced this new rule after the US F1 team abruptly pulled out of the 2010 season back in February because of a lack of funds. Ecclestone is now tendering out the vacant slot, with US group Cypher and Spanish Le Mans team Epsilon Euskadi – and possibly the Serbian hopefuls Stefan GP – said to be among those interested.
‘We have told them that if they can’t put 16 million in now we don’t want them. If they can’t find that now there is no way they are going to run,’ said Ecclestone, himself a legendarily shrewd dealmaker worth an estimated £1.46bn.
It may seem a hefty sum, but, until 2008, teams wanting to join Formula One had to pay the sport’s governing body FIA (Fédération International de l’Automobile) a whopping £24.2m fee. It was returnable in the event of a orderly withdrawal from the sport at season’s end, but forfeit if a tem failed to turn out for GPs they had committed to race at.
F1 is after all a sport in which money talks, very loudly – annual team budgets are in excess of £100m, so £16m up front doesn’t seem that much to ask for. The more financially underpowered teams such as Lotus, Hispania-Cosworth and Virgin Racing have also done poorly. After the British Grand Prix on Sunday, all three had yet to score a point in the Constructors’ Championship, making their futures open to doubt. Even worse, not one of their six drivers had scored a point either.
F1’s complicated finances are in a bit of pickle anyway – the FIA faces a 7m euro hole in its budget due to the end of a lucrative 12-year deal with Ecclestone’s Formula One Management company, which owns the TV rights to the sport. One unlikely source of revenue to plug at least some of the gap is speeding fines handed out to drivers.
Yes, even F1 drivers get fined for speeding these days, but only in the pit lane where a 100km/h limit is vigorously enforced for safety reasons. The FIA raised a not-too-shabby 12,000 euros this way at Silverstone, with the worst offender being BMW-Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa, fined a hefty 4,200 euros.
It all makes the £60 tickets handed out to us ordinary mortals look like something of a bargain – although of course, F1 drivers don’t get points on their licences when they get fined. If they did, de la Rosa would probably be off the track for the rest of the season…
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Wanna start an F1 team? That'll be £16m to you, squire