One the eve of the F1 2010 World Championship campaign, Bernie Ecclestone has fired a broadside at his long-time business partner and former FIA President Max Mosley by arguing that the sorry state of the new teams in the top flight at present is an indictment of the latter's ultimately aborted budget cap initiative.
Lotus, Virgin and Hispania are all set to swell the grand prix grid for the curtain-raiser at Sakhir in Bahrain this weekend, but their efforts – let alone those of very public failures USF1 and Stefan GP – have been much-maligned by rival teams and drivers, with particular concerns regarding the arrival of the unfortunately abbreviated HRT outfit in the desert kingdom without so much as a single prior testing lap under its belt.
Ferrari has notably launched a stinging attack on the newcomers, suggesting that Lotus and Virgin – which have languished on average some four-to-five seconds shy of the front-running pace during pre-season testing – will merely 'limp into the start of the championship', whilst the fact that HRT's first-ever laps will come during Friday practice in Bahrain has been slammed as potentially dangerous and 'irresponsible' by 13-time grand prix-winner David Coulthard [see separate story – click here
The BBC F1
pundit's erstwhile team-mate at Red Bull Racing, Mark Webber, has described the current débâcle
as a 'Mickey Mouse' style situation, whilst Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Ecclestone points the finger firmly at Mosley's unpopular budget cap.
All of the new entrants originally signed up on the strict understanding that a £40 million upper ceiling of expenditure would be in-place across the board from 2010 onwards, or at the very least those teams that did adhere to the cap would be granted a greater degree of technical 'freedoms' in exchange for their commitment to cost-cutting.
However, that regulation was subsequently postponed – and may yet be abandoned altogether – following a bitter and prolonged stand-off between the governing body and the manufacturer-spearheaded Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) last summer. The outcome was that Lotus, Virgin and HRT are now effectively finding themselves having to compete with one arm tied behind their back, up against the might of the sport's big-spending monoliths. Ecclestone says that in the circumstances, it is little wonder that they are struggling.
“Ferrari is right,” the 79-year-old British billionaire told German publication Auto Motor und Sport
, contending that the enforcement of the cap would at least 'have given them a chance'. “I always warned that a budget limit would not work. Now the new teams find that their budgets are not sufficient.”
“We can think about the set-up early on Saturday,” revealed HRT rookie Bruno Senna, explaining that Friday running for the under-fire Spanish operation in Sakhir will be little more than a series of installation laps. “I just hope we can get the car onto the track and eliminate as many problems as possible.”