Ambitious British F3 team Litespeed has been confirmed as the third candidate in the running for the Formula One grid spot freed up by BMW's decision to withdraw from the category at the end of the 2009 campaign.
FIA president Max Mosley confirmed that the Norfolk-based concern was in the frame for consideration, alongside Basque outfit Epsilon Euskadi and whatever team emerges from the ashes of BMW's effort, when he met with reporters in the paddock at the Italian Grand Prix. A decision on the identity of the 13th entry would be made next week, Mosley revealed, once the governing body had completed its review of the applications.
"Last night, we got the final offers from the three most serious teams and, in the next day or two, together with the due diligence people, we'll assess them and then we'll pick one of them," he said, "BMW-Sauber are one of the three - although, of course, they are now effectively a new team because they didn't sign the Concorde agreement - while the other two are Epsilon Euskadi and Litespeed."
Both Epsilon Euskadi and Litespeed were among those candidates turned down when the FIA selected Team US F1, Manor Grand Prix and Campos Meta for the three 'expansion' slots in June, but remained in contact with the FIA should any of the newcomers fail in their bid to make the jump to F1. BMW Sauber's withdrawal then opened an unexpected opportunity to become involved in 2010. Litespeed recently confirmed that former Renault and Toyota designer Mike Gascoyne had been added to its technical team.
Current BMW team boss Mario Theissen and Sauber founder Peter Sauber continue to try and salvage something from the remains of the works team, where development continues apace in the hope of being on the grid next year, and continue to talk to potential investors. The self-imposed deadline of the end of September to find a partner, however, will now be called into question by Mosley's claim that F1's 13th team will be selected next week.
Ironically, all three candidates could find a place in the field should Mosley's more pessimistic view of the future come to pass, the FIA president refusing to rule out the loss of further manufacturer teams before the end of next season.
"I think we may lose another one, might even lose two - and there's also one or two of the private teams who will find it difficult," he admitted, "Put it around another way- if someone said 'will you stake your entire worldly goods on all of the current manufacturers being in Melbourne in 2010?', I would be very reluctant to do that. I'd stake my worldly goods for example on Ferrari being there. But not on all the manufacturers. But I may be wrong."