Formula One teams will fall like dominoes unless they take “dramatic” action to slash hundreds of millions of pounds from their budgets, the motorsport boss Max Mosley said last night, in the wake of Honda’s announcement that it was quitting top-level racing.
The president of the FIA, the sport’s governing body, warned that profligate teams had been splurging unsustainable sums of money – about £3bn in total last year – on ever more sophisticated technology and the sideshow razzmatazz for which F1 is renowned.
“There is no doubt that unless dramatic action is taken we will lose our teams,” he said. “The teams have allowed the cost to go completely out of control and we’ve got a worldwide economic problem.”
Mr Mosley insisted that “necessary action” would be taken, and teams would need to scale down costs from around £200m each to about £30m. That means stripping cars of technological wizardry and slashing research and development and staff. An estimated 15,000 people work in F1, of which one quarter are engineers.
Up to 600 staff working at Honda’s headquarters in Brackley, Northamptonshire, could be made redundant following the team’s shock announcement that it would quit F1 in the face of the crisis engulfing the global automotive industry.
The team’s withdrawal from the sport – announced by the Honda president Takeo Fukui yesterday – leaves F1 with a maximum 18 cars on the starting grid. Mr Mosley said that the departure of other teams would jeopardise races. “If it starts to get down to 14 cars or fewer then you have a serious problem.”
Mr Mosley said it would be impossible for teams to slash costs by the required amount for the 2009 season, which begins in March. Those teams grappling with their overheads must try to keep their cars racing until 2010, when F1 could introduce the cost-cutting reforms.
On Honda’s decision to quit F1, Mr Mosley said: “We’ve been expecting to lose one of the manufacturers or maybe even more than one.”