David Richards has admitted that not only is he interested in a Formula 1 entry with Aston Martin in 2010, but that he is indeed 'ready to press the go button' - and that if the graduation does take place, it will be for anything but to 'make up the numbers'.

Richards revealed yesterday that - should FIA President Max Mosley's proposed optional ?30 million budget cap be officially approved next week for introduction in 2010 - he is seriously tabling the notion of a move into the highest echelon [see separate story - click here], having previously come close to doing so with his independent Prodrive operation in 2008, only for his plans to in the end be scuppered by the customer car row.

With F1's new 'low-cost' era approaching apace, however, an opportunity has arisen again - and Richards has never made any secret of his desire to make the jump, on the strict proviso that the economic conditions have to be right. Now, he believes, they just might be.

"It is a statement of fact that Prodrive made extensive preparations in 2007 and was ready to enter the championship in 2008," he acknowledged in an interview with the official F1 website, "but then the goalposts literally changed overnight, which prevented us from entering Formula 1.

"This experience makes you somewhat cautious, but the circumstances are very different today. We are optimistic that the new technical and cost-capping regulations will be approved by the FIA next week, and create the right conditions for us to enter Formula 1 as a constructor this time.

"We are very serious about entering Formula 1 in 2010, providing that it is commercially viable and there is the potential to be fully competitive. On the commercial side we would want a situation where the sort of budget you would need to be competitive would be sensible, especially given the challenging economic conditions we face today - and we would expect to see a reasonable return on our investment in the longer term.

"We would also want the rules to be such that they provide the potential for us to be fully competitive. We would not want to be in Formula 1 just to make up the numbers. Assuming that the new rules are commercially viable and there is the potential to be fully competitive, then we are ready to press the go button."

Richards affirmed that the previous ultimately abortive foray had at least resulted in the advantage of laying down the groundwork for a second bid, leaving the company with 'a big headstart on the project'. What's more, the Welshman possesses two state-of-the-art facilities in Banbury and at Fen End in nearby Warwickshire, and he stated that he would employ a workforce of 'around 150' - a realistic figure in Mosley's vision for a much leaner future for the sport.

Richards also has the benefit of previous F1 experience himself, having acted as team principal at Benetton in 1998 and later fulfilling the same role at BAR-Honda four years later, leading the Brackley-based outfit to what would be comfortably its most successful season in 2004, as it finished runner-up to the all-conquering Ferrari in the constructors' title chase. Now, though, he has the chance to make his mark in his own right.

"The initial signs coming out from the FIA and FOM (Formula One Management) are very attractive and represent the basis for a real revolution in the sport," the 56-year-old contended. "They hold the promise to return Formula 1 to its fundamental ethos, where success comes to those with the most ingenious engineering and best organisation - not simply those with the biggest budget.

"In many ways it would be like turning the clock back to the time when championship-winning teams typically had 150 to 200 employees, and our planning indicates that we would have a team of around 150. This would be the race team, with the engineering side predominantly focused on the chassis while the engine and gearbox would be sourced from outside suppliers.

"We are in discussion with one of the current engine-suppliers, as well as Cosworth. They are developing plans for a customer Formula 1 engine, which offers the prospect of a return to the good old days when you could bolt in a customer DFV off the shelf and win races.

"This resulted in an era when there was all sorts of innovation on the chassis side. Who can forget the six-wheeler Tyrell, the ground effect Lotus or even the Brabham fan car? Formula 1 has clearly developed since then, but the prospect of being able to be competitive and win with an affordable customer engine is still very compelling.

"We are therefore very optimistic, but let's wait and see what the final proposals look like when they are published next week. While we await the publication of the new technical and budget-capping regulations, we are continuing with our planning and commercial discussions."

Whilst refusing to confirm that the team would go under the Aston Martin brand - with Richards responsible for running the legendary British manufacturer's sportscar challenge, with great success - the former World Rally Championship-winning co-driver dismissed suggestions that the collapse of the works Subaru WRC effort had freed up resources for the F1 project, insisting that 'the core people and skills needed for Formula 1 are highly specialised, but we have many of those people waiting in the wings ready to go'.

He admitted, by contrast, that he was 'not aware' of the potential rivals he is likely to face in order to procure one of the three additional spots on the grand prix grid next year - with reportedly as many as eight interested parties, including the American US GPE outfit and iconic Huntingdon marque Lola - underlining that the final decision rests in the hands of the FIA and that the role of FOM chief executive Bernie Ecclestone in ensuring the sustained health of F1 remains 'vital as ever'. The 78-year-old is understood to have pledged ?10 million to each new team that joins the fray in 2010.

"In these challenging economic times we have to be realistic on the level of sponsorship that can be raised," Richards urged. "Bernie is the ultimate realist and understands that new teams will need support, especially in the short-term in order to be commercially viable and sustainable.

"I think that what we have seen in the first few races [of 2009] has been fantastic for Formula 1. I am delighted for Brawn and Red Bull, and it is great to see them beat the more established teams. It is just this prospect that is making Formula 1 attractive again, as a potential new entrant. In fact I am sure Bernie and Max could not have written a better script if they [had] tried! It has been a great advert for Formula 1, and is just what the sport needed.

"We have a strong track record in all the motorsport formula we have been involved with, including Formula 1. We have also planned our potential entry into Formula 1 meticulously, and should we proceed and our entry be successful we would be totally committed to Formula 1 and to making the new team a success on and off the track."



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