Honda's withdrawal from the sport at the end of last year means that as things stand there will only be 18 cars on the starting grid Down Under in Melbourne in March, and Ecclestone has hinted that should a buyer not be found for the beleaguered Brackley-based outfit, the big, well-financed manufacturer teams may have to step in to fill the void by each supplying a third car.
Indeed, should any more squads follow Honda out of the exit door – with fears expressed about the future security of Renault, Toyota and Williams' F1 operations, amongst others – a rapid solution will need to be found, be it either in the guise of new teams, or else third cars.
"That is what basically will happen," the sport's commercial rights-holder told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, whilst at the same time denying that he is contractually-obliged to grand prix organizers and broadcasters to have at least 20 cars in the field.
"If the manufacturers supply engines to other people, they can run three cars themselves.
"It is better to have 20 cars on the grid – whether they are in the hands of manufacturers or in private hands, that doesn't make any difference." Yahoo! Eurosport
01/26/09 (GMM) F1's big teams can plug any holes on the grand prix grids by fielding third cars, according to chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.
In the wake of Honda's departure from the sport, and speculation that further teams might succumb to the effects of the global financial crisis, formula one is facing an immediate future with grids of perhaps fewer than eighteen drivers.
Short of plugging the gaps with new team entrants, Briton Ecclestone, 78, says the easiest solution to the problem is to ask the best-financed existing teams to enter more cars.
"That is what basically will happen," said Ecclestone, who has denied that he is contractually bound to organizers and broadcasters to provide well-stocked fields.
He explained to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: "If the manufacturers supply engines to other people, they can run three cars themselves."
Ecclestone hinted that the third car provision could be triggered immediately, such as if a buyer is not found for Honda's Brackley based team.
"It is better to have 20 cars on the grid, whether they are in the hands of manufacturers or in private hands, that doesn't make any difference," he said.