The possibility of F1 having a full grid of 12 teams next year is looking increasingly unlikely as the odds of Prodrive making it to Melbourne in March recede into the distance.
And former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan, never one to mince his words at the best of times, thinks that if David Richards’ Oxfordshire-based crew don’t make it to the starting line then rival bids should be reconsidered.
Jordan, himself an unsuccessful applicant for the vacant grid slot, wrote in F1 Racing magazine: “What is disappointing is that several teams, some of proven F1 calibre, applied for this extra slot and the FIA, after careful deliberation, chose Prodrive.
“Once, when Toyota told the FIA they were unable to compete in the agreed year, there was a hefty fine. Will Prodrive be fined if they don’t enter in ’08?
“And what of the other rejected teams? Surely the FIA must now allow them to reapply?”
Other disappointed applicants included former Minardi supremo Paul Stoddart, former driver Eddie Irvine accompanied by a set of mysterious Russian backers, and BAR co-founder Craig Pollock.
Jordan also raised the moot point of whether ‘customer cars’ of a sort already being used by Toro Rosso and Super Aguri should actually be allowed to race.
He’s a member of the vocal school of thought headed by Sir Frank Williams which believes that if a team already has a car on the grid it should not be allowed to sell a similar design on to an ostensible competitor.
Of course, this already happens. The Toro Rosso car is a Ferrari-powered adaptation of parent company Red Bull’s machine, while Super Aguri is running with last year’s Honda (a reason why its tendency to beat the manufacturer’s current car was so acutely embarrassing).
Prodrive’s relationship with McLaren would likely have been along the same lines. And a lack of clarity about the legal position of such customer cars is the major cause of delay for the team.
With Sir Frank threatening legal action on the issue Prodrive has had to shelve its McLaren plans.
It needed the World Motorsport Council to grant it some leeway over its 2008 schedule and allow it to start halfway through the season. This leeway was apparently not forthcoming.
A further nail in its coffin was the signature of McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa on a new contract. He was hotly tipped as lead driver for the new team.
The problem over the proposed legality of its car is not the first obstacle faced by Prodrive. A row about planning permission for its new F1 facility in Warwickshire had to be resolved before work could commence.
Richards, one of the most respected management names in British motorsport, has a reputation for stabilising rickety teams after his notable successes at BAR and Benetton.
He is now reported to be turning his attention back to his ailing Subaru rallying outfit, which has now notched up two years without a WRC win.
He is, entertainingly, threatening to “bang heads together” in order to enforce his revival plan.
In October Prodrive said of its Formula One plans: “Both Prodrive and McLaren have, for some time, agreed on the manner in which we would establish the twelfth team’ in time for the 2008 F1 season.
“However, we have now passed our self-imposed deadline required to guarantee a competitive and professional start to next year. The delay in confirming our agreement with McLaren has been created by a challenge to our entry in next year’s F1 World Championship as a non-constructor.
“While we remain confident that the short-term issue of eligibility to race in 2008 will be resolved in our favour, it still leaves the question of longer-term stability unanswered. It is Prodrive’s opinion that the financial viability of a new team will not be possible until agreement is reached on a revised Concorde Agreement.”