McLaren boss Ron Dennis has insisted that the recent agreement to slash the cost of competing in Formula One will not be allowed to damage the unique aspects of the sport.
Dennis' words should help to allay fears that Formula One may be headed down the route of many other 'one make series', which were amplified by attempts to usher in a single-spec engine and control many other elements of car design. Last week's meeting between the sport's governing body, the FIA, and the newly-formed team's organisation FOTA hammered out an agreement that will dramatically cut some of the costs involved in fielding a team but, Dennis pointed out, would not remove the ability for each team to stamp its own identity on the cars that the public see competing.
"We can be pragmatic, but we will not cut into the fabric or DNA of F1," he told USA Today
, "We don't want to take measures that impact the size of the audience."
With sponsorship revenues expected to reduce in the wake of the global credit crisis, Dennis admits that even a team of the size and repute of McLaren will not be able to continue spending in the sort of fashion it has, and which cost rival Honda is place on the grid. The veteran team boss, who has overseen relationships with such multinational brands as Marlboro, West and Vodafone in recent years, revealed that he expected McLaren to be able to reduce costs by around 30 per cent next season, and by up to another 20 per cent in 2010.
"We're first a sport but closely followed as a business," he said during a visit to technical partner ExxonMobil, "We can't survive if our income is significantly less than our expenditures."
Formula One's global reach also needed to be addressed in order to help stabilise its future, according to Dennis, and, taking the opportunity presented by his visit to the United States, he revealed the personal belief that the sport would be back in the Americas before too long. With running without a USGP in 2008, the F1 schedule will also be missing its regular trip to Canada in 2009, but Dennis predicted that an American city would be back on the calendar within three years.
"[Long Beach] captured everyone's imagination, as it was the first time that city racing was successful outside Monte Carlo," he said. "But we also raced in Detroit, Phoenix and Dallas, and all had their charm.
"The real key to America is embracing its sports mechanisms, so we have to own the television signal. North America is a phenomenal market, and we're trying very hard to find the model that works."