FIA president Max Mosley has conceded that Formula One is facing its biggest test for 40 years, but insists that there are still some encouraging signs that all is not lost.
Addressing the media during a scheduled pre-season luncheon, Mosley pointed to the rumours of a new US-based team and his own expectation that something will rise from the ashes of the Honda team as positives to be taken into the 2009 campaign, despite admitting that the global financial crisis will have a big effect on F1.
Amid talk of seeking new ways of slashing the cost of competing in the top flight, both to preserve the future of those teams still in existence and to attract newcomers to fill the void left by Honda, Super Aguri and the non-appearance of Prodrive as a twelfth team, Mosley told Reuters
that he fully expected the situation to get worse before it got better, but was optimistic that F1 would come out the other side, and possibly in better health.
"It's by far the biggest [threat] since I've been involved in the late 1960s," he conceded, "There has been a Formula One bubble which rivals any credit bubble or housing bubble or IT bubble - and there seems a reluctance to recognise that."
Having already played a part in convincing the remaining teams to slash their spending by adopting restrictions on testing, R&D, engine and gearbox use and parts that many feel should be common to all, the president is keen to see outlay further reined in by next season.
"For 2010, we want to see budgets come right down - to the point where FOM money [from television income and prize money] plus very modest sponsorship equals the cost of going racing," he continued, "The teams, as I understand it, agree with the principle but they don't want to do it that quickly. However, I think we are going to have to do it that quickly.
"[The manufacturers] are looking for cost-cutting everywhere, and the feedback I am getting from some CEOs is that they 'want to see Formula One sorted out but, if it becomes a nuisance, they will just stop'.
"[That] wouldn't actually be damaging, but I think it would make everyone realise, finally, that there really is a problem. I think the days of the billionaires who p*ss money away are gone, [but] there are one or two people who still don't understand.
"I don't think it would matter provided we could lay out a plan for 2010 that makes it possible for a small team to run competitively - and do so without losing money."