Toyota vs Renault vs Sauber
This is the three way fight to stay in Formula One for 2010. All three were manufacturer teams at one point, yet they are left scrapping against each other to stay in F1. Except, its not quite as simple as a straight fight between the trio. Let me explain…
The sequence of events begins when BMW announce a buyer for their team, an organisation known only as Qadbak Investment Group. However, they did not complete the deal in time, and the FIA instead gave the final grid slot to Lotus 1Malaysia. This meant BMW had not signed the Concorde Agreement and had no commitment to Formula One from next season, which would turn out to be their major stumbling block in this three way battle for grid slots.
Next in line were Toyota, who announced their withdrawal from the sport on a whim and continued the apparent mass exodus in F1. The FIA were not happy though, as Toyota had already signed the Concorde Agreement, committing them to Formula One until at least 2012. Toyota have still not been able to wriggle free of the FIA’s stranglehold on the matter, but they may not need to, as you will find out later.
Only days after Toyota’s withdrawal, Renault conducted an emergency board meeting about its F1 future. The outcome is still unknown, after CEO Carlos Ghosn refused to reveal any details concerning the team’s future after the meeting. Many believed this could mean the end for Renault’s F1 programme, after Ghosn said that F1 was no longer important for Renault. However, TCF can confirm that they have been in talks with Russian Investors, however the specific group involved is unknown. There is a chance this company could be Megafon, who already have business with Renault and are also Vitaly Petrov‘s backers, putting him in line for the second Renault seat.
As for Toyota, recent reports from Cologne suggest one Zoran Stefanovic has made several visits to the TMG factory and has just bought their entry for next year, which will be run from their own factory in Serbia. However, all staff and technical resources would be retained and Toyota would still essentially be building the car for them. If this is the case, Stefan Grand Prix would be obliged by the Concorde Agreement to run in the 2010 World Championship.
But there was another plot twist, after announcement of Peter Sauber purchasing his old team back from BMW in its entirety, after the suspicious Qadbak deal fell through. It meant the team had financial stability at last, and a safe pair of hands at the helm. This stability may well be enough to convice the FIA to grant them an entry.
The final twist in this tale is that contrary to rumours, Stefanovic had not actually purchased Toyota Motorsport, nor their F1 entry. Toyota’s entry has now defaulted to the FIA, and they will likely have to pay a mountain of fines as a consequence, but thats not the issue here. Stefan GP are only going to buy Toyota’s technical equipment and now have to seek their own entry.
Maybe Renault will pull out after all, and their problem is solved. Or maybe Stefan GP are gambling on one of the four new teams not making the grid.
Despite initial financial worries, Campos Meta appears to have a solid future, after announcing Bruno Senna as its first driver and also being the first of the new team’s to have its chassis pass official FIA crash tests. Petrov has also been linked with Campos, but so has Pastor Maldonado who brings plenty of sponsorship from oil firm PDVSA. Manor look to have a similarly secure future, as Virgin look increasingly likely to be named title sponsors of the team. Both of the above contracted external companies to build their cars, Dallara in Campos’ case, and former Simtek owner Nick Wirth for Manor.
The two unknowns now are USF1 and Lotus. For months there have been rumours of financial difficulties and lack of progress from both teams, but Lotus have a harder task after gaining their entry after the other teams. However in Mike Gascoyne they have a good pair of hands leading the technical side, and they have significant start-up capital from Air Asia. Current Team CEO Tony Fernandes has already announced a driver has been signed, expected to be Toyota refugee Jarno Trulli.
There hasn’t been much noise from the USF1 camp however, and all we know for sure thus far is that Jose Maria Lopez has signed a conditional contract with them for next year, assuming that he is able to stump up $8 Million in sponsorship. Reports suggest he is currently around $2 Million short of that figure at the moment. In terms of technical developments, unlike Lotus, we haven’t seen any models or much evidence at all they have made significant process with their car.
There were rumours of American investors being involved in Peter Sauber’s purchase of his old team, an ominous sign that USF1 is doomed to failure perhaps? We will just have to wait until WMSC’s December meeting to see the outcome.