Archives for posts with tag: Renault

Vitaly Petrov’s Formula 1 dream today hangs in the balance after his father admitted that the loan he had personally secured to pay the first instalment of his son’s €15 million deal to race for the Renault F1 team in 2010, had been put on hold.

Speaking to the Russian media, Alexander Petrovic has revealed that despite approaching 500 of Russia’s largest companies for support, his son’s management have come up empty handed. Indeed, it is Petrov’s father himself who has promised to pay the first instalment of €7.5 million to Renault (securing the money against his own property), after the team agreed to hand Petrov his F1 debut on the proviso that half the seat’s €15 million value be paid at the beginning of March 2010, with the remaining €7.5 million to be paid in July 2010.

“Vitaly’s manager Oksana Kosachenko, who has taken care of my son for the past nine years and through whom we came to Formula 1, immediately began to look for sponsors,” he told sovsport.ru. “The leadership of Renault met us, and allowed us to pay the money in two instalments, delaying payment of the first until March and the second until July.

“Oksana visited 500 large Russian companies, but was refused everywhere! When I told Vitaly we could not find the money and that he would be better to forget about Formula 1, he started to cry… as a child he never cried, but with this shock he could not help himself.

“Thank God, at the last moment my friend – the Chairman of the Board of Directors of one of the St. Petersburg banks – did not refuse to issue a credit for €7.5 million. To do this, I had to lay the property.”

Alexander however has admitted that, as of yet, he has still not received the loan and that if the money fails to arrive before March 1, his son may lose his Formula 1 drive.

“The first seven and a half million, we still have not received. The bank extended the consideration of an application for a loan – the money is huge. If, before the first of March we do not make the first payment, Vitaly can be changed to another pilot.”

Petrov’s signing to Renault came amongst speculation that his ride was being funded by Russian oil and gas corporation Gazprom, however Alexander told mk-piter.ru that this was incorrect.

“It would be better it were true! But, unfortunately, this is just fiction. If in fact, Gazprom had sponsored us, then the car would have their inscription.”

Petrov Snr hopes that messages of support from high ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, will help his son’s cause in not only oiling the cogs to facilitate the payment of the first instalment, but also in procuring the necessary funding to ensure that his son is able to meet the full terms of the payment schedule in 2010 and complete a full season in F1.

“We have one hope: the chairman of the Government Vladimir Putin. President of Federation of motorsport Russia Victor Kiryanov and Sports Committee Chairman of the State Duma Anton Sikharulidze Vladimir Vladimirovich wrote letters asking for help.”

Vitaly Petrov © GP2 Media Service

The Renault F1 Team is set to unveil Vitaly Petrov as their number two driver for the 2010 Formula 1 season, after the Russian today concluded a deal in which he will bring an estimated €10 million to the squad.

Sources close to the team have told me that Petrov, who finished runner up in the 2009 GP2 Series to fellow 2010 F1 graduate Nico Hulkenberg, had a seat fitting yesterday (Friday) at Enstone, and put pen to paper to ink the deal which will see him become the first Russian F1 race driver in history, this afternoon (Saturday.)

As such, I would expect him to be officially announced as a Renault driver and Robert Kubica’s team-mate at the launch of Renault’s new yellow and black car, the R30, at Valencia tomorrow. Doing the deal early is good news from the perspective of both the team and driver, as it will allow the rookie some much needed testing mileage.

The Vyborg Rocket, as he is known in Russia, (because he comes from Vyborg and is pretty quick) or Alex from “A Clockwork Orange” as he is called by others (because he looks like Alex from “A Clockwork Orange), began his racing career in 2001 in the Lada Cup championship in his homeland before making the switch to European-based single seaters in 2003 when he took part in the Formula Renault UK Winter Cup. He continued in various Formula Renault championship in 2003 and 2004 for EuroNova Racing before returning to Russia for a bit more Lada action in 2005.

Come 2006, Petrov was back in Europe and back with EuroNova, winning a race in the Euro3000 championship before making a mid-season switch to complete the 2006 GP2 season with DPR, making his debut in the F1 feeder category at Hockenheim.

For 2007 he linked up with Campos Racing in GP2, partnering Giorgio Pantano and the duo helped turn the back-of-the-field team into a regular points scorer and, by season’s end, race winner. Petrov took his first GP2 win at the season finale in Valencia.

In 2008 Petrov stuck with Campos but struggled to find form. Many suggested he had only shone the season before due to Pantano’s input at the team, and it took the mid-season arrival of Lucas di Grassi to turn the team’s fortunes around. Petrov again won in Valencia, this time at the new street track, but although only taking part in half of the season it was di Grassi who finished the season as the best placed Campos driver.

Last season, Petrov was again racing for Campos, this time as the re-named Barwa Addax team following the squad’s purchase by Alejandro Agag as Adrian Campos went off in search of his F1 team dream. The Russian was teamed with championship favourite Romain Grosjean, and the duo appeared evenly matched in the opening rounds. When Grosjean was promoted to a full-time f1 race seat at mid-season, Petrov became the team’s main challenger and duly took the fight to Nico Hulkenberg at ART. Although Hulkenberg was quite clearly in a class of his own, Petrov had some impressive races, once again looking majestic in Valencia.

It does seem interesting that in his last three seasons in GP2, Petrov has been teamed with three drivers who were not considered good enough for Renault, but who all beat him in equal machinery. Pantano tested for Renault in its former incarnation as Benetton but was never given the shot at a race seat, di Grassi was a long suffering RDD reserve but never afforded the opportunity with the big boys and was passed over for both Piquet and Grosjean, and finally the aforementioned Grosjean, who was collateral damage in Renault’s disastrous 2009.

What, then, stands Petrov out? Well, there are probably about 10 million very good reasons why Renault should have picked Petrov. I have heard that his sign on fee was in the region of $15 million, which equates to around £8 million or €10 million. He has long been backed by the Russian government, and stories over the last few weeks also linked Gazprom (a one-time Minardi sponsor) with Petrov’s push for an F1 seat, alongside some other pretty heavy-weight Russian companies.

But I don’t think this is all about cash, although I’m sure it can’t have hindered his chances. Petrov is quick. Whether he’s super quick I’m yet to really figure out, but I know for sure he’s not Hulkenberg quick. As such I doubt very much that he will set the world on fire. Then again, I didn’t think Kobayashi looked much cop in GP2, and look how exciting he was in his first F1 races! Make no mistake, however. Petrov is no idiot. He’s not some Take Inoue who is going to tool around half a week off the pace and crash into the safety car. He’s a racer, and a hard one at that.

Petrov does represent one of the largest nations on earth, and with Bernie known to be keen on a Russian Grand Prix, Vitaly’s move into F1 won’t harm things on that front.

He’s also a really good guy. His English was pretty stunted for his first few years in GP2, but over the last season he really came out of himself. He has a wicked sense of humour and if he’s allowed space to flourish, he’ll be a great addition to the F1 field.

Quick post today, as I’ve got two little snippets of rather interesting news.

First up, I was in Barcelona yesterday to see Mr Felipe Massa who was testing the F2008. He was on great form, as always, and was clearly enjoying being back behind the wheel. However it was something about the man who had been running at Barcelona for the two days before Felipe took over at the wheel that I thought you might find interesting. According to the Ferrari Corse Clienti chaps, Mr Valentino Rossi was so fast that he equalled Kimi Raikkonen’s best 2008 qualifying lap in the same car around Barcelona. Sure Rossi had slicks at his disposal rather than grooved tyres, but the track was still pretty moist and slippery, although drying rapidly, on Thursday when he set his best lap.

Impressive? You bet your ass that’s impressive, and it’s little wonder that stories of Rossi wanting to cross over to F1 have resurfaced again since the end of the test.

Second up are the rumours I am hearing coming out of Enstone which say that Russia’s Vitaly Petrov is very close to the second race seat alongside Robert Kubica in 2010. There were reports earlier in the week that Petrov was in consideration for the job, but as things stand I understand it’s now between just him and an F1 driver with recent experience. (Recent being 2008, so that appears to wipe JV off the list of candidates.)

My sources could be wrong, of course, but from the lay of the land it looks as though F1 may get its first Russian next season, no doubt with a huge amount of backing from both the Russian government, which has backed Petrov for many years, and through current Renault F1 sponsor MegaFon.

Romain Grosjean © D. Kalisz / Sutton

Back in Abu Dhabi I had a rather interesting chat with a colleague regarding BMW-Sauber and the Qadbak deal which, as we now know, was ultimately doomed to failure. Nobody ever really gave the Qadbak buyout a chance of working out, the involvement of Russell King stamping enormous warning signs and attaching blaring alarm bells all over it to anyone in the F1 paddock.

My colleague however suggested that there was another reason the deal wouldn’t come off, and it had to do with the diminutive but colossally powerful supremo of the sport, one Bernard Charles Ecclestone. Bernie, said my source, was fuming that his preferred choice of Sauber-saviours had lost out in the bidding process to Qadbak. It wasn’t the fact that nobody trusted Qadbak, it was more the fact that Bernie trusted someone else.

Bernie’s apparent choice of BMW saviours was Gravity, a management firm of pan-European reach based in Luxembourg which has on its books not only a few racing teams under the Gravity Racing International banner, but a number of pretty nifty drivers. GP2 hotshot Jerome d’Ambrosio is one such driver, as is Chinese racer Ho-Pin Tung, who received a last-minute call-up to take part in the rookie F1 test this week for Renault.

It is Tung’s last-minute call-up that has kicked off rumours surrounding Gravity, with Swiss Publication Motorsport Aktuell claiming that the firm is in talks with Renault over a potential take-over.

Now, if we assume that Bernie Ecclestone is backing Gravity’s attempts to make a move into F1, that he trusts them and believes they have the finances to do a proper stand-up job of taking over a team, then these reports need to be treated pretty seriously.

We know that Renault is wavering in its commitment to Formula 1 in the long term , with the manufacturer’s President Carlos Ghosn not doing anything to silence the rumours of a Renault pull-out with his recent comments that never mind F1 being important to Renault, he doubted it would remain important to anybody if it didn’t address a few environmental issues. Not the words of someone planning to plough money into the sport and give their new signing Robert Kubica a car worthy of his talents. Not the words of a man hoping to hang around in the sport, one would assume.

Over the last few weeks we’ve therefore seen a few different rumours over potential suitors. David Richards of Prodrive was in Abu Dhabi and seemed to spend some time hanging around the Renault part of the paddock. Was he interested in making a move for the team? The chat at the time was he’d be interested in a share option for 2010 before a full buyout in 2011, but it was never confirmed.

Also believed to be an interested party is Megafon, Renault F1’s Russian mobile telecoms sponsor. With Vitaly Petrov finishing runner-up in GP2 this year the Russian is hot property and with a brace of government backed Russian companies behind him is a favourite for promotion to F1 in 2010. No doubt the chance of him racing for a Russian team would be a dream for Russian sponsors, and Megafon remains linked with a take-over of Renault F1.

Tung’s run for Renault this week however has been met with much interest in the usually disinterested Chinese market. Motorsport Aktuell’s report suggests that Tung is only making the test run to try and bring some Chinese money into Gravity’s hands for a take-over of the Renault F1 Team. Gravity, says the publication, is linked with a venture capital firm named Mangrove, through which the team purchase would be made.

So is this Gravity thing serious? To be honest, there are enough factors pointing positively towards it to tell me it could be.

Gravity has taken on Eric Boullier, long time stalwart of the DAMS outfit, one of the most successful racing teams in the world at all levels of competition. As DAMS Team Manager he oversaw the team’s many successes over the past decade, but quit at the end of the 2009 season to move over to Gravity. Having achieved championship success in A1GP and GP2, why would Boullier have quit a well paid and high profile job unless there was a step up for him? And where does one step up to from GP2 other than F1?

I spoke to Boullier at the GP2 finale in Portimao when Flavio had first been booted from Renault and the Frenchman’s name had first been linked with the vacant Renault F1 Team Boss slot.

“There’s been no direct contact,” he told me, “but a couple of indirect ones. I know my name was put on a list within some talks by them and obviously if tomorrow somebody is doing direct contact I would be pleased to speak to them. It is Formula 1 and it’s a different world to GP2. I would consider it a lot if such an opportunity was offered to me.”

Could that indirect contact have been through Gravity, for whom he had pledged to work in the future at the end of his DAMS contract?

There’s another factor in the Gravity situation as well. The company recently signed up Jacques Villeneuve, who raced for Gravity in the Spa 24 Hours in a Mosler MT900R partnered by… Ho-Pin Tung! JV was to be seen nowhere but hanging around BMW-Sauber over the last few races of 2009, or at least for as long as the Gravity boys were negotiating the sale of the team. What odds that the eagle eyes in Enstone see a familiar Canadian knocking on their door anytime soon?

If these reports are true, Renault could be about to get the bailout for which its chiefs are desperate. A Gravity buyout could keep the team in F1, give it a young, passionate and hugely talented new Team Principal in Eric Boullier, a brace of talented young testers along the lines of d’Ambrosio and Tung, and the cherry on the cake… Jacques Villeneuve in an incredible return to the F1 cockpit to partner Robert Kubica in 2010.

Sound bonkers? Add up the component parts and it’s not as mad as one might at first assume. And with the way this winter is already panning out, it really isn’t the craziest suggestion out there.

Tomorrow morning Flavio Briatore will begin his fight back against the lifetime ban imposed upon him by the FIA World Motor Sport Council for his part in the 2008 Singapore scandal.

His appeal against the decision will be heard at the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, at the Palais de Justice. Justice has been handed out on this site since medieval times, and the Palais was once the seat of the French parliament.

But will Briatore get the justice he craves and that he believes he deserves?

Little is known about what Flav will argue but his options appear limited. We know, thanks to leaks to the press, that he will seek €1 million in compensation and to have his lifetime ban from FIA competition overturned. We know that he will argue that the case had been decided before it had even been heard and that he was made a scapegoat for the situation due to the personal vendetta of Max Mosley. But, as I said, how he hopes to argue this is, and may remain due to French judicial procedure, a mystery.

One of Flavio’s strongest arguments may well be the simple fact that both Nelson Piquet Jr and Pat Symonds were offered immunity to testify against Briatore. This could quite easily be argued to signal that the FIa was only intent on prosecuting Briatore and could give credence to his claims of a witch hunt. That Symonds ultimately chose not to take that offer, however, led to his own downfall. He will also be arguing his five year ban tomorrow.

Briatore and Symonds will try to argue that the case was heard without them being present, despite both of their testimonies to FIA investigators being used in the hearing at the WMSC. Had they wished to have been present to represent themselves, they could easily have done so. Their choice in not attending may thus stand their claims of a decision in absentia void.

Personally however, I do not believe that Briatore expects to win his case tomorrow. Frankly I don’t even think he wants to.

Had he wanted the decision overturned, he could have appealed in the first instance to the FIA’s International Court of Appeal. A body separate and independent of the WMSC and one filled with legal minds, he could easily have argued his case here and stood a good chance of being reinstated.

He has gone a different route however, taking his appeal through the French court system. But why? And why do I think he will lose?

He will lose because if he wins, the regulation of sport… any sport… could fall into chaos. Sporting bodies have always been and must continue to be free to punish those who break their rules.

We are not, for the most part, talking about legal issues when it comes to sporting penalties. Take the Bloodgate controversy in English rugby. While it is not illegal to bite down on a blood capsule, the fact that a player in a match of rugby did so to initiate a “blood replacement” led to him being suspended and his manager and physio being banned from the game for a period of some years. The Renault Singapore scandal isn’t too dissimilar.

So what happens if Flavio wins tomorrow? It essentially tells anyone who has been handed a penalty by a sport’s governing body that if they want to get it overturned they should appeal the decision through the courts. Can you imagine what that would do to world sport? Every yellow card, every red card, every sending off, every touchline ban, relegations, promotions, points dockings… every sporting penalty in every championship on earth could be appealed through the courts. It could create an enormous mess, and one which effectively strips the world’s sports’ governing bodies of any real power to govern their own sports.

But, as I said, I don’t think Flavio even wants to win this one. For me, tomorrow’s case was always one he was going to lose, and I think he knows that.

Flavio has gone the route he has because he expects to lose the case so that he can appeal to a higher body. And ultimately, when all other appeal courts in France have been expended he will take the case to where he really wants it to be heard… and that is the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

He will take his case to the highest court in Europe and he will argue that the FIA has stripped him of his basic human rights. In doing so he will seek to further discredit the reign of Max Mosley at the FIA, and to smash any chances Mosley might have had at entering European Politics, if indeed that is where Max had wished to end up after his FIA Presidency, as has been rumoured for many years.

I will not be surprised in the slightest if Flavio loses his appeal tomorrow. Afterall, if my hunch is right, it’s exactly what Flavio wants.

Nelson

Nelson Piquet has been let go by the Renault F1 Team. The announcement has come not from the team however, but from Piquet himself in a press release of incredible honesty and candour.

It is rare in this day and age for a driver to be so outspoken. I’ve had good friends who could and possibly should have been so forthrite. The manner in which guys like Scott Speed and Tonio Luizzi were treated by Toro Rosso has always demanded more attention in my eyes. And so it is really quite refreshing to see a driver stand up for himself and his reputation after suffering at the hands of politics and a disadvantage not entirely of his making.

Yes, to some, this release will feel whiney and will be seen as a list of excuses for a driver who never quite lived up to expectations. But I’ve known Nelson for a long time. I’ve seen him take Lewis Hamilton to the wire in a spec series. I’ve seen him get inside Hamilton’s head, way more than Alonso ever managed. I’ve seen Nelson at his highest, and over the last few seasons I’ve seen him get beaten down weekend after weekend.

I’ll reprint his release in full for you here so you can make up your own minds on it… but I think there are many in this sport who will be glad that he’s said what he has, and given us a valuable insight into what it has been like to live his life within the Renault F1 team over the past two and a half years.

One hopes Romain Grosjean is given a fairer crack of the whip.

Nelson Piquet Press Release

I have received notice from the Renault F1 team of its intention to stop me from driving for them in the current F1 season. I want to say thanks to the small group who supported me and that I worked together at Renault F1, although it is obviously with great disappointment that I receive such news. But, at the same time, I feel a sense of relief for the end of the worst period of my career, and the possibility that I can now move on and put my career back on the right track and try to recover my reputation of a fast, winning driver. I am a team player and there are dozens of people I have worked with in my career who would vouch for my character and talent, except unfortunately the person that has had the most influence on my career in Formula 1.

I started racing at the age of eight and have broken record after record. I won every championship I raced in go-karts. I was South American F3 champion, winning 14 races and getting 17 pole positions. In 2003 I went to England, with my own team, to compete in the British F3 championship. I was champion there as well, winning 12 races and getting 13 pole positions. In fact I was the youngest ever champion. I raced GP2 in 2005 and 2006, winning five races and scoring six pole positions. I had a great season in my second year, only missing out on the championship to Lewis Hamilton due to technical mistakes of our team, which I take as my own as well, including running out of fuel during a race. I set the record in GP2 for the first driver to have a perfect weekend, scoring the maximum points available, in Hungary 2006. No-one matched that until July 2009 when Nico Hulkenberg did in at Nurburgring.

The path to F1 was always going to be tricky, and my father and I therefore signed a management contract with Flavio Briatore, who we believed was an excellent option with all the necessary contacts and management skills. Unfortunately, that was when the black period of my career started. I spent one year as a test driver, where I only did a handful of tests, and the next year started as a race driver with Renault. After the opening part of the season, some strange situations began to happen. As a beginner in F1, I could only expect from my team a lot of support and preparation to help me in getting up to the task. Instead, I was relegated as “someone who drives the other car” with no attention at all. In addition, on numerous occasions, fifteen minutes before qualifying and races, my manager and team boss (Briatore) would threaten me, telling me if I didn’t get a good result, he had another driver ready to put in my place. I have never needed threats before to get results. In 2008 I scored 19 points, finished once on the podium in second place, having the best debut year of a Brazilian driver in F1.

For the 2009 season Briatore, again acting both as my manager and team boss of Renault F1, promised me everything would be different, that I would get the attention I deserved but had never received, and that I would get “at least equal treatment” inside the team. He made me sign a performance-based contract, requiring me to score 40% of Fernando Alonso’s points by mid-way through the season. Despite driving with Fernando, two-time world champion and a really excellent driver, I was confident that, if I had the same conditions, I would easily attain the 40% of points required by the contract.

Unfortunately, the promises didn’t turn into reality again. With the new car I completed 2002km of testing compared to Fernando’s 3839km. Only three days of my testing was in dry weather – only one of Fernando’s was wet. I was only testing with a heavy car, hard tyres, mostly on the first day (when the track is slow and reliability is poor), or when the weather was bad. Fernando was driving a light car with soft tyres in the dry, fine conditions. I never had a chance to be prepared for the qualifying system we use. In Formula 1 today, the difference between 1st and 15th position is sometimes less than a second. It means that 0.2 or 0.3s can make you gain eight positions.

In addition to that, car development is now happening on a race-to-race basis due to the in season testing ban. Of the first nine races that I ran this year, in four of them Fernando had a significant car upgrade that I did not have. I was informed by the engineers at Renault that in those races I had a car that was between 0.5 and 0.8s a lap slower than my teammate. If I look at Germany (where I out-qualified my teammate despite that), if I had that advantage in qualifying I would be fifth and not tenth. If we had that difference in the race, I would have finished ahead of my teammate, which I did in Silverstone, despite him having upgrades that I did not have.

I believe without doubt in my talent and my performance. I didn’t get this far by getting bad results. Anyone who knows my history knows that the results I am having in F1 do not match my CV and my ability. The conditions I have had to deal with during the last two years have been very strange to say the least – there are incidents that I can hardly believe occurred myself. If I now need to give explanations, I am certain it is because of the unfair situation I have been in the past two years. I always believed that having a manager was being a part of a team and having a partner. A manager is supposed to encourage you, support you, and provide you with opportunities. In my case it was the opposite. Flavio Briatore was my executioner.

Being under pressure is not new to me. I have had criticism throughout my career, and have also had a lot of expectations put on me due to my name. Up until now I always met those expectations – surpassed them even. I have never before felt the need to defend myself or fight back from rumours and criticism because I knew the truth and I just wanted to concentrate on racing – I didn’t ever let it affect me. Fortunately, I can now say to those people who supported me through my career that I’m back on the good tracks and considering the options for a new start in my F1 career in a fair and positive way.

The fallout over the FIA’s plans to introduce a £40 million budget cap in 2010 continues unabated today as Renault has become the latest team to announce its intentions to pull out of Formula 1 at the end of 2009, joining Toyota, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari in its disillusion with the 2010 regulations.

But this is all just politicking, right? There’s no real danger that F1 2010 could be run without Renault, without Toyota… without Ferrari?

Those who assume so are quite wrong.

These are troubled times for the world of motorsport, and for the automotive world as a whole. Financial belts are being tightened the world over and Formula 1 can no longer continue at the levels of expenditure to which it has grown accustomed. So why has the notion of a budget cap caused such unrest? Part of the problem lies in the “two-tier” system of competition that the FIA has decided upon for 2010. But the greatest problem of all is the emergence of FOTA as a powerful force in F1 politics.

As far as the FIA is concerned, the tail is now wagging the dog and it is time that the normal order was restored. But just as the FIA moves to take its position of power back from the teams, so the teams themselves can now see the power that they hold as a united body. With both parties emboldened to stand their ground, we are facing a civil war between two factions who each know the power they hold and where neither one of them will be willing to show the slightest sign of weakness, nor give an inch in any potential negotiation.

Formula 1 last underwent a revolution back in the early 1980s, again a time of financial and political upheaval. The FISA/FOCA war as it was called almost 30 years ago gave us the system of governance we have today. It gave us a constitution, of sorts, under the Concorde Agreement. It gave us Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone as the power brokers and ultimate rulers of the sport.

Formula 1 today faces new dilemas and new issues, and the old Concorde Agreement is in dire need of rewriting. But as the FIA, Commercial Rights Holder and the teams stand their ground, there is no sign of a new constitution being written. Under increasing pressure from their boards, the car manufacturers have had to ask themselves if the sport is giving them fair reward for their services, and if they should stay involved. Over the past few days, Formula 1 has received its answer.

With just two weeks to go until the deadline for entries to the 2010 championship, Formula 1 finds itself at an impasse.

If the FIA buckles to the demands of the manufacturers, then the governing body of the sport will lose any semblance of authority.

If the manufacturers buckle, the FIA will be empowered to force through any regulation changes it sees fit in the future.

Thus the battle lines have been drawn. While FOTA President Luca di Montezemolo is set to meet FIA President Max Mosley next week, the result of the meeting will not resolve every issue that currently stands between the warring bodies. 

The threat of division in Formula 1 is very real indeed.

The FIA may have opened up three new spots on the 2010 F1 grid, but as things stand now, it has to face the very real possibility that it may struggle to fill even the ten that exist today.