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Proposals to cut F1 costs include standard engines

10/15/2008

LONDON -- A slimmed-down Formula One championship using standardized engines is being proposed to ensure the sport survives the global economic crisis.

Drastic cost reductions will be discussed at a meeting next week in Geneva hosted by FIA president Max Mosley with the 10 team chiefs.

Ahead of the summit, Mosley has warned current costs are "unsustainable."

F1 team owners splashed out a combined $1.6 billion in 2008 following the arrival of Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya's Force India team. That's up from $1.47 billion in 2007, according to a report from industry monitor Formula Money.

"Even before current global financial problems, teams were spending far more than their incomes, insofar as these consist of sponsorship plus FOM [Formula One Management] money," Mosley says in documents sent to the teams, published Wednesday by The Times of London and verified by the FIA. "As a result, the independent teams are now dependent on the goodwill of rich individuals, while the manufacturers' teams depend on massive handouts from their parent companies."

Mosley is concerned about the fate of small teams. Super Aguri's two-year stint in F1 ended in May when the Japanese team withdrew from the championship because of financial difficulties.

"There is now a real danger that, in some cases, these subsidies will cease," Mosley said. "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 FIA's view is that Formula One can only be healthy if a team can race competitively for a budget at or very close to what it gets from FOM," he said.

But manufacturers such as Honda, Toyota and BMW might not back the idea.

"I think most of us are not happy at all with the idea of a standard engine which we would define as an engine, maybe even designed and made by someone else," Honda team principal Nick Fry said recently. "In our case we are the largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines in the world, it's the core of the company."

Mosley will propose that standard engines are used from 2010 built by the teams themselves or by a single supplier or contractor and that cars from 2013 use a chassis with more "common parts".

The FIA wants engines from 2013 to be more fuel and energy efficient.

"We are completely open to new ideas," the FIA says in the documents to teams. "The only preconditions are (i) that the costs of development, maintenance and unit production for the power train must be an order of magnitude lower than is currently the case and (ii) power trains must be available to independent teams at minimal cost."

Although many teams have publicly stated they are wealthier than ever thanks to nearly $900 million in sponsorship revenue, sponsors and new teams weren't exactly lining up even before the current crisis.