Veteran Formula One team boss Giancarlo Minardi has warned that the top flight could end up devoid of big names if it does not heed the cost-cutting measures put in place at last week's meeting of the FIA and FOTA in Monaco.
Comparing the possible exit of more manufacturers following Honda's shock withdrawal two weeks ago to the 1990s World Rally Championship, Minardi admitted that the drastic savings being talked about by the men in power needed to be achieved in order to prevent Formula One from imploding and turning from the most-watched form of motorsport to a shadow of its former prosperous self.
“Several times in meetings I stressed that it was very dangerous to put F1 in the hands of the large manufacturers, although certainly that side [of things] could be very beautiful and interesting,” Minardi wrote in his latest observation on the state of the sport.
“There was the risk of reliving the same scenario experienced by the rally in the '90s, when there were few participants and a few pilots of importance. We hope that the decision of a board of directors such as Honda's does not undermine that of other car manufacturers who look at their budgets with greater interest than the sport. They have to take many decisions and not all necessarily have the same priorities and are attracted to the sport."
Having seen his F1 dream struggle through 20 years before Paul Stoddart took over for one final attempt at overcoming the might of the manufacturers, Minardi admits that he is pleased to see Honda offering some assistance to whoever may buy the Brackley team, which is on offer for a nominal $1 provided that assurances can be made with regard to the workforce and future security, but stresses that the survivors of the current financial crisis need to be mindful of just what they are spending.
"Honda is ready to make major sacrifices if someone were to come forward to save the team, but I have read that the savings from [not competing] in the world championship would amount to $420m dollars. In these days, there will be a world championship where FOTA submits documentation to try to lower costs, and it will be important to proceed in stages, as was done for safety where, having started in 1994, we managed to reach a satisfactory level.
"[The teams] must work [together] so that they are not composed of hundreds and hundreds of people trying to get to the budgets that allow the participation of both manufacturers and the private team. A decade ago, there were 18 teams but, at the moment, there are only nine [because] the others discovered one after the other [how hard it was to survive] and, when they sought help, were never heard.
"At that time, the problem existed, but was not perceived, because manufacturers were doing their input. Today, the 'free' team - Williams, Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Force India - are less
at risk because they have behind them an owner, but then they have other interests and problems. If we listened to those who suffered and who screamed in pain, maybe we would not have reached this point, despite this major global economic crisis."
The rapid expansion of many of the teams, and the rising salary costs - especially for star drivers - is something that has caught Minardi's eye, causing him to reflect on his time in the top flight.
"A very important aspect to consider in managing a team is the number of salaries to be paid," he noted, "The Minardi team was able to go on for over 20 years because it could build an F1 car 100 per cent within the company, with 100-110 people. In this way, even in difficult times - and they were very many - you could manage the situation and move forward. But, when salaries have to be paid each month to between 500-700 people, the situation changes significantly, and a crisis of just three months [is enough] to let you sink. Several times the team emphasized these aspects, but without results, and so we come to today, where a team closes its doors.
"I hope that [the teams] take the last ways of lowering these costs clearly - you must try to find the rules to decrease the number of personnel [and] we must begin to see results. The important thing, though, is that it certainly is not going to be easy.“