Former F1 star David Coulthard has waded into the row over the new teams joining the grand prix grid in 2010, arguing that the top flight is 'not a finishing school', branding the sorry saga of USF1 'a poor advertisement' and one that 'degrades the sport' and contending that the lack of mileage conducted by some of the newcomers ahead of the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend is 'plain irresponsible'.

Ferrari courted controversy last month by launching a scathing and scornful attack on the state of the new arrivals, describing the ultimately unsuccessful Stefan GP as 'vultures' trying to feed off struggling rivals, forecasting that Virgin and Lotus will merely 'limp into the start of the championship', slating Hispania for having been 'pushed into the ring by an invisible hand' - with the clear inference being that the hand in question belonged to influential F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone - and concluded that 'you would do better to call on Missing Persons to locate' USF1 [see separate story - click here].

The American effort, of course, ultimately never made it, and Stefan was turned down in its bid to step into the void. Hispania will arrive in Sakhir with no prior running under its belt with its Dallara-designed, Cosworth-powered challenger, whilst despite being the earliest to get its car on-track, Virgin's pre-season preparations have been persistently stymied by hydraulic woes and other recurring reliability glitches.

Though Ferrari came in for a considerable degree of disapprobation for its extraordinary outburst, Coulthard concedes that he does 'have some sympathy' for the Scuderia's point-of-view.

"I am going to end up sounding like a bit of a Scrooge here," the 13-time grand prix-winner acknowledged, writing in the Daily Telegraph, "but before we all start waxing lyrical about the impending blockbuster of a season, I want to address something that worries me greatly - the standard, or lack thereof, of the new teams on the grid for 2010.

"I have heard a lot in recent months about how great it is to have 'fresh blood' in the sport, [but] Formula 1 is not a finishing school. Either you come prepared, or prepare to fail. This is the pinnacle of world motorsport. It's no use them bleating about the fact that the goalposts moved after they joined under a ?40 million budget cap. The Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) never signed up to that cap.

"Fresh blood is all well-and-good, but I would argue that the carry-on we have seen over the past few months has been a poor advertisement for F1. First it was going to be four new teams, then Bernie Ecclestone admitted he thought only two of them would make it. Then USF1 collapsed and died, along with the reputations of Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor, who cried wolf so many times.

"Finally we are left with three new outfits - Virgin Racing, Lotus and Hispania Racing - although the last of these launched only last week following a last-minute change of ownership and has never turned a wheel in testing. Has the world gone mad? F1 is a dangerous sport at the best of times, but asking teams to just turn up at practice on a Friday before a race is plain irresponsible.

"For a team that has been up-and-running for years, it is difficult enough to pass the stringent FIA crash tests while accumulating adequate miles to prove the integrity of parts which are not required to be tested - for instance suspension parts, which as a reminder to all keep the wheels attached to the car.

"Even if the new teams negotiate Bahrain without a hitch - and I hope they do - they will be miles off the pace. Again, I feel this degrades the sport and is unfair on the drivers in question. Just ask Perry McCarthy, who failed to qualify for a single grand prix in eleven attempts for Andrea Moda in 1992, how much fun it is scrabbling around at the back of a grid.

"Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok, the drivers for Hispania Racing, are both talented young men under huge pressure. I just hope it doesn't all descend into McCarthy-esque farce. My advice to them? Drive as quickly as possible at all times during practice. One of the most dangerous things you can do in F1 is to go slowly on the racing line."

However, despite his evident concerns, Coulthard did stress that he remains the most excited about the forthcoming campaign that he has been since making his own F1 debut for Williams back in 1994 - and suggests that it is impossible to pick a winner.

"The season promises to be a classic," the 38-year-old enthused. "I certainly can't remember one that looks so competitive. Of the drivers at the four big teams - Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull - only Nico Rosberg has never won a race, and I think he is well capable of breaking his duck this year.

"My views on my old foe, Michael Schumacher, are clear. He will be fit as a flea and capable of challenging for honours if Mercedes give him the car - but it won't be easy for him. The likes of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are young and fearless, and let's not forget Jenson Button, whose confidence is sky-high right now. In fact, you would have to be mad to pick a winner at this juncture, it is that open."



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