The FIA has released the provisional entry list for 2010. There are 12 teams on the list, rather than the expected 13. This is due to the unresolved situation with Toyota.
As reported on the official Formula 1 website, “Toyota Motorsport GmbH remains formally bound by the Concorde Agreement to put forward a team for participation, though it has indicated that it will not be in a position to do so. An announcement will be made regarding this entry in due course.”
Toyota announced late this year that they would withdraw from Formula 1 in 2010, but inasmuch as they’ve signed the new Concorde agreement, they’re contractually bound to field a team next season. If they fail to do so, they face the possibility of being fined US $150 million.
As they have no intention of pursuing their own Formula 1 program, they have two choices: either sell the team to another entity who would, in effect, be buying Toyota’s slots on the grid; or pay the fine.
This is a prime example of the confusion occurs when a Formula 1 team and their parent company do not operate in tandem, which has been a typical scenario during the manufacturer-dominated era of the sport. Toyota’s F1 team (based in Cologne, Germany), acting on the premise that the company’s commitment to the sport was ongoing, signed the new Concorde agreement which covers the 2010-2012 seasons. Unfortunately, the Toyota board (based in Japan) was using an entirely different playbook.
BMW, deliberately hoping to avoid this problem, never signed the Concorde agreement. Ironically, they now wish they had, as Peter Sauber has agreed to buy the team, but only on the condition that he is allowed a place on the entry list. As BMW are not Concorde signatories, there are two only possibilities that would allow a Sauber entry for 2010: either (a) Sauber is allowed to take Toyota’s place, assuming Toyota doesn’t sell the team, or (b) if Toyota does sell the team, the FIA and FOTA agree to add Sauber to the list as a 14th entry.
It appears that there is little chance for the second option, which means that Peter Sauber is pinning his hopes on Toyota’s willingness to take the hit on the $150 million fee.
But there are already rumors that Toyota is contemplating a sale to Stefan GP, an entity owned by AMCO, a Serbian engineering company. To wriggle out of a US $150 million fee, it seems likely that Toyota wold be willing to sell the team at a fire sale price. There are reports that Toyota would supply engines to Stefan GP for two years, at a price of 5 million euros per year.
Until all of this is resolved, the 13th spot on the entry list will remain vacant.
Another minor surprise on the list was the entry of Virgin Racing. There have been rumors for several weeks that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group would terminate their relationship with Brawn/Mercedes in favor of sponsoring a smaller team, which would give the company greater exposure at a smaller price. They have done that by becoming the title sponsor of the fledgling Manor team. Last year, Virgin contributed approximately 250,000 euros per race to Brawn. The size of the current deal is not known, but clearly it was enough to warrant rebranding the team.
Another minor point of interest: Brawn Mercedes Benz will retain their old name pending the completion of the acquistion by Mercedes. Once the deal has been concluded, the team will be known as Mercedes Grand Prix.
See below for the entry list, as published by the FIA.
1 Jenson Button (GB)
2 Lewis Hamilton (GB)
Brawn Mercedes Benz*
3 Nico Rosberg (D)
Red Bull Racing Renault
5 Sebastian Vettel (D)
6 Mark Webber (AUS)
7 Felipe Massa (BR)
8 Fernando Alonso (E)
9 Rubens Barrichello (BR)
10 Nico Hulkenberg (D)
11 Robert Kubica (PL)
Force India Mercedes
14 Adrian Sutil (D)
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi (I)
16 Sebastien Buemi (CH)
21 Bruno Senna (BR)
US F1 Cosworth
24 Timo Glock (D)
Image by Craig Scott.