In a global environment of ever-rising financial crisis, Formula 1's big movers have stressed that it is imperative to bring its still-escalating expenditure under control – as sponsors begin to shy away from the world's most expensive sport.
F1 supremo and commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone blithely remarked 'I suppose like the rest of the world it will have some side-effects, but what they'll be I don't know', when asked about impact the current credit crunch may have on the top flight, the 77-year-old pointing to his company Formula One Management's (FOM) long-term contracts with existing partners and sponsors. Other leading figures, however, have warned that grand prix racing is far from immune from the worsening situation.
“I think it is going to affect all of us,” stressed Scuderia Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger. “I think it is going to be difficult times, no question, and if you look at new sponsors coming into Formula 1, it is very seldom, especially the big ones. As I see it, it is not going to be easy [over] the next two years.”
Having raced under the Red Bull wing thus far during its F1 career, STR will need to become a fully-fledged constructor in its own right as of 2010, when customer cars will be outlawed. In the current economic climate, Berger knows the small Faenza-based squad is up against it.
Whilst Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner agrees that belts will have to be considerably tightened in seasons to come – FIA President Max Mosley has already demanded that the ten teams, through the new Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), come up with ways to cut costs, reduce emissions and improve efficiency – the Englishman did point out that the massive popularity and interest in events such as this weekend's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, F1's first-ever night race, can only be good for the sport and its investors.
“The global economy at the moment isn't in great shape,” Horner acknowledged, “and it affects all areas of the pit-lane. It is down to the teams to work collectively with the governing body to make sure that we are responsible in what we do to control our costs.
“On the other hand, venues and races such as this one are so powerful and strong for Formula 1 and demonstrate Formula 1 in such a strong and fantastic light – excuse the pun. I think there are other very positive aspects as well, and I think this race, certainly this weekend, will be a big boost for the series in general.”
“It would be foolish to think that the external environment doesn't affect our business,” echoed Williams F1 chief executive officer Adam Parr, “but I think what is important, as with any business, is to prepare – we are trying to do that, some perhaps harder than others.
“I think that we need within FOTA to get on and identify ways to reduce our costs. I think we need to work with the commercial rights-holders and Bernie to continue to grow the sport, and I think this weekend is a testament to what FOM has achieved in terms of creating something absolutely phenomenal. Our partners and our sponsors are absolutely riveted by this event and they are here in force.