F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone insists that despite the loss of more than half of its manufacturers and uncertainties over the likelihood of at least two of the four 2010 newcomers making the starting grid for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in just under two months' time, the sport 'is looking much stronger than it has for a long time'.

Over the last year or so, F1 has lost the likes of Honda, BMW, Bridgestone, Toyota and - to all intents and purposes, despite its continuing minority shareholding in the team that bears its name - Renault, largely as a result of the worldwide credit crunch but also for other motives.

It is just such ongoing global economic turmoil that is casting doubt over the viability of American outfit USF1 and Spanish concern Campos Meta 1 actually making it to Sakhir in mid-March - but despite the fact that the face of F1 will inevitably be very different this year, its influential ringmaster is convinced that the future remains bright.

"Campos and the American team are having problems - financial, not technical," the 79-year-old British billionaire told the Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten, clarifying recent assertions he has made that some of the newcomers might be in trouble, without previously naming names. "I hope they will be okay, but I think Formula 1 is looking much stronger than it has for a long time. It's a shame to lose some manufacturers, but let's be honest - we all knew their time in Formula 1 was limited."

Fellow new entry Virgin Racing, meanwhile, is likely to be joining the fray with the smallest budget in the field having originally bid for a spot under the premise of former FIA President Max Mosley's controversial ?40 million cost cap that has since been postponed until 2012.

However, Toyota refugee Timo Glock - who signed up to the Richard Branson-led operation after ending talks with both Renault and Sauber [see separate story - click here] - insists the doubts surrounding the credibility of the newcomers will soon be quelled once the action gets underway.

"I'm not worried," the 27-year-old told German publication Auto Motor und Sport. "We are fully on-schedule and have our budget. The rumours may be because there is not much happening in Formula 1 at the moment, but I think that will change quickly from now on."

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