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Cosworth has a closer connection with Formula One than almost any other brand in the sport. Testimony to that, its engines have powered more F1 cars to victory than those of any other manufacturer except for Ferrari. Despite this, its future in F1 is currently uncertain as it only supplied engines to two teams this year - HRT and Marussia. Financial woes have prevented the former from entering F1 next year and the £6.2m fee which the latter has received over the past two years is reportedly in question from 2013. This uncertainty is a far cry from 2010 when Cosworth was heralded as F1's saviour by supplying engines at a time when car manufacturers were bailing out of the sport. It received a useful boost to pull it off.
A recent investigation by Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt has revealed that under the terms of the 2009 Concorde Agreement, a sum of £3m was paid to Cosworth by the F1 Group, which runs the sport. The money was paid as a contribution to the costs of retuning their engines for use by HRT, Marussia and Team Lotus - the three new teams which joined F1 in 2010.
The payment is small in F1 terms but it still made a big difference. The three new teams weren't the only Cosworth customers in 2010 as Williams also used its engines. Who knows which supplier would have provided engines if Cosworth hadn't delivered? If Cosworth departs F1 the sport will return to its reliance on Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault which in turn sets an even higher barrier to entry for a new manufacturer.
The engine regulations which are due to be introduced in 2014 were expected to entice other manufacturers to F1 but so far this hasn't materialised. In fact, the regulations could create the perfect storm since they are expected to lead to the cost of engines doubling from the current £8m per year. If neither Ferrari, Mercedes nor Renault can offer them any cheaper it raises the question of who will supply engines to back-markers who cannot afford them.
Ironically, Cosworth's departure could bring about the same kind of circumstances which led to it being enticed into F1 in the first place. However, if it doesn't build a new engine then it won't be as simple as paying it £3m to get it to retune an existing unit. Getting it back into F1 another time could cost a lot more.
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