David Richards Q&A: F1 still on Prodrive's agenda 16 Jan 2009
David Richards has been looking for a way back into Formula One racing for some time, so after his dreams of a customer-car team fell by the wayside you would think hed be eager to snap up Honda following the Japanese manufacturer's unexpected withdrawal. But the Prodrive boss insists he will not be rushing his F1 return
Q: David, how big is your appetite for coming back to Formula One racing?
David Richards: For me, F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, and hence is somewhere I have always wanted Prodrive to be. Its no secret that I was extremely disappointed when Prodrive had to withdraw its entry to the 2008 Formula One world championship. The reasons behind this are well documented, so I wont go over old ground. However, I have always made it very clear that the only terms I would ever consider Prodrives return to F1 was firstly, if we could be competitive and, secondly, if it could be financially viable.
Q: You didnt capitalize on the Super Aguri opportunity, but what about Honda? Have you definitely ruled yourself out of the running?
DR: I made no secret of the fact that I had number of approaches about a possible involvement with Honda F1. However, I personally feel that the current environment is too unsettled. I think we still have to see the full benefits of the cost-cutting process and I dont think it will be until 2010 that you will see those issues resolved properly. I therefore question whether now is the right time to get back into F1.
Q: You have been speaking with your possible investors about a Honda takeover. What are their biggest concerns?
DR: Their concerns are the same as mine and probably every other potential purchaser. The days when people are prepared to throw hundreds of millions of pounds into F1 are over. You have to look at it based on sound business criteria. Can the team be financially viable and can it be competitive?
Q: Whoever takes over Honda will face serious obstacles - finding an engine, little or no testing before Marchs season opener. Are there too many uncertainties?
DR: With Ross Brawn heading the design team, Ive no doubt that the car will be a competitive package. Whether the team is financially viable is another question.
Q: The customer-car project was your preferred route back into Formula One, but isnt Honda a must-have opportunity?
DR: Finding the money to buy the team is not the problem, it is the ongoing overheads and running costs that will be the issue.
Q: What is the beauty of setting up a customer-car team in comparison to the purchase of a team like Honda?
DR: It all comes back to what I was saying earlier. Entry to F1 should be on two criteria - firstly, to be competitive and secondly, to be financially viable. A customer car programme, like the one Prodrive would have had in 2008 with McLaren Mercedes, would, I believe, have fulfilled those two criteria.
Q: If you were to look into a crystal ball, what do you believe will happen with Honda - and with your own Formula One ambitions?
DR: Ive no doubt that, one day, Prodrive will be back in F1, but only when my two fundamental conditions can be met and not for any other emotional reasons.