Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that there will be 26 'confirmed' cars on the starting grid in 2010 - and that his controversial Olympic Games-style medals system will similarly be in place, whether the teams like it or not.

There are currently just ten teams and 20 cars in the top flight - a category that in the late 1980s and early 1990s boasted twice that figure, necessitating a pre-qualifying session to weed out the slowest competitors before qualifying itself had even got underway.

However, Ecclestone is confident that numbers are once more on the up after several years of low entries, with three new teams set to come on-board - including the Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson-led USGPE outfit and, paddock whispers suggest, David Richards' independent Prodrive concern. The latter expressed an interest in taking over Honda F1 after the Japanese manufacturer put its Brackley-based operation up for sale late last year, and previously came close to joining the grid last season until the customer car row stopped its bid in its tracks.

Well-heeled British F3 and World Series by Renault front-runners Ultimate Motorsport - linked with a takeover of Scuderia Toro Rosso when billionaire Red Bull drinks magnate Dietrich Mateschitz announced he was putting the team up for sale last year - and ex-grand prix ace Adrian Campos and his former GP2 Series squad Barwa Addax have also been mooted of late as potential F1graduates, particularly in the light of the sport's new low-cost drive.

What's more, despite the FIA's contentious new 'winner-takes-all' scoring system having had to be postponed due to severe opposition from drivers and teams - and his own medals initiative having received a lukewarm response at best - commercial rights-holder Ecclestone is adamant that a new format will be in place in 2010.

"We'll have 26 cars on the grid next year," the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme. "We've got a lot of people confirmed.

"It won't be necessary to discuss it (the medals). If the rules are out before they enter that's how it is. If you go to the athletics and look at the 100 metres you're not looking at the guy that's second - you're looking at the winner.

"To make any changes when the entries have closed, you have to get a unanimous agreement between all the people that have entered, and it would appear that some of the teams didn't like the idea.

"The whole idea is nothing to do with winning the world championship; the idea was to make sure people raced in every race to win, not to be second or third and collect points."

Ecclestone argued that the present rules do little to encourage overtaking - pointing to defending F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton having too comfortably settled for a safe second place and the eight points that go with it last year in grands prix he could 'easily have won' - and dismissed the notion that the new system could lead to a driver being crowned several races before the end of the campaign and thereby kill off interest before the season ends.

"That's too bad," the 78-year-old fired back. "Maybe they'd be watching the other races where the people are racing to win rather than be second.

"Lewis last year was second in a couple of races he could easily have won, and he was quite right in being second. If I'd have been his team manager I'd have been complaining if he'd been racing to win, in case there was a problem in the car or he fell off the road."

Ecclestone also 'absolutely' tipped the Stevenage-born ace as the title favourite again in 2009 - in spite of McLaren-Mercedes' ostensible pre-season struggles - and added 'certainly if we had that other scoring system he would be'.



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