The Formula 1 grid could be down to just 20 cars for the Spanish Grand Prix as the Magma Group purchase of Super Aguri appears to have fallen through as was rumoured last week.
Unless a source of funds is found in the eight days before next weekend’s race at the Circuit de Catalunya, Super Aguri will not be able to participate – leaving just 20 cars in Formula 1.
It is understood that 20 cars is the minimum number Bernie Ecclestone is contracted to bring to Formula 1 races, and if it were to drop any lower some teams could be required to run three cars each.
Ecclestone might therefore have a vested interest in trying to keep Super Aguri going, something he has done in the past with smaller teams such as Minardi.
However as Gman mentioned in the comments earlier today the root cause of the problem is the FIA’s U-turn on customer cars. As it is no longer going to be legal for teams to use chassis supplied by other outfits Honda no longer have any interest in keeping Super Aguri going.
It’s the same reason why Dietrich Mateschitz is selling Toro Rosso and why Prodrive, instead of being the 12th team in F1 this year, are sticking to their rallying and Le Mans programmes.
The last time as few as ten teams entered a round of the F1 championship was the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix (pictured). Those were Ferrari, BAR (now Honda), Renault, Williams, McLaren, Sauber (now BMW), Red Bull, Toyota, Jordan (now Force India) and Minardi (now Scuderia Toro Rosso).
The last team to pull out of the championship mid-season was Arrows in 2002, who were based at the Leafield site Super Aguri is currently run from. Super Aguri also used ex-Arrows chassis in their inaugural campaign.
In 2006 Magma purchased two companies that were formed following the collapse of the TWR Group that ran Arrows: Menard Competition Technologies and Menard Engineering Limited, which operated as consultancies to motoring and motor racing companies.
Sadly for Super Aguri team, from the staff at Leafield all the way to drivers Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson, it looks as though history may be repeating itself.
Update 17/4/2008 at 21:21 – Honda have refused offering further assistance to Super Aguri. A spokesperson told French news agency AFP: “We intend to continue the present structure of our support for Super Aguri.”