For the past few weeks rumours have been flying around that Campos and USF1 may ask to miss the first three races of the season. What we didn't know until now is that not only are these two teams perfectly entitled to do this under the new Concorde Agreement, but so is any team on the grid.
This staggering news comes straight from the mouth of Bernie Ecclestone speaking to Pitpass' business editor today in the Express. "I think we won't see Campos and I don't think we will see the Americans... they are going to ask to miss three races," says Ecclestone adding "in the Concorde Agreement the teams are allowed to miss three races." Aguri Suzuki must be wishing he had signed this version of the contract.
The clause keeps the door open for F1's new entries but it could also give the sport a patchwork grid with teams coming and going depending on whether they can afford to race. It could dent interest in the sport as Ecclestone indicates by asking, "what if Ferrari miss three races?"
It could also see the company Ecclestone runs paying hefty fines if it breaches its contract with the FIA which grants it the commercial rights to the sport. According to company documents, under this contract Ecclestone's company is committed "to use its reasonable endeavours to procure the participation of at least 16 cars per Grand Prix."
In the past 12 months Honda, BMW and Toyota have pulled out of the sport due to the high cost of competition which averages $270m per team. However, missing the more expensive long haul races may be a way for teams which are close to the wall, and not likely to score points, to reduce costs and remain in the sport.
Stefan Grand Prix based in Serbia is ready to take the position of any team which drops out and, according to Ecclestone, "they are going to take over Toyota completely. The team and motorhomes." He adds that "they have got the money from the government, I've spoken to the prime minister."
However there is no space on the grid for the team so, as Ecclestone says, "they are ready to rock and roll but they've not got an entry."
Until Stefan gets the slot one imagines that the Serbian government won't be handing over the cash and, having filed a complaint against the FIA with the European Commission, it's hard to imagine the team getting a slot.
Stefan isn't the only team which may be hurting according to Ecclestone who says that he thinks Mercedes' withdrawal of its stake in McLaren will hurt the Woking team.
Ecclestone also suggests that just as the new teams may miss races, so too may he miss instalments on the $10m payment to them. "Maybe we can miss a few races," he says adding that the money will only begin to be paid if the teams start racing. He has a simple solution to minimise the number of team personnel at the races and cut costs for not only the new teams, but the existing ones as well - "very easy, don't give them passes so don't let them in."
As ever, Ecclestone holds all the keys.