Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that he does not expect to see either Campos Meta 1 or USF1 on the starting grid for the F1 2010 curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir in just under six weeks' time – reasoning that according to the terms of the commercial rights-governing Concorde Agreement, teams are permitted to miss three races each year.
There have been doubts expressed about both Campos and USF1 for some time, with the former known to be in financial difficulty and seeking a buyer or at least a significant injection of cash, and little outward evidence of progress at the latter, despite the fact that the North Carolina-based squad was comfortably the first to express its intentions to join the fray in the top flight this season.
Now, Ecclestone has revealed that any team entered in the world championship is eligible to skip three of the season's races without penalty – and he predicted that until they have secured the funding that they need, USF1 and Campos will likely be absent from competition, for three of the four early and expensive long-haul flyaway grands prix at least. The $10m promised to the newcomers will only be paid out, the British billionaire added, once they take to the grid.
“I think we won't see Campos and I don't think we will see the Americans,” the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told the Sunday Express
. “They are going to ask to miss three races. In the Concorde Agreement, the teams are allowed to miss three races.”
Serbian operation Stefan GP is waiting in the wings should any team fail to make the campaign altogether and an opening consequently arise, and the Zoran Stefanovic-led concern has firmly signalled its intent by announcing a test session at Portimão in Portugal's Algarve region later this month and shipping a container of equipment to Bahrain.
Stefan GP has also purchased the rights to Toyota's ready-designed TF110 chassis and the Japanese manufacturer's Cologne facilities – and intriguingly, back in November took the FIA to task by filing an official complaint against the governing body with the European Commission Competition Directorate in the wake of N.Technology's failed entry bid and failed law suit, with Stefanovic questioning the selection process and claiming that the team's 'rights for fair and equal competition' were 'violated' by the insistence upon signing an engine-supply deal with Cosworth as a condition for being accepted.
“They are going to take over Toyota completely – the team and motorhomes,” Ecclestone confirmed. “They have got the money from the government; I've spoken to the prime minister. They are ready to rock-and-roll but they've not got an entry.”
The major issue with the three-race clemency, however, is the danger of begetting a 'patchwork' grid, with different teams turning up for different races dependent upon when the finances are forthcoming and when they are not. FOM will also find itself in breach of contract with the FIA should fewer than 16 cars – or eight teams – start any grand prix.
Over the past year or so, manufacturers Honda, BMW and Toyota have all pulled the plug on their F1 participation, with Renault significantly scaling down its own involvement after selling a majority 75 per cent stake in its Enstone-based outfit to Luxembourg investment firm Genii Capital.