Not always regarded for its diplomacy and tact when it comes to political matters in F1, less than three weeks from the beginning of the 2010 world championship campaign, Ferrari has launched a stinging attack on the lamentable state of some of the newcomers set to swell the grand prix starting grid this year – the product, the Scuderia
contends, of former FIA President Max Mosley's 'holy war' that drove half of the manufacturers out of the sport.
F1 will celebrate its 60th birthday in 2010, but it is a very different-looking field to that which lined up 24 or even twelve months ago, with Honda, BMW and Toyota having all since departed the fray and Renault having sold out a majority 75 per cent stake in its Enstone-based outfit to Luxembourg investment firm Genii Capital.
Whilst the manufacturers in question left for varying reasons, Ferrari claims that behind all of their withdrawals was the hell-bent determination of Mosley to implement a controversial and ill-conceived £40 million budget cap on every competitor from this season onwards – a move that was subsequently postponed until 2012 in response to fierce criticism and opposition from within the top flight, albeit coming too late to prevent Honda, BMW and Toyota from walking away.
In their stead have arrived a host of new challengers, with Lotus F1, Virgin Racing, Campos Meta 1 and USF1 confirmed on the entry list – and Serbian hopeful Stefan GP waiting patiently and expectantly in the wings should any of them falter.
The most likely to fail to make the grade are incontrovertibly Campos – which late last week was taken over by majority stakeholder José Ramón Carabante [see separate story – click here
] after falling significantly behind on its payments to chassis-builder Dallara, leading to a costly halt in construction – and USF1, which remains in all sorts of financial difficulty with mooted sponsors pulling the plug and the North Carolina-based concern having applied to the sport's governing body requesting to be permitted to skip the opening four grands prix as it continues to try to make the grid.
Neither Campos nor USF1 has yet to turn a wheel in anger – and neither is likely even to do so until the practice day for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir on 12 March, if indeed they make it that far in the first place. It is a sorry story, Ferrari opines – and the Prancing Horse leaves little doubt as to who it believes is the guilty author.
'For many of the teams, this coming week is a crucial one, as the bell rings to signal the final lap, with the last test session getting underway in Barcelona,' reads a special 'Horse Whisperer' feature on the famous Maranello-based outfit's website. 'It is one last chance to run the cars on-track, to push reliability to the limit and to try and find some performance. That's the situation for many teams, but not for all of them.
'Of the 13 teams who signed up – or were induced to sign up – for this year's championship, to-date only eleven of them have heeded the call, turning up on-track, some later than others, and while some have managed just a few hundred kilometres, others have done more, but at a much-reduced pace.
'As for the twelfth team, Campos Meta 1, its shareholder and management structure has been transformed, according to rumours which have reached the Horse Whisperer through the paddock telegraph, with a sudden cash injection from a munificent white knight, well-used to this sort of last-minute rescue deal. However, the beneficiaries of this generosity might find the knight in question expects them to fulfil the role of loyal vassal. All this means it is hard to imagine the Dallara-designed car showing its face at the Catalunya Circuit, with Sakhir a more likely venue to witness the return of the Senna name to a Formula 1 session.
'The 13th team, USF1, appears to have gone into hiding in Charlotte, North Carolina, to the dismay of those like the Argentine, [José María] López, who thought he had found his way into the Formula 1 paddock (albeit with help from chairwoman Kirchner, according to the rumours) and now has to start all over again. Amazingly, they still have the impudence to claim that everything is hunky-dory under the starry stripy sky.
'Next, we have the Serbian vultures. Firstly, they launched themselves into a quixotic legal battle with the FIA, then they picked the bones off Toyota on its death-bed. Having got some people on-board, around whom there was still a whiff of past scandals, they are now hovering around waiting to replace whoever is first to drop out of the game, possibly with backing from that very same knight in shining armour whom we mentioned earlier.
'This is the legacy of the holy war waged by the former FIA President. The cause in question was to allow smaller teams to get into Formula 1. This is the outcome – two teams will limp into the start of the championship, a third is being pushed into the ring by an invisible hand and, as for the fourth, well, you would do better to call on Missing Persons to locate it. In the meantime, we have lost two constructors along the way, in the shape of BMW and Toyota, while at Renault, there's not much left other than the name. Was it all worth it?'