He led the Benetton team in 1997 after Flavio Briatore was fired, and between 2001 and 2004 he led BAR‘s Formula One effort after a major restructuring program was implemented. In 2006, he was awarded the twelfth grid slot after competing against many other companies looking to enter Formula One. But with regulations regarding customer chassis due to be changed, he withdrew the following year. Now, with the old Honda team in limbo, Dave Richards could be about to make a comeback.
Richards is a charmer in front of the camera, and always speaks well when pressed for questions. His record isn’t too shabby either, having led BAR to second place in the 2004 championship. His Prodrive company does well, and until last week they ran Subaru’s entry in the World Rally Championship, winning multiple titles since 1990. And while the twelfth-team plan didn’t work out, Richards is still interested in Formula One. He still has that itch.
Richards flew out to the Middle East this weekend to speak with his investors who own shares in his Prodrive company. While speaking to the Mail On Sunday, Richards admitted that a group of people have been speaking to him about Formula One for over a year, and Honda’s withdrawal could be just the thing to replace Subaru at Prodrive.
There are a group of people in the Middle East who want to support a Formula One entry for me and have been very specific about it for a year now.
When you sit down in the cold light of day and realise the liability you would be taking on, and the huge restructuring of staff and resources that will be needed, investors will have to think long and hard before taking a punt.
You will have to bridge a big gap in finance, probably for three years, before balancing the accounts. Dave Richards.
However, with the global economy looking fragile at the moment, bridging the gap isn’t peanuts. The money needed to run Honda is, like many other teams, astronomical. The timing though could be good for Richards, who has always said that he would love to do Formula One, but only if it made sense financially. And while it doesn’t look to rosy at the moment, Max Mosley and FOTA are insistent on reducing costs and bringing the entry barrier down.
With Honda’s Brackley facilities, Richards will not have to worry about the customer car issue, as he can build his own. The factory that was planned for the previous Prodrive entry can also be left in the bin. Richards knows the place, the infrastructure and of course, Jenson Button. And if he can keep Ross Brawn, then this could be a very good thing not just for Prodrive, but also for Formula One.
It all hinges on whether or not Richards can secure financial backing, but with a proven track record, a strong sense of business and passion, I for one really hope Prodrive can land on the Australian grid. Although a different name wouldn’t go amiss; I can’t go changing Prodrivel* now.
*Prodrivel is the personal site of Ollie White (that’s me). He registered the domain in anticipation of Prodrive making it to Formula One, but after the team failed, he made Prodrivel into his personal playground.