Despite missing out on the 13th grid slot opened, temporarily, for next year's F1 season, and having an alleged approach to Hispania Racing scoffed at, Epsilon Euskadi boss Joan Villadelprat insists that the team's grand prix ambitions are far from over.
Speaking in an interview with Basque newspaper Noticias de Gipuzkoa
, the former Tyrrell, Benetton and Prost team manager confirmed that, while he did not believe Epsilon Euskadi was the best-placed candidate for 2011, the team was still working behind the scenes to secure the backing it requires for a potential F1 entry. That, he admitted, could either come in the form of a renewed bid for the 13th slot should it be offered in future seasons, or via co-operation with - or takeover of - an existing outfit.
"With each day that passed, it was more difficult to obtain the 13th entry in the time to allow for a project with guaranteed success," Villadelprat reasoned, "but this does not mean that we have thrown in the towel. The most important thing in an F1 project is funding and what we lack - both in August and today - is the funding that allows us to develop a long-term programme without any problems. We already have the infrastructure and human capacity [but] we are still working with a range of investors and hope to have a final decision soon. If the decision is positive, the options are there - we can either go for the 13th entry for 2012 or, for 2011, buy an existing entry."
The latter route was first mooted once it became clear that none of the candidates would be offered the chance to join the field for 2011, with Epsilon Euskadi rumoured to be merging with the struggling Hispania operation. At the time, however, Italian website 422race.com
claimed that story was little more than wild, unfounded speculation, 'never more than smoke in the eyes.... with no 'decent budget'. The report accused Villadelprat of launching the entry bid merely to gain some publicity for Epsilon, and suggested that the design supposedly undergoing windtunnel evaluation 'was made by a contest amongst Spanish engineering students' and 'little more than a slight modification of an old World Series by Renault car'.
Villadelprat confirmed that there was no deal with HRT, but expected other opportunities to present themselves, even before next season.
"We are not in contact with Hispania, but we are confident that there will be [others] because there are several teams in a very delicate economic situation," he insisted, "If we have secured the budget for the next four years to take the project to one of these teams, we would.
"The only thing that has yet to happen is sorting an agreement with those investors who want to be in F1 with us. The situation now is different from what happened a year ago, when we had the economic solution and were not granted the entry for reasons that are irrelevant now. I'm not willing to enter F1 if I haven't secured the budget for four or five years. I will not go just for the fact that we have entered. I've been there before, so this is not simply to be there, but to build and implement a competitive project.
"I spent 25 years in F1 and had the good fortune to work at teams that won eight world titles and with companies that were born small and large. Benetton is the case - when it bought Toleman, it was a small team of 60 people and, when I left, we were almost 500. All this gives me the experience of creating a business from scratch, make it work and also make it a winner."
Having been rejected by the FIA for a second time, the other route open to Villadelprat would have been to set Epsilon Euskadi as a supplier to existing teams, but he insists that that was never an option while the team was hoping to secure an entry of its own.