Tomorrow it will be 19 months since the FIA confirmed that Prodrive would be the 12th team in Formula 1 in 2008.
Last week David Richards confirmed what many people had suspected for a long time: that Prodrive will not be racing in F1 next year.
Prodrive’s absence next year is because the FIA have failed to gain agreement on whether ‘customer’ chassis will be allowed in 2008.
The question of customer chassis is a hotly debated topic that splits F1 fans on a fundamental point: whether teams should be allowed to buy chassis and go racing, or whether they must design and build their own.
Let’s set that matter to one side for a moment – what really interests me is that the FIA have admitted a team into the championship that now finds itself unable to compete on the terms originally agreed.
Whether or not you feel customer chassis should be legal in Formula 1, Richards has indicated that he was fully expecting to be able to use them next year. He had budgeted and planned accordingly, and was not expecting to require as much money or manpower as a fully-fledged constructor.
I suspect that the same approach was in the minds of the majority of the other 21 teams that applied for the 12th space in Formula 1, including top junior team Carlin Motorsport. Other entries backed by Paul Stoddart (former Minardi boss) and Craig Pollock (Jacques Villeneuve’s manager) were mooted.
Legalising customer chassis in F1 is a controversial matter that several teams opposed to, and legal action from Williams has meant that the matter has gone into arbitration. The delay has held up the signing of new commercial terms for the sport (the Concorde Agreement).
As Prodrive said in a statement:
This legal challenge and continuing delays to the new Concorde Agreement represent a fundamental change in circumstances, therefore we must now realistically rule out the possibility of Prodrive being on the grid in 2008.
It is, however, still our ambition to compete in Formula One and we are hopeful that a new Concorde Agreement between the FIA, FOA and the teams will provide clarity as to the terms on which this might be possible.
It seems that Max Mosley underestimated the vehemence with which teams such as Williams opposed the introduction of customer cars. The cash-strapped teams was one of the first to reach agreement with Bernie Ecclestone on new commercial terms, and yet Frank Williams’ willingness to accept the introduction of customer chassis has been badly misjudged by Ecclestone and, of course, Max Mosley.
If Mosley thought Williams was going to keel over and let Prodrive give them a thrashing with off-the-peg McLaren chassis in 2008 he was clearly mistaken. On the face of it, Mosley has wasted a year and a half of Richards’ time and owes him an apology.
But he doesn’t do contrite, does he?
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