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Ecclestone sceptical of teams' futures

NEWS STORY
28/07/2010

In a dramatic turnaround, Bernie Ecclestone has said that F1 only needs ten teams, warning that two of the current twelve teams could fall by the wayside before next season.

Following the debacle that was USF1, not to mention the problems which saw Campos Meta change hands at the eleventh hour, twelve teams still lined up on the grid in Bahrain for the season opener. However, while the big guns have made massive strides forward since then, their vast resources funding ferocious development programmes, the newbies have effectively stood still.

Added to this has been talk of financial difficulties, with Renault rumoured to have asked Ecclestone for an advance on its share of the F1 money pot and Hispania changing its drivers seemingly on a week-by-week basis.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Ecclestone has clarified the Renault story, while admitting doubt as to the future of at least two of the current outfits - this at a time when the FIA is seeking a thirteenth entry.

"All that was was the fact that one of the shareholders didn't want to take money from another one of his companies because that would have meant convening a board meeting," said the Englishman, referring to Renault. "But I never gave them the money. And they got over the crisis so everything is fine.

"But I would not be surprised if one or two of them did not make the end of the season," he continued. "I think there are a couple of teams in Formula One who really shouldn't be there. They are a bit out of their depth at the moment."

Looking ahead, he added: "All we ever want is 10 teams. Lotus is a good name. I wouldn't want to lose them. But in general this year has been a bit of a nuisance because it has cost money to keep these teams in. It has cost a lot of money to pay for them to compete.

"The bottom line is they haven't really and truly given us value for being there. If suddenly these teams don't turn up at races then I don't think the crowds will get any smaller, or the TV sets will turn off, or the newspapers will stop writing, will they?"

However, what Ecclestone chooses to omit is that when the new teams entered it was on the understanding that there would be a budget cap which would go some way to levelling the playing field. Then, much like last week's race order, there was a volte face which meant that teams which might have had some sort of chance on 40m were now up against giants whose budgets were almost unlimited.

Furthermore, while Ecclestone might pour scorn of the newbies now, he was delighted to see new blood enter the sport at a time when three manufacturing giants had withdrawn, and let's not forget that two of his precious ten teams are owned by the same man.

As for the crowds getting smaller, despite Ecclestone's best efforts to keep the grandstands out of camera shot, it is clear that, for the most part, attendance at races is falling, save for Silverstone, the track he tried so very hard to eliminate from the calendar.

TV sets will turn off if fans come to believe that the results will be decided not on track but by team bosses or sponsors and then overruled by the race stewards or World Motor Sport Council.

And, despite Ecclestone's belief that all publicity is good publicity for F1, much of the time journalists are focussing on the negative side of the sport.

Not only will Ecclestone's comments be seen as a slap in the face for the new teams, they will be seen as confirmation that F1 is merely an elite club that exists for itself and doesn't want new members. That, is not the sort of signal the sport should be sending out right now.

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