David Richards has admitted that not only is he interested in a Formula 1 entry with Aston Martin in 2010, but that he is indeed 'ready to press the go button' – and that if the graduation does take place, it will be for anything but to 'make up the numbers'.
Richards revealed yesterday that – should FIA President Max Mosley's proposed optional £30 million budget cap be officially approved next week for introduction in 2010 – he is seriously tabling the notion of a move into the highest echelon [see separate story – click here
], having previously come close to doing so with his independent Prodrive operation in 2008, only for his plans to in the end be scuppered by the customer car row.
With F1's new 'low-cost' era approaching apace, however, an opportunity has arisen again – and Richards has never made any secret of his desire to make the jump, on the strict proviso that the economic conditions have to be right. Now, he believes, they just might be.
“It is a statement of fact that Prodrive made extensive preparations in 2007 and was ready to enter the championship in 2008,” he acknowledged in an interview with the official F1 website, “but then the goalposts literally changed overnight, which prevented us from entering Formula 1.
“This experience makes you somewhat cautious, but the circumstances are very different today. We are optimistic that the new technical and cost-capping regulations will be approved by the FIA next week, and create the right conditions for us to enter Formula 1 as a constructor this time.
“We are very serious about entering Formula 1 in 2010, providing that it is commercially viable and there is the potential to be fully competitive. On the commercial side we would want a situation where the sort of budget you would need to be competitive would be sensible, especially given the challenging economic conditions we face today – and we would expect to see a reasonable return on our investment in the longer term.
“We would also want the rules to be such that they provide the potential for us to be fully competitive. We would not want to be in Formula 1 just to make up the numbers. Assuming that the new rules are commercially viable and there is the potential to be fully competitive, then we are ready to press the go button.”
Richards affirmed that the previous ultimately abortive foray had at least resulted in the advantage of laying down the groundwork for a second bid, leaving the company with 'a big headstart on the project'. What's more, the Welshman possesses two state-of-the-art facilities in Banbury and at Fen End in nearby Warwickshire, and he stated that he would employ a workforce of 'around 150' – a realistic figure in Mosley's vision for a much leaner future for the sport.
Richards also has the benefit of previous F1 experience himself, having acted as team principal at Benetton in 1998 and later fulfilling the same role at BAR-Honda four years later, leading the Brackley-based outfit to what would be comfortably its most successful season in 2004, as it finished runner-up to the all-conquering Ferrari in the constructors' title chase. Now, though, he has the chance to make his mark in his own right.