A string of reports over the past couple of days are emerging to paint a picture of a potentially huge reshuffle of the Formula One grid and the players involved as early as next season. The FIA and the teams are planning another round of regulation changes to further curb costs in F1, but while that might entice some, for others it could be too little too late.
First up to bat is Mercedes-Benz, which owns 40% of the McLaren team and supplies engines to both it and to Force India. Officials admit that in the current economic climate, the German automaker may have to shut down its F1 program, although remaining in the sport solely as an engine supplier (in other words, severing its remaining ties with McLaren) remains an option.
Meanwhile, several potential new teams are reportedly lining up at the turnstiles at the promise of a more cost-effective formula for next year. One key player is Aston Martin, which is pursuing overall victory in the LMP1 class of Le Mans racing this year after achieving dominance of the GT classes over years past. The company, and more specifically its racing team, is run by David Richards, who once headed Honda's F1 team and has been keen to get back into F1 despite previous assertions that he would not be rushing Aston Martin onto the grid. In the meantime, Lola has announced that it is starting development on its own F1 chassis with an eye towards returning to the grid next season. The British manufacturer competed in F1 during the Sixties under various banners before aborting an attempt to return in 1997. Although Lola makes the chassis which Aston Martin is running in the Le Mans Series this year, so far reports are not suggesting that the two could team up for a joint grand prix venture.
The reduced budgets promised for next year could entice some GP2 teams to move up to F1 as well, however by this point in the season the FIA would usually have announced the regulations for next season so that teams could begin development of their cars for next year.
[Source: F1-Live | Image: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty]