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GP Week : Issue 199
16 GPWEEK.com // 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Whenever Bernie ecclestone makes himself available to the press at a GP event, as he did in the desert over the weekend, you can be sure that he's got some scheme on the go for which he needs the oxygen of publicity. In Bahrain he was banging the drum for two different causes, and the one which garnered most of the ink was his ongoing campaign (with Ferrari boss Luca Montezemolo) to get the new V6s spinning fast enough to make a lot more noise. Good luck with that one, Bernie, especially if it involves persuading the Mercedes men to risk sacrificing some of their current half-a-second- per-lap-plus superiority. You surely haven't forgotten, have you, that mid-term changes to the rules require a unanimous 'yes' vote from the teams? Far more intriguing to me was the Bernard's revelation that he is supporting the FIA and Jean Todt in permitting two more teams to join the F1 ranks next year. In view of the fact that in recent years he has been dropping heavy hints that F1 would get along a whole let better with fewer teams rather than more, cynical hacks like me cannot help wondering what's behind the little big man's reverse ferret. After all, there are only 12 garages in most paddocks. The reason is surely pretty simple. It is that Formula 1, for all its shiny eco-friendly image-making, is no longer the monster money-making machine that it's been for the best part of 30 years. Teams are struggling financially, some of them close to possible closure. We all know of the skirmishing that the joint owners of Force India are having with the business regulatory bodies at home, for example. You have to worry, too, when reports leak out that a squeaky- clean outfit like Sauber might have had a little problem last year with an electricity bill. Then there's the saga of Enstone/ Lotus and the mysterious blink-and- he's-gone/coming-back investor. That embarrassment seems to have got sorted out, but not before some of the team's brightest engineering talent defected to organisations which pay their staff on time each month. Not all of the minnows appear to be safe, either. Caterham boss Tony Fernandes is on the record with a threat to pull out of F1 unless the car gains the competitiveness it needs to attract the sponsorship that currently comes from him. And don't forget Toro Rosso, a 300-man enterprise which is surely surplus to Red Bull's promotional requirements after four WC titles for the energy drink's senior squad. Bernie and Todt have been making helpful noises of late about F1 projects mooted by the American businessman Gene Haas and former team principal Colin Kolles, both with strong reputations to maintain. Apparently speaking on behalf of Todt, on Friday Ecclestone said: "they (Haas) will be accepted. We have accepted another team as well. Whether they will make it or not is another story." And that is the problem. It doesn't seem very long since the wildly over- enthusiastic USF1 team was forced to withdraw its entry a couple of weeks before the first race of the 2010 season, citing "serious economic and funding challenges." Even more recent, in mid-2012, was the collapse of the ambitious PURE engine-building concern, before a single powerplant had even run. Perhaps the newcomers will make it. Haas, it says here, will have his first chassis built by Dallara (not a long- term solution, though) and powered by Ferrari. Kolles performed miracles by keeping the Spanish-based HRT team together until the end of 2012, and is surely capable of doing the same again. But in Formula 1 the price of failure to keep promises is not just the damage it does to one's reputation. When USF1 found itself unable to live up to the commitments that it had made to the FIA and withdrew its two-car entry from the 2010 World Championship in March of that year, the World Motor Sport Council came down heavily with a fine of 309,000 Euros. Some of us wondered whether team principals Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson had ever had as much money as that in the bank. Haas and Kolles are going to have to do a whole lot better. bErNiE'S U-TUrN OPINION OPINION MIKE DOODSON