Pressure grows on small teams with planned prize fund change

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Formula One’s smallest teams are to be put under even greater financial pressure as Bernie Ecclestone plans changes to how prize money is allocated.

Ecclestone plans to abolish the $10m payment made from the $698.5m prize fund to teams which finish outside the top ten in the points standings.

The payment was introduced at the end of 2009 when F1 sought new entries to the championship as BMW and Toyota left the sport.

Of the four new teams whose entries were accepted for 2010 one, US F1, failed to even start a race. HRT collapsed last winter and Marussia, who finished 11th last year, has not been offered a commercial agreement to remain in F1.

“They don’t have a commercial agreement because they are not in the top ten,” Ecclestone told The Telegraph. “We pay the top ten, that’s what we do. For three years we did something different because we had an agreement with [former FIA president] Max [Mosley] but from now on we will pay the top ten and that is it.”

Without Marussia the F1 grid could shrink to just ten teams fielding two cars each.

The move comes as Ecclestone prepares to float Formula One on the Singapore stock market this year. “It will happen this year and it will be up and running,” said Ecclestone.

“[F1 owner] CVC is getting on with it and putting all the bits and pieces together that they have to.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.