David Richards, chairman of Motorsport UK, has called on Formula One’s owners Liberty Media to stand by Britain’s teams to ensure they don’t go bust during the coronavirus pandemic.
The bedrock of the sport is located in England with six of the grid’s 10 teams – Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, Racing Point and Williams – based here.
But after the new season was put on hold – with eight of the opening 22 races either postponed or cancelled – Richards believes the financial hit from those scrapped races could place a number of the smaller teams at risk.
He urged the sport’s American owners to emulate former supremo Bernie Ecclestone by dipping into their own pockets if required.
“A lot will depend on the way Formula One behaves throughout this,” Richards told the PA news agency.
“F1 cannot afford to lose teams at the back of the grid because that would be a disaster for them.
“Bernie made sure that when there were tough times the smaller teams were looked after and I hope that Liberty see the common sense in that, too.
“The big manufacturers such as Mercedes and Renault will be okay, but if you look at Williams and Racing Point, for example, it is not going to be easy for them. There is a distinct danger of operations going out of business.
“There will be motorsport companies who do not have the resources to get through this period. It is going to be a real challenge.”
Liberty remain hopeful of staging as many as 18 races this year and believe the campaign could get still get under way in the summer.
The season had been due to start in Melbourne, but the grand prix was cancelled just 90 minutes before opening practice following McLaren’s withdrawal from the event after a team member contracted coronavirus.
“Liberty were very late in their decision about Australia,” added Richards, a former team principal for BAR and Benetton.
“It is very difficult and I am not for one minute suggesting it was an easy decision, but given the amount of people who travelled to Australia from various countries across Europe, it was an inappropriate thing to do. A week beforehand they could have come to the decision to cancel.
“As you approach a new season there is big impetus and expectation. It is easy to say this all in hindsight, but nobody is denying that it could have been done better.
“Lewis Hamilton talked for most when he spoke out on the matter. He has really matured and come of age and represents a very positive side of F1 and the consciousness of the sport. He is not afraid to speak his mind and I applaud him for that.”