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Bernie Ecclestone braced for loss of 'one or two' Formula One teams

F1, Formula 1 - Telegraph

Bernie Ecclestone braced for loss of 'one or two' Formula One teams
Bernie Ecclestone says he would not be surprised if “one or two” teams on the grid did not make it through to the end of the season, admitting they are “out of their depth” and not giving the sport value for money.

By Tom Cary
Published: 10:52PM BST 27 Jul 2010
Bernie Ecclestone braced for loss of 'one or two' Formula One teams
Bright future: F1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone believes the sport can go from strength to strength despite the struggles of some teams Photo: GETTY IMAGES

With the financial squeeze hitting the paddock, reports arise almost daily of teams in dire straits, sponsors departing and pay drivers being ditched for not stumping up enough cash. Hispania Racing confirmed on Tuesday that Japanese driver Sakon Yamamoto would replace Indian Karun Chandhok for the second grand prix running in Hungary this weekend.

It is not just the smaller independents who are struggling.

At the end of this season Williams, seen as the absolute litmus test for the health of Formula One in general, will lose their main sponsor, the Royal Bank of Scotland. Philips and Air Asia are also coming to the end of their deals with the team and as yet have not been replaced.

Most recently, it emerged last week that Renault had gone cap in hand to Ecclestone asking for an advance on their television rights money.

And while F1’s 79-year-old commercial rights holder played that story down yesterday, he admitted that some other teams may not be around for too much longer.

“All that was [the Renault story] was the fact that one of the shareholders didn’t want to take money from another one of his companies because that would have meant convening a board meeting,” he said. “But I never gave them the money. And they got over the crisis so everything is fine.

“But I would not be surprised if one or two of them did not make the end of the season. I think there are a couple of teams in Formula One who really shouldn’t be there. They are a bit out of their depth at the moment.”

Ecclestone said he was not worried about a lack of teams on the grid next year. F1’s governing body, the FIA, is taking applications for a 13th entry to supplement the present 12 teams, but Ecclestone says 10 is all that is needed.

“All we ever want is 10 teams,” he said. “Lotus is a good name. I wouldn’t want to lose them. But in general this year has been a bit of a nuisance because it has cost money to keep these [struggling] teams in. It has cost a lot of money to pay for them to compete.

"The bottom line is they haven’t really and truly given us value for being there. If suddenly these teams don’t turn up at races then I don’t think the crowds will get any smaller, or the TV sets will turn off, or the newspapers will stop writing, will they?”

Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, has fanned the flames of controversy that surrounded his victory at Hockenheim on Sunday by describing it as a “great feeling”.

The Spaniard won the race only because Ferrari illegally ordered his team-mate, Felipe Massa, to move aside and let him through.

While Ferrari were fined $100,000 (£64,579) on the spot – the maximum that stewards are allowed to hand out – and could yet face further sanctions for a clear-cut breach of the rules, Alonso is unrepentant.

“All wins are special,” he wrote in his blog on Ferrari’s official website. “Winning is a great feeling and that was the case in Hockenheim, especially when I think of the huge workload undertaken by everyone at Maranello to achieve this fantastic one-two finish.

“We did not have much luck in some races and, because of unusual incidents, we did not pick up the points we deserved.

"There was a slight feeling of frustration with this lack of results, but at last in Germany, for once we had a normal race on a weekend when we had no problems whatsoever and the result was there for all to see. Now we must continue in this direction, starting this coming weekend in Budapest.”

Ferrari’s actions may have sparked fierce debate within the sport over the relative merits of the team orders rule, but fans are overwhelmingly in favour of further punishment for the Italian team.

In one online survey carried out by Autoblog, 95 per cent of over 15,000 respondents said they wanted to see the World Motor Sport Council inflict further punishment, with 27 per cent of those keen to see Ferrari kicked out of the championship entirely.
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