Three teams were in danger of missing the opening round of the 2015 Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship at Albert Park in Melbourne.
Sauber, Lotus and Force India have publicly declared for some time that they face an uncertain future in the sport owing to cash flow problems, and the trio were in danger of missing Round One in Australia this month.
However, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has now stepped in to offer financial support to the struggling teams, ensuring at least 18 cars are on the grid for the 2015 season opener.
"Bernie has promised support for the teams and if that support transpires, they will be able to do the first few races," Force India Team Principal, Bob Fernley, said, speaking with The Times in the UK.
"We have made it clear to the commercial rights holder that we have problems, as have Lotus and Sauber. It is not isolated to one team. Bernie has been extremely understanding - he's a racer. I think he realises this is serious."
The deal is far from a handout to the struggling teams, who will instead be given an ‘advance’ on prize monies normally distributed throughout the season.
Their survival beyond the ‘first few races’ is still unclear.
The absence of these three teams in Melbourne would have seen a dismal 12 cars take to the track at Albert Park, breaking a commercial agreement which states at least 16 cars must compete.
The sport has already lost the Caterham and Marussia teams over the last 12 months, with little hope at this stage that the revived Marussia team can compete this year under the ‘Manor’ name.
A significant rule-change from season 2013 to 2014 which saw the sport swap ‘regular’ engines for ‘power-units’ is now seen by some as an expensive exercise which damaged the sport’s long-term viability.
Only three power-unit suppliers took part last year, but the sport will be boosted in 2015 by the arrival of Honda; which re-enters F1 for the first time since 2008.
The 2015 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix runs from March 12-15.
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