UK: Jaguar pull-out could have wider effect on Formula One - report
Ford's bombshell announcement on Friday that it would pull out of Formula One at the end of 2004 and sell engine maker Cosworth has huge ramifications for the glamour sport, already facing an uncertain future with carmakers threatening to establish a rival championship, Reuters said.
"We are withdrawing from Formula One at the end of the season," Ford vice-president Richard Parry-Jones told the news agency.
Parry-Jones, in charge of Ford's F1 program, reportedly said the car maker could no longer make a compelling business case for any of its brands to compete in Formula One and had taken the "difficult decision" to quit.
He told Reuters Jaguar could not compete dollar-for-dollar with German rivals BMW and Mercedes, partners to Williams and McLaren, and it was not in Jaguar's long-term interests to be at the back end of the grid.
World champions Ferrari, the team of Germany's all-conquering Michael Schumacher, and new arrivals Toyota have estimated budgets in excess of $US200 million a year, the news agency noted.
"Our focus now is on finishing the 2004 season and securing the future of the F1 business under new ownership," Parry-Jones reportedly said, adding that there were a number of interested parties.
He could not guarantee to Reuters that a sale would go ahead. "If it does not, we would be forced to face a closure scenario but we're not thinking about that at the moment," he said.
But he reportedly added: "I think both Jaguar Racing and Cosworth are both very attractive. The Formula One team is very lean and efficient. For those who do want to get into F1, there is no better opportunity than a blue chip team like this."
Reuters said Jaguar entered Formula One in 2000 after Ford took over the Stewart team founded by three times world champion Jackie Stewart.
Parry-Jones reportedly would not comment on the future of Ford's world rally championship team or involvement in other branches of motorsport worldwide.
He told Reuters the sport, where most of the revenues go to commercial rights holding company SLEC set up by Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, had simply become too costly.
"It is so expensive to be successful in Formula One," he reportedly said. "The money the sport generates is not distributed equitably to the various stakeholders."
Parry-Jones told the news agency progress on a fairer share-out had been too slow and Ford's decision was irrevocable, even if Ecclestone was to offer more of the revenues.
Reuters said the Jaguar F1 team has had a turbulent four seasons and is yet to win a grand prix. It has gone through numerous changes of leadership since Stewart stood down as the first team principal before the start of the 2000 season.