The FIA has written to the teams to seek their blessing to expand to 14 teams for the 2010 season. This was prompted by BMW finding a buyer for their operation and the addition of Lotus as a new team.
Lotus F1 has taken the official 13th entry on the grid for next season with backing from the Malaysian government and several Malaysian firms. The team principal has been announced to be Tony Fernandes, the founder and CEO of Tune Group who owns Air Aisa. Mike Gascoyne has been named as the teams technical director. The team will use Cosworth engines and will initially work out of an existing facility in Norfolk, UK. The long term plan though is to build new facility at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia.
Also, the Swiss firm Qadbak Investment Company has purchased the BMW Sauber operation and hopes to make it onto the 2010 grid. However, they currently sit in the first alternate position so they either have to hope for one of the other 13 teams to back out of F1 before 2010 or they will have to get the approval from the other F1 teams to expand the grid to 14 teams.
Here is the FIA’s statement on the matter:
‘The FIA also received an impressive application from the BMW Sauber Team. However, given that BMW has announced it will withdraw its support in 2010, there are still uncertainties regarding the future ownership of the team.
Nevertheless, the FIA considers that BMW Sauber’s application is of high quality and would constitute a competitive participant in the Championship. As such, it has awarded BMW Sauber the ’14th place’ in the Championship meaning that it will be entitled to fill any vacancy that arises on the 2010 grid.
In addition, the FIA believes that a good case can be made for expanding the grid to 14 teams. The FIA will be consulting urgently with the existing teams regarding the introduction of an appropriate rule change to expand the grid to 28 cars in time for the first Grand Prix in 2010.’
And here is Open Paddock’s viewpoint:
There is no chance that we will see 14 teams on the grid next year. Toyota and Renault are questionable at this point. So are Manor, Campos and USF1. The FIA is adding more teams because they know that one or more of the teams listed above will fold before the first race next year. Just hedging their bets.