McLaren Racing managing director Jonathan Neale has said he welcomes the arrival of as many as four new teams onto the F1 2010 starting grid – but warned that anybody starting mid-pack should be prepared for 'carnage' into the first corner.
USF1, Campos, Manor and Lotus are all due to join the fray next season, swelling the field to 26 cars – and should Qadbak-Sauber be granted a reprieve by governing body the FIA in the wake of BMW's announced withdrawal from competition, there will be 28, the highest number entered since 1995.
Neale contends that in the light of all the recent global economic turmoil, such an increase – when prior to Brawn GP's rescue ahead of the start of the present campaign, it looked as though there would be just 18 cars gracing the 2009 grid – can only be a good thing, if likely to ensure that the race stewards are kept busy indeed on grand prix weekends.
“I think it's always good to see the spectacle of new entrants into F1,” the Englishman told a special Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes phone-in session. “I think FOTA (the Formula One Teams' Association) and the FIA have worked hard over the last two years really to find a way whereby the business model will permit the existing teams who have been in the sport for a long period of time to find a way through and get what they need from the business, and introduce new entrants just to keep the sport healthy.
“I think a 28-car grid is a really interesting prospect. I read the columns like you do, and I listen to the paddock rumours, and how many of those teams will actually get there is anybody's guess. I hope they all do, because I think that would be good for the sport – but I suspect that at turn one, at several of the circuits that we have at the moment you really won't want to be in about P10 to P12, because that's going to be carnage.
“Nevertheless, it will be an interesting spectacle, and I think it will throw some surprises in there. I think that with the prospect of new entrants and new technology, it will just be an interesting technical challenge – and an interesting time for the stewards and the backmarkers too!”
As to the 19-race calendar, Neale was similarly enthusiastic about the blend of traditional and new – albeit with the odd minor reservation here and there.
“The team principals have been talking with FOM (Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management company) and with the FIA,” the 47-year-old explained, “and over the last few years have come to an understanding that operating upwards of 17 and less than about 20 races is something that we can handle within the resources that we have – but the sequencing of those races is very important.
“One of the challenges is that Monaco and Turkey in the draft schedule currently appear back-to-back with one week's separation – that's a phenomenal logistics challenge. Of course we want to do both events, but it's important that we do them well – so we need to bear in mind that physically uprooting all of the infrastructure out of Monaco and moving it to Turkey is not a trivial issue. We've got some questions around that, but all of the conversations that we've had so far have been very positive.
“We're excited about doing 19 races – that's certainly capable – but the bottom line is that going racing does cost us money. Under the new arrangements that we have with FOM, there's a mechanism by which we get recompensed for that. I think the calendar itself looks very exciting; there are some really tantalising prospects on it, with some traditional races that we all love and some new ones that will prove exciting, ones that we don't know anything about at the moment.
“From the human point-of-view, it is gruelling for the mechanics and we are looking to give people a break. Currently, the calendar would provide race teams a break in the first part of August. I don't see any major problems with that, to be honest; I'm just more excited about the prospect of a good calendar.”