Think F1’s attractive to new teams? Think again

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Two of the teams we all were most likely excited to see on the 2011 Formula 1 grid announced today that they won’t be applying for next season’s open spot.

Both Lola and Prodrive released statements that they wouldn’t be seeking the spot vacated by USF1. And the reasons were pretty similar.

First Lola:

Lola are also set for their largest entry at Le Mans for thirty years in June when at least nine Lola designed and built LMP cars race in the 24 Hours. The first race of the European sports car season last weekend saw Lola finish 2nd and 3rd overall at the Paul Ricard 8 Hours event.

Executive Chairman and owner, Martin Birrane said: “A 2010 entry under the cost capped and performance balanced criteria was perfect for Lola. We already have F1 standard facilities at our headquarters in Huntingdon. Sadly our well-developed 2010 F1 project, which included a significant wind tunnel programme, had to be frozen in June 2009. The recently announced applications for 2011 has left us with insufficient time to prepare for what would be a quite different programme.”

Lola Managing Director, Robin Brundle, added: “Lola looks forward to strengthening its working partnerships with existing F1 Teams and the rich variety of customers throughout the Lola portfolio”.

Then Prodrive:

Prodrive chairman, David Richards said: “Our current focus is on Prodrive’s return to the World Rally Championship in 2011 and that alone takes significant resource to design and develop a totally new car. At the same time, we continue to expand our activities with Aston Martin in all categories of sportscar racing, in the USA, Europe and at Le Mans. We also have a full V8 Supercar series to contest in Australia with Ford, which together with further investment in advanced vehicle technologies for road car applications creates a very demanding agenda for the business.

“Taking on the challenge of starting a brand new Formula One team, finding the necessary funding and developing the car from scratch is a massive undertaking and not to be under estimated,” he added. “As expected, we’ve witnessed the financial and technical challenges that the new teams have faced this year in just getting to the grid, let alone being competitive and whilst I have enormous admiration for their efforts I don’t believe this is an appropriate strategy for Prodrive or Aston Martin to adopt.

Pare all down and you have this: We’re more than happy with the other series we’re in and F1 is too expensive and too risky.

While these announcements don’t follow directly on the heels of the exit of manufacturers Honda, BMW and Toyota, it is hard not to see them as a serious stall, at best, in F1’s moving toward a return of privateers or racing teams along the lines of Williams. And they certainly suggest there the professionals most equipped to compete in F1 — and, arguably, the most knowledgeable about the current state of F1 politics — have major reservations about the direction F1 is headed.

All in all, a bad sign for Formula 1.

But perhaps a good sign for Zoran Stefanovic.

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