Three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda admits he has concerns over the viability of some of the new teams due to join the grid for the 2010 season.
While manufacturers Toyota and BMW will join Honda on the sidelines, a raft of independent teams are set to join the fray, with Campos Meta, Manor, Lotus F1 and Manor GP all being awarded slots on the grid by the FIA.
The BMW Sauber team is also hoping to secure a place on the grid after the Qadbak group purchased the outfit from BMW – although rumours have suggested that the deal with the investment group could be at risk [See separate story HERE
]. Currently the Himwil-based team holds the position of first reserve, although the departure of Toyota following the conclusion of the 2009 campaign has freed up a position on the grid.
Of the new teams, Campos Meta has already signed Bruno Senna for 2010 and has had its Dallara-designed chassis homologated by the FIA, while Manor GP has signed ex-Toyota man Timo Glock to spearhead its challenge and is widely expected to reveal a sponsorship deal with Virgin for its debut season. USF1 is reported to be in talks with ex-GP2 racer Jose Maria Lopez while Lotus F1 has announced it has signed its first driver but has yet to reveal who that driver is.
Despite that, questions continue to be asked about whether the new teams will all make it to the start of the season, with their planned entries having been based on F1 introducing a budget cap for 2010, and Lauda admitted he wasn't sure that all would appear in the season-opener in the Middle East.
“First of all there is what you might call the Sauber team - the leftovers of BMW Sauber,” the Austrian told the official F1 website. “They have facilities, people and an investor willing to bankroll them, and yet it is not clear if they will get a slot. On the other hand you have four teams that are difficult to judge.
“For me the most doubtful case is this American team. They seem to be nowhere. Campos seems to have the basics - at least their car was homologated by the FIA some days ago, which is a big step ahead of all the others. I have no idea where Lotus and Manor are. Fact is that they all applied for a slot because of the budget cap already in place for 2010. Now we know that this is postponed by one year and that might be a stumbling block for one or the other. The winter will show what is cooking.”
Lauda added that he wasn't surprised to see two more manufacturers quit F1, especially as results for both Toyota and BMW hadn't matched expectations.
“I see commercial reasons behind these decisions,” he said. “The global car sales have suffered, and as Formula One is part of the companies' marketing concepts - and marketing costs have been severely downgraded - in the case of BMW and Toyota it meant the withdrawal from F1. Probably this year's performance was just the last straw.”