Bernie Ecclestone warns that only fourteen cars may be on the F1 grid in 2015
"Get rid of these engines as they don’t do anything for anyone," adds Bernie; Caterham could fold in two weeks' time
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 03/11/14 6:18pm
Bernie Ecclestone has warned that only fourteen cars may be on the grid in 2015 as a result of F1's escalating financial crisis.
Caterham and Marussia have both entered administration this month, leaving just nine teams and eighteen cars to participate in this weekend's United States GP.
However, according to Ecclestone, other teams may yet follow the two backmarkers out of the sport as F1's financial strife, starkly revealing the vast chasm that exists between the haves and the have-nots on the grid, shows no sign of abating.
"It could go down to 14. If we lose another two teams that is what will happen. I can’t predict if it won’t or it will. But if it is 18 no drama at all," Ecclestone told Sky Sports F1.
Asked if he felt that F1 needed small teams, Ecclestone replied: “We need them if they are going to be there performing properly and not moving around with begging buckets."
The recent financial struggles of both Sauber and Lotus have been widely reported but Ecclestone isn’t worried about either team telling Sky Sports News HQ: “They are old enough to look after themselves.”
The 84-year-old then expressed his frustration with the reduced sound of F1 since the introduction of V6 engines, complaining: “We need to change the regulations. Get rid of these engines because they don’t do anything for anyone. They are not Formula 1.”
The demise of Caterham and Marussia has prompted renewed speculation that the sport may introduce a three-car format next year. However, doubts are growing about the viability of a system which may be even more cost prohibitive than the current financial set-up in F1.
“It is a short-term fix, but a long-term disaster as far as I am concerned. I have been told this morning that it would cost 35 to 40 million to run an extra car next year and it won’t probably be able to score points, but that isn’t clear yet,” Sky Sports F1 analyst Martin Brundle reported from Austin.
“But how are you going to get your money back for that car? There aren’t going to be enough young drivers to pay £35 to £40 million. New sponsors? McLaren are running around without a title sponsor already. So you look at that and think how is that actually going to work?"
It’s believed that if the new format was introduced then the third car could be piloted by a designated young driver, although it’s also possible that, in a further convoluted twist, not all of the remaining teams would field a third car.
“I believe there are three teams – McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari – which will be the first to be offered the chance to run a third car, then it will go to Mercedes and others. It is quite a complicated system as only Formula 1 seems to be able to achieve,” explained a frustrated Brundle.
This weekend's grid is the smallest fielded since the Monaco GP of 2005, although a new team in the form of the American-based Haas outfit is scheduled to join the sport for 2016.
In a statement released on Thursday, the FIA, the sport’s governing body, admitted that the crippling financial struggles of Caterham and Marussia raised questions about the sport’s ‘economic balance’ and justified ‘any initiative that will help reduce costs in order to ensure the survival of the existing grid or attract potential new entrants’.
Both Lotus and Sauber are believed to be heavily in debt, with the team boss of the Swiss outfit, Monisha Kaltenborn, outspoken in her criticism of a scenario in which a sport generated over $1 billion per annum is struggling to find enough cars to fill the grid.
“I think I’m beyond the stage of frustration,” Kaltenborn told reporters on Friday. “I’m first of all very disappointed because it’s one thing to always talk about this terrible scenario that some teams are not going to be there but that’s the sport as such and the people responsible for the sport - to have let it come that far is extremely disturbing."
Administrators for the Caterham team have confirmed that the Leafield outfit may be wound up in two weeks' time if a new buyer cannot be found.