The resolution of the damaging ongoing stand-off between the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) and governing body the FIA over the sport's contentious new £40 million budget cap is pivotal to the likelihood of a Prodrive/Aston Martin entry next year, David Richards has stressed.
A Richards-led Prodrive/Aston Martin/Middle Eastern-branded bid has been mooted for some time, and is seen as one of the more serious prospects for graduation to the top flight in 2010. The former World Rally Championship-winning co-driver has an excellent reputation within the paddock and previous experience from having spearheaded both Benetton (in 1998) and BAR-Honda (2002-04) in recent years, leading the latter to its finest-ever season in the last of his years at the helm as it finished runner-up to runaway champions Ferrari in the 2004 constructors' title chase.
What's more, Banbury-based independent engineering concern Prodrive came close to making the jump in 2008 as F1's twelfth team, only to be stopped in its tracks at the eleventh hour as Williams successfully protested its entry as a privateer squad running with McLaren chassis' over the whole customer car row.
Richards has, however, always vowed to return, and pending a compromise in the FOTA-FIA budget cap dispute – with further crisis talks due to be held in Monaco today (19 May), just ten days before the deadline for entries to be made for the 2010 campaign – the chances of seeing him back on the grid next year would look to be fairly solid.
“It is important for us and our partners that there is stability in the sport with broad alignment on the future direction of Formula 1,” the Welshman urged in an interview with GPWeek
. “This will be a critical issue in our decision-making process as to whether or not to make an entry.
“I have always made clear that 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.”