How many F1 teams will race in 2010?

BMW could remain in F1 in 2010, albeit under a different name

BMW could remain in F1 in 2010, albeit under a different name

Following yesterday’s developments it now looks like there could be as many as 14 teams racing in F1 in 2010.

It would be fabulous to see 28-car Formula 1 grids, but is it really likely? I’m not sure.

The new teams

Back in the dark days of the budget cap row, the FIA opened a tender to allow three new teams in and named USF1, Campos Meta 1 and Manor Motorsport as the entries.

Then, when BMW announced it was pulling out of the sport and declined to sign the new Concorde Agreement, the tender process was re-opened for another team. Yesterday the Malaysian government-backed Lotus project was named as the winner.

However the FIA also declared itself impressed with the quality of a re-application put forward by the buyers of the BMW team, backed by a Swiss investment foundation called Qadbak. It has said the team will have first refusal on any further vacancies that should arise, and will try to have the entry list expanded to 14 teams for 2010 to accommodate them.

This last point is interesting because the FIA clearly believes it is possible under the new Concorde Agreement to increase the entry from 26 to 28, but not to allow teams to run a third car, which Mosley dismissed as “fantasy” earlier this week.

Getting the other teams to agree to a 14th entrant might not be easy: it means less room at the tracks and more competition for points, prize money and sponsorship. However, a 14th team might not be necessary if other entries are pulled.

Who could drop out?

It was hard to ignore the fact that the FIA’s decision to grant BMW the ’14th slot’ came as new developments were breaking in the Renault case.

The offer of immunity to Pat Symonds is a clear sign the FIA believe the crash plot did not begin and end with the director of engineering and Nelson Piquet Jnr. The prospective of a heavy punishment for the team looms, and given their lack of a title sponsor for 2010 (as far as we know) and the poor state of the new car market, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Renault quit the sport. They could repeat their actions of 1985, where they wound up their factory race team but remained as an engine supplier.

Doubts remain over Toyota’s F1 future as well. The team are still without a win as their eighth season in the sport draws to a close, and following the arrival of Akio Toyoda as president of Toyota Motor Corp the decision on the team’s 2010 budget has been deferred until November.

Meanwhile at least one of the proposed new entrants for 2010 – Campos – has complained that its original plans for how it would afford to compete in 2010 have been thrown into jeopardy because the budget cap rules weren’t passed.

The teams that signed the new Concorde Agreement pledged to remain in F1 until 2012. Presumably there are financial penalties for teams that withdraw but the fact remains that we’ve lost two manufacturer teams in less than 12 months and more could follow.

Faced with this it’s hard to believe there could actually be 28 cars on the grid next year, though it is an appealing idea. If we end up with more than the 20 we have this year – and the new entries are competitive – I’d consider that a result.

More on the 2010 F1 teams

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59 comments on How many F1 teams will race in 2010?

  1. steph90 said on 16th September 2009, 12:24

    BBC renault are not disputing the claims by piquets

  2. Cucumber Mike said on 16th September 2009, 12:25

    I’d be very interested to know whether, if 28 cars do turn up at Melbourne next year, they will all be allowed to qualify. As far as I know, throughout F1’s history, grids have been capped at 26 cars, with any excess having to qualify (or even pre-qualify) to get in those 26. From reading the 2009 regs, there is nothing in the rules to limit the grid size at all, but as pointed out above, especially at Monaco, having more than 26 cars on track at once could get rather congested and, possibly, dangerous.

    This hypothetical argument then brings us on to what would happen if the bottom two cars are prevented from racing. The last time we had more than 26 cars entered for a GP was Adelaide in 94. There, as they had done for most of the season, the two Pacifics failed to make it through qualifying. As we know, the team went down the gurgler fairly soon after. If we start getting the situation where 2 cars are guaranteed not to race each weekend, and if those 2 cars are always the same 2 cars (one of the new teams, say), that team is likely to find that the lack of TV exposure impacts on their ability to gain sponsorship to pay drivers, staff, engine suppliers and transport costs. The resultant lack of development would then become a self-fulfilling philosophy we’ve seen many times before – Forti, Pacific and Simtek to name only the most recent examples.

    If this leads to the disappearance of one of the less-competitive new teams, surely they’d have something to say – they were initially enticed into running in a championship with no more cars than would be able to race, in a championship protected by budget caps.

    I realise all this is very hypothetical, but I’d definitely be interested to know what the FIA’s plans are for qualifying. If they allow 28 cars onto the grid, how will they square this with safety, especially given their previous stance on the matter? And if they cap grids at 26, how will they deal with any team that goes to all the expense of travelling to a race and then doesn’t actually get to go racing?

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 16th September 2009, 13:04

      Pre-qualifying will not come back. No sponsor in their right mind would be willing to sign up if there was a chance the cars wouldn’t make the grid.

      I could see qualifying expanded to four phases for 2010. The bottom four cars would be knocked out in Q1. The next five would go in Q2. Five more in Q3, with the top ten fighting for pole in Q4.

      Whatever the case, I’m sure they’ll find a way.

      • How would that work with timing though? If the session was still limited to an hour, drivers would only get a chance to do one or at most two runs before the phase was over! It would make blocking – which presumably would be even more of an issue than it is today – even more critical…

    • Xanathos said on 16th September 2009, 13:16

      I agree, monaco might be too small for 28 cars, but most of the tracks wouldn’t have a problem with 28 or more cars.
      What about that: The number of cars that are allowed to qualify depends on the length of the track. Let’s allow only 20 cars in Monaco, about 24 in Hungary and 30 at most of the other tracks. That way every team would be guaranteed to start at 12-15 GPs every year and there won’t be too much trouble around Monaco…

  3. Cucumber Mike said on 16th September 2009, 12:28

    Hmm, it seems in the time I took to write that last post Flav and Pat have made it all academic – can’t see Renault continuing in F1 now!

  4. One side issue in all this, could the current racing circuits cope with 28 cars in the Pit Lanes? Will some of the tracks have to add extra garages, or even redesign the Pits to cope?
    It wouldn’t surprise me to see both Renault and Toyota leaving at the end of 2009, and by rights their slots should be open for more new teams to enter for 2010.

  5. Renault has announced that team boss Flavio Briatore and engineering chief Pat Symonds have parted company with the team and that it will “not dispute” the allegations of race-fixing when it appears before the World Motor Sport Council next week.

    (autosport)

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 16th September 2009, 13:09

      Sounds like they want to compete in 2010, and have decided to face the music at the same time as distancing themselves from Briatore and Symonds.

  6. HounslowBusGarage said on 16th September 2009, 13:37

    Hope you’re right Prisoner Monkeys. But I think it will be a lot less.
    Ferrari, MacLaren, Brawn, Red Bull, Williams, Force India, Manor, USF1 will all probably race.

    Torro Rosso, Toyota, Lola/Lotus, BMW-whatsits, Campos could all *not* appear.

    Renault could be in either list, I fear.

    That apart, I think the sponsor list and total money available will reduce drastically. It won’t just be large sponsors not renewing contract (like ING), but many of the smaller ones as well.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 17th September 2009, 0:40

      I think people are being too sceptical of it all. I think all fourteen can make it, as all but Lotus have been hammeing away at their development for a while now, and I’m expecting Lotus to purchase Lola’s unused chassis.

  7. Although I would like a 28 car grid I doubt it will happen in 2010.

    I wouldn’t have thought BMW would have been able to sell Sauber unless they had a grid slot, so I wonder if there are either clauses in the contract which change the selling price if they aren’t granted an F1 entry or they know something which hasn’t been made public yet, such as a team dropping out.

    I believe that the teams who finished higher up in the championship get the bigger garages the following year, also lately I read somewhere that an increased grid will mean less garage space for everyone. If this is the case are the walls that divide garages at most circuits temporary so they can make them as big as they want, or are there permanent walls between them?

  8. Arun.India said on 16th September 2009, 14:16

    Frankly speaking i think only 12 teams will race next year…..Lotus and USF1 will be the 2 new teams…..BMW being the 14th entry will qualify under the new management….Renault also will stay next year as they have fired falvio and pat symonds.Mostly will get a small punishment….Mostly they will be disqualified from last years race and some cash punishment….

  9. My guess is that we will have 22 or 24 cars on the grid next year. My guess is that one of USF1 or Campos probably won’t make it. I think Manor/Virgin will probably get to the grid, as will Sauber/Ferrari. Lotus has Malaysian national pride spurring the various governmental players on, so I don’t think they’ll have money problems.

    On Renault, my guess is that they will be excluded from the rest of this season, but with the corpses of Flav and Pat Symonds on prominent display, will be allowed to participate next season. Of course, there’s the question of whether Carlos Ghosn will want to let them — and without Flav available to do a Briatore GP buyout, they may have the rug pulled out from under them.

    Which, especially if Toyota kills its customer engine program, could leave at least half the grid running Cosworth power — suddenly the new teams’ prospects don’t look quite as grim…

  10. Surley there will be 13 teams next year. If USF1, Manor, Campos drop out then aren’t Lola or Prodrive or some of the other teams who weren’t selected ready to step in and fill their places?

    • In regards to USF1 not racing next year, see my post below.

      Other than that, if any teams do leave from here on, it would be very difficult to find a replacement on short notice. It takes some time to design and build a car, hire drivers, make travel plans, etc….so it;s not just a one-step process to join and compete in Formula 1.

  11. It has been mentioned here about Campos asking Viladelprat for help. I am sorry to say that they are on less than amicable terms. They were both involved with the born-dead Bravo F1, and apparently Campos turned his back to Epsilon Euskadi’s principal, back on that day, even if Viladelprat is, and was, a renowned name in racing. More so, Viladelprat stated in TV3 (Catalonia, Spain) that he would never join Campos, because he had sort of abandoned him, leaving him aside from the project, when he was already preparing everything to join the squad, alongside Jordi Gené as a driver (Marc Gené’s older brother), so I know Epsilon Euskadi will not join Campos Meta-1.

  12. I always thought it was ridiculous reopening applications after BMW pulled out. With so many teams interested at the moment the likelihood was that they would be bought out, so why give their place to a new team less well prepared and unlikely to be as competitive?

  13. It was done like this, so that they would have 14 teams, and in the case another one pulled out, they will still have the promised 13.

  14. If you guys think USF1 won’t turn up for the 2010 grid, you may need to think again. They have serious money behind them, and barring some unforseen event happeneing, they’ll be ready to roll very soon. I was speaking to a contact of mine earlier this week who, to say the least, is quite close to the project. He’s quite eager to have me make a visit down to Charlotte once the current F1 season is over to check out the progress.

    If Manor has Branson and Virgin behind it, I would put my money on them showing up as well, alhtough they may no longer be known as Manor by that point. Campos has admitted that they are having a more difficult time, but don;t quit on them just yet….

    As for the current teams, who knows what will happen with Renault? Now that the guilty parties are gone, I doubt we’ll see a severe punishment from the FIA, but perhaps the company will try to pull the plug on the whole operation or sell it to another interested party.

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