Whilst re-iterating that it would not be 'financially viable' for Prodrive to enter Formula 1 in 2009 by taking over the defunct Honda operation, David Richards is adamant that 'one day' he will be back in the top flight – when the conditions are right.
The former World Rally Championship-winning co-driver and his Banbury-based independent engineering concern were previously involved in F1 when Richards was at the helm of Benetton – in 1998 – and Honda's former guise of BAR-Honda from 2002 to 2004, during which period he led the Brackley-based outfit to its best-ever finish in the constructors' world championship, behind only the all-conquering Ferrari.
That made Richards and Prodrive the obvious candidates to purchase the team after its parent company in Japan put it up for sale at the end of last year – but though he admits to having held initial talks regarding a potential buy-out, the Welshman ultimately resolved that in the present economic climate, now is not the right time to be returning to the fray.
“I made no secret of the fact that I had number of approaches about a possible involvement with Honda F1,” he told the official F1 website. “With Ross Brawn heading the design team, I've no doubt that the car will be a competitive package; however, I personally feel that the current environment is too unsettled. Finding the money to buy the team is not the problem; it is the ongoing overheads and running costs that will be the issue.
“The days when people are prepared to throw hundreds of millions of pounds into F1 are over. You have to look at it based on sound business criteria. Can the team be financially viable and can it be competitive?
“I think we still have to see the full benefits of the cost-cutting process, and I don't think it will be until 2010 that you will see those issues resolved properly. I therefore question whether now is the right time to get back into F1.
“Entry to F1 should be on two criteria – firstly, to be competitive, and secondly, to be financially viable. A customer car programme, like the one Prodrive would have had in 2008 with McLaren-Mercedes, would, I believe, have fulfilled those two criteria.
“It's no secret that I was extremely disappointed when Prodrive had to withdraw its entry to the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship. However, I have always made it very clear that the only terms [by which] I would ever consider Prodrive's return to F1 were if we could be competitive and if it could be financially viable.”
That may be so, but Richards also makes clear that he is very much eager to reclaim his place on the grand prix grid at some stage in the future – provided it is strictly on his terms.
“For me, F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport,” the 56-year-old explained, “and hence is somewhere I have always wanted Prodrive to be. I've no doubt that, one day, Prodrive will be back in F1, but only when my two fundamental conditions can be met and not for any other emotional reasons.”