The FIA has given the green light to new Romanian team Forza Rossa joining the sport over the next two years according to an article in the Independent by Christian Sylt.
The news does not come directly from the FIA or F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone but the source is indisputable as it is a sworn witness statement given to London's High Court. The statement was released as part of the recent administration proceedings of Caterham and it also reveals at last the details of the team's much-rumoured connection to Forza Rossa.
The new team is being led by former Romanian health minister Ion Bazac and although its entry into F1 has been speculated for many months it hasn't been confirmed until now.
The witness statement comes from Constantin Cojocar, a former professional footballer for Romanian Club Steaua Bucharest, whose entry into F1 came in September when he bought Caterham Sports, the company which designs and builds cars for Caterham. Last week Caterham Sports and the team's operating company 1Malaysia Racing Team (1MRT) were put into the hands of administrators and Cojocar's witness statement lifts the lid on Forza Rossa's plans.
"Early in 2014, a Romanian team called FRR Formula 1 Team (Forza Rossa) formed the intention of entering Formula 1. The project is led by a Mr Ion Bazac, a former Romanian health minister. In June 2014, Forza Rossa received a letter of intent from the FIA (the governing body for Formula 1), allowing it to enter Formula 1 in the next two years. Forza Rossa hopes to race in the 2015 season, but time to prepare is running short."
It confirms reports earlier this year that the Romanian team has a "serious" plan in place. In June Joe Saward claimed that "to underline the serious nature of the Romanian bid, the country's Minister of Youth and Sport Nicolae Banicioiu led a delegation that attended a meeting in the FIA logistics facility in Valleiry, near Geneva, earlier this week at which the proposals were examined by FIA engineers led by the federation's Technical Director Bernard Niclot and Charlie Whiting." According to Cojocar, Caterham Sports was at the heart of this plan.
In his statement Cojocar says that he bought Caterham Sports with the intention of it designing and building cars for both Caterham and Forza Rossa. "I have been involved with a consortium of Romanian investors who saw an opportunity to purchase [Caterham Sports], clear its debts and sell racing services to the Forza Rossa team...The intention was to sell or lease to 1MRT those assets 1MRT requires, and to sell or lease the remaining assets to Forza Rossa."
Ironically, the collapse of Caterham Sports has presented Forza Rossa with a golden opportunity. This is because it now has a chance to buy the team's assets from the administrator who is looking to sell them to clear debts or broker a deal which keeps the wheels turning.
Cojocar says that his Romanian investors were due to provide £2m per week which was to be used to pay the creditors of Caterham Sports and save it from collapsing. "Unfortunately, the money promised to me by my backers has not arrived," he said adding "I understand that Forza Rossa is looking at other possible arrangements for 2015 and I have found it very difficult to contact my backers in Romania."
The lack of funding led to bills not being paid by Caterham Sports and earlier this month bailiffs seized equipment from its factory after it failed to abide by a court ruling to settle £750,000 of unpaid bills. The seized goods include a simulator, steering wheels and a 2013 test car which is expected to be sold to raise money for the company's creditors
"I suspect that my backers in Romania know about the attendance of enforcement officers, and that this will make it less likely I will receive the money that was promised," said Cojocar. He added that "the difficulties caused by not receiving the funds promised to me have led me to the conclusion that I have no choice but to request that the Company is put into administration."
As Pitpass predicted last week, Marussia recently joined Caterham in administration and if neither can be saved it would reduce the F1 grid to nine teams. However, the decline could soon be reversed as in April the FIA also gave the green light to the American Haas F1 Team which is on track to join F1 in 2016.
In February Saward wrote that "the Romanian project has a lot more elements in place than Haas did" so if they both line up on the grid in 2016 then the sport may be able to put the collapse of Caterham and Marussia behind it.