Formula 1: Possibility of no 13th team for 2011

By Gareth Llewellyn
bernie ecclestoneBernie Ecclestone (Photo: Silverstone Circuits Ltd)

bernie ecclestone

Formula One may not have a new team on the grid for 2011 amid speculation that Bernie Ecclestone could veto all applications to take the place left vacant by the defunct USF1 team.

Ecclestone is believed to be concerned at the performance of the new teams that joined the sport in 2010, and there are fears that another new outfit would only end up at the back of the grid.

Of the new teams for 2010, only BMW Sauber—born out of the remnants of the departed BMW works team—have achieved any success, while of the entirely new teams, only Lotus have showed promise and the ability to move forward for 2011.

While Lotus have yet to score any points this season, they have consistently out-qualified their rival new teams Virgin and Hispania.

Lotus have already begun work on their 2011 car, and have poached three top engineers from Force India. Former Renault and Red Bull man Mark Smith will become technical director under Mike Gascoyne. Lewis Butler joins as chief designer and Marianne Hinson as head of aerodynamics.

This time last year, the team had not even had their place in the sport confirmed, placing them in a very good position to move forward in 2011 to challenge Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso, Force India, and Sauber.

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has expressed his desire to return to the sport with his own team after Serbian outfit Stefan F1 were unable to take the grid in 2010.

Former GP2 team Durango’s team boss Ivone Pinton has said they are part of Villeneuve’s bid, while former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore and chief technical officer Pat Symonds—currently banned from FIA-sanctioned events for their involvement in the ‘Ccashgate’ scandal—are also rumoured to be involved the bid.

Joan Villadelprat’s Basque-based Epsilon Euskadi are the other front-runner to enter F1 for 2011. Villadelprat has considerable experience in F1 with McLaren, Ferrari and Benneton, while Sergio Rinland was also involved in F1 for some time, but there is no clear indication that the team have the budget to compete in F1.

Ecclestone has said any new team entering the sport must be able to show they have the facilities in place to operate an F1 team, and all potential teams will have to demonstrate this to a delegation of officials.

A security deposit of £16 million has also been requested in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the USF1 fiasco which left the sport and suppliers out of pocket and having to take legal action to recover lost monies.

But having personnel, facilities, and money is just the start of entering F1. The team must also be somewhat competitive.

It would be unlikely that any new team would be winning races from the outset in the manner of Brawn GP in 2009, but with F1 reintroducing the 107% rule, Ecclestone will not be satisfied if the new team regularly fail to make the race on Sundays by qualifying outside that time.

So far this year, Hispania have been outside the 107% time on several occasions, and with their financial problems set to continue, their fortunes appear unlikely to change any time soon.

There have been suggestions that Hispania will be unable to continue into 2011, and Ecclestone has hinted that the security deposit might not be required if one of the new teams were to buy out an existing team. Such a move, however, could be risky.

The FIA are expected to make their decision before the middle of August, with some experts suggesting it could come as soon as the end of July.

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