Formula One revs up economy drive

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The Independent Online

Formula One's governing body, the FIA, has proposed radical cost-cutting measures, including the possible use of standard engines from 2010, to help teams to cut costs and survive the difficult global financial conditions.

In a letter to the 10 Formula One teams before a meeting with the FIA president, Max Mosley, in Geneva next week, the governing body put forward a five-year plan of action.

"The FIA believes that Formula One costs are unsustainable," it said. "Even before current global financial problems, teams were spending far more than their incomes. As a result, the independent teams are now dependent on the goodwill of rich individuals, while the manufacturers' teams depend on massive hand-outs from their parent companies.

"There is now a real danger that in some cases these subsidies will cease," added the FIA. "This could result in a reduction in the number of competitors, adding to the two team vacancies we already have and reducing the grid to an unacceptable level."

The Honda-backed Super Aguri team folded after the Spanish Grand Prix in April while a planned Prodrive team has been shelved. Williams, who made a £21.4m loss last year and are sponsored by bailed-out British bank Royal Bank of Scotland and companies owned by troubled Icelandic retailer Baugur, are now the only team not funded by a manufacturer or a billionaire.

However, the future of even some of the manufacturers' teams has begun to look uncertain against a backdrop of factory lay-offs, steeply falling share prices and dwindling sales. Some teams, such as Toyota, have annual budgets estimated to be in excess of $400m.

The FIA, due to meet the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) after Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, put forward three proposals for the period 2010 to 2012.

The first was for a shared engine produced by a single supplier, after a tender, with current engine makers free to build their own to the same design.

Another option would be for a consortium of teams to obtain a low cost engine from a single supplier, while a third alternative, proposed by FOTA, would see independent teams receive a complete powertrain (engine and gearbox) for less than €5m (£3.9m) per team per season. The latter arrangement would also include 30,000km of testing and on-track assistance.

The FIA said it also envisaged common chassis parts, including standard suspension and wheels and other expensive parts which "add nothing to the spectacle or to the public interest of Formula One".

FOTA is due to hold meetings in Shanghai, with sources suggesting the ideas on the table could include a ban on refuelling, shorter races and testing restrictions.

The FIA said, however, that it believed priority should be given "to things which the public cannot see" such as telemetry rather than visible elements such as refuelling.

For 2013, it said it wanted to see a "modern high-technology" powertrain with a more compact engine using exhaust energy and heat recovery systems.