Martin Whitmarsh has expressed his fears for the future of some of the newcomers set to swell the grand prix grid in F1 2010 – and his surprise and confusion that none of them chose to buy Toyota's ready-made chassis', a decision that he opines they may well come to regret further down the line.
Lotus F1, Virgin Racing, USF1 and Campos Grand Prix are all due to join the fray for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in mid-March, but many – F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone amongst them – have admitted to a significant degree of scepticism that all four will actually turn up in Sakhir.
Whilst Lotus and Virgin appear to be in relatively healthy shape, troubled Spanish concern Campos is known to be in desperate need of an investor in order to make the field, whilst there has been speculation that North Carolina-based USF1 is running so far behind in its preparations that it might not even be seen until the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona in early May, round five of the 2010 F1 World Championship.
Following Toyota's announcement of withdrawal from competition late last year, the Japanese manufacturer initially insisted that its cars and Cologne facilities were not for sale – but a subsequent about-turn made them available, and McLaren-Mercedes team principal Whitmarsh reflected that he is somewhat perplexed as to why none of the newcomers stepped in.
“Philosophically, McLaren believes it's important for new Formula 1 entrants to build their own cars,” the Englishman said at the Newbury launch of the MP4-25, going on to reveal that in his new capacity as Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) chairman, he expects a positive-spirited and open-minded reunion between the teams, Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) company and governing body the FIA when the three parties meet to discuss potential alterations to the top flight's rules and regulations for the forthcoming campaign in Paris on Monday.
“However, as pragmatists, we are willing to help out in terms of supplying customer cars and we will do all we can on that front. We don't want any team to fail, so we should be doing what we can within the F1 community. FOTA brought about a coming-together of all the teams for the first time in the history of F1, and the spirit behind it is unique in my 20 years' experience of the sport.
“I think it's going to be tough for the new teams coming in. We know how difficult it is even with all the resources and facilities that we have to get ready for the start of the season, and we shouldn't apologise for that because F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. Ultimately, if there are teams that don't have the capability and resources and underestimated the task of competing at the highest level, then some you just can't help. I must admit I was rather surprised none of them acquired the Toyota chassis. They looked a gift horse in the mouth there, and perhaps they made the wrong decision.”
Those chassis have since been purchased by Stefan GP owner Zoran Stefanovic, who is waiting in the wings should any of the four newcomers – most likely Campos – fail to make the grade. The Serbian businessman concluded a deal with Toyota late last week to take over the defunct team's Cologne factory – and he is adamant that if given the go-ahead, his outfit can be ready to race in Bahrain in six weeks' time.