The Marussia F1 team insists that it will be on the grid in 2013 despite apparently having been omitted from the list of those being offered the chance to sign up to the latest Concorde Agreement.
When the entry list for next season's 20-race schedule was released at the weekend, it contained only eleven teams, confirming HRT's sad demise, but what it didn't reveal was that Marussia was the only one of the eleven not to have been offered the latest agreement, which governs the commercial terms on which the sport is run.
With HRT's exit and Caterham's last-gasp return to tenth in the constructors' championship – echoing the position it achieved in its first two seasons – Marussia finds itself somewhat in limbo as the only remaining 2010 newcomer needing the so-called 'Column 3' benefits established to bolster the start-up operations.
According to German website motorsport-total.com
, F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone is considering doing away with 'Column 3', although this comes as some surprise to Marussia sporting director Graeme Lowdon.
"The last thing we were told was that the columns 1, 2 and 3 will still be there but, to be honest, as long as there is no agreement, who knows?" he said "It has no effect on us in terms of us being here [in 2013]. We will be here, no question."
Vitaly Petrov's pass on Charles Pic in the closing stages of the Brazilian Grand Prix could have cost Marussia around $10m in prize money as it demoted the Banbury-based team from tenth in the constructors' standings – the final position eligible for prize money. While achieving the position three years running has cemented Caterham's position in the sport, Marussia's future continues to be a precarious one, amid reports that it is carrying heavy debts.
Lowdon is particularly keen to establish the situation regarding the Concorde Agreement given that the terms under which his team entered F1 were not the ones it initially signed up for, having backed calls for a budget cap and the extra technical freedom that was supposed to come with it.
"If you look at the last three years, you have to remember that the championship we originally entered has never existed," he confirmed, “My view of things is that the three new teams should be treated with respect, because they have remained in the championship and have adjusted their business plans accordingly.”
Ironically, the recently-completed 2012 campaign was Marussia's most competitive to date, having raised its game to compete with Caterham despite a rush to get its car ready for race one after failing the mandatory crash test.
"The crucial point is that we're still here,” Lowdon emphasised, “We are on the way and, in the coming year, expect to have a competitive car. We have been learning lessons for three years, but now we are confident and looking ahead to Melbourne [next March].”
And the Concorde Agreement?
"I don't know, it's up to Bernie," he added, “It is strange that some teams have one while others don't. You would have to ask the owner of the commercial rights or the FIA."