'Speed costs money - how fast do you want to go?' At Indianapolis in the 1950s, this was something of a slogan, and in those days it had some validity.
Virtually all the teams ran similar cars - front-engined roadsters built by Watson or Kurtis or Kuzma, powered by the legendary four-cylinder Offenhauser - and most were owned by wealthy individuals for whom racing was a hobby.
With the equipment virtually identical, from team to team, it came down to hiring the best mechanics and the best driver. Then, as now, the best cost more - hence, 'how fast do you want to go?'
In any essentially 'one make' championship, maybe that rule still has some resonance. In the IRL, after all, every competitor has a Dallara chassis and a Honda engine, but it's the Penskes and the Ganassis and the Andretti/Greens who do the winning, primarily because of the folk they can afford to engineer the cars, and to drive them.
In Formula 1, however, while it's undeniable that the days are gone when a team strapped for cash could achieve very much, so also it's a fact that money in itself will not do the job. And there's not much that causes more glee in the paddock than an outfit flamboyantly awash with gelt which fails to achieve on the track.
When BAR arrived, in 1999, it wasn't with any great subtlety, and when results repeatedly fell short of hype, schadenfreude was not in short supply. At Hockenheim, word - true or false, it didn't really matter - got out that in the BAR motorhome there were no fewer than 28 phone lines, and we mentioned this to Bernie Ecclestone.
"I suppose," he responded, "that's in case 28 people ring up at the same time to ask if they've scored a point yet..." On these occasions the mocking is always more pronounced if the relevant team principal is somewhat pleased with himself, uses phrases like 'on message', and generally gives the impression that his greatest dream is to die in his own arms.
Once in a while, though, you get a maverick - someone who, at first sight, seems bound to fail, then does anything but. When Flavio Briatore appeared on the F1 scene, nearly 20 years ago, there were not a few who thought Luciano Benetton's business acumen had slipped its moorings.
Yes, Briatore was a senior figure in the Benetton organisation, the man who had successfully launched the brand in the USA - but what did that have to do with running an F1 team? Flavio's swift downfall was widely predicted.
Not by everyone, though. Ken Tyrrell, for example, told me he thought highly of Briatore. "I like him," he chuckled. "He's a breath of fresh air at constructors' meetings - says what he thinks, and doesn't care if people like it or not.
"He's got a sense of humour - but I think you'd be very silly not to take him seriously. As far as he's concerned, racing is a business like any other. He'll succeed in F1, you mark my words..."
Wise words from a man who could spot hype at 50 paces. Briatore is fond of saying that he considers himself 'a manager', and he adds that managing is the same, whatever the business.
Part of his success, as an F1 team principal, surely stems from knowing his own strengths - which do not, as he acknowledges, include knowing how to make racing cars go faster. For that, he hires other people, expert in their fields, and unless or until there is evidence they are letting the team down, he leaves them to it.
"I like to be in control," Briatore says. "I like to know what's going on, and I make sure I do. All the time. The important thing is to get the right people in senior positions and then try to keep them, by giving them a good situation to work in, so they feel trusted and supported.
"I know other teams pay much more than Renault, but there are other things in life that make people happy. I think there is almost a family atmosphere about Renault, and people like a good environment to work in. I think they're loyal to me, and I am to them.
"Part of the problem with F1 is that a lot of people at the top of teams started as engineers, rather than businessmen. An engineer gets his satisfaction from technology - not from making F1 a successful business. He doesn't care about that. Of course technology is important - but if it costs a lot of money, and makes F1 less entertaining, something is wrong, I think.
"Some people always say that F1 is important in developing road cars, but I think that's rubbish. In the team there are a few guys working on making race cars faster, but companies like Renault, BMW and Mercedes have thousands of people working on R&D for road cars. I say it again: F1 is about providing entertainment for its customers, its fans."
Delegation is an art in itself, and Briatore is very good at it: his particular skill is managing the whole. Although he is running Renault, with all that that implies, he has kept it a tight ship, never squandering money, and maintaining, as Jackie Stewart says, "a corner shop mentality - because that's what works in F1, always has, and always will".
You only, JYS goes on, have to look at other 'manufacturer teams' to understand the wisdom of Flavio's way of operating. The essence of F1 is speed of reaction, and if you need to change course in a hurry, better you do it in a speedboat than an ocean liner.
Proof of Briatore's attitude - that racing is no different from any other business - comes in his response to events. Thus, when Kovalainen had a very disappointing F1 debut in Melbourne, Flav didn't mince his words; to him, Heikki was simply an employee who hadn't done a very good job, nothing more, nothing less. He certainly wasn't about to keep schtum simply because he was talking about a grand prix driver.
"I've often thought," he says, "that a lot of people in this paddock wouldn't stay in business in the real world - so much money is wasted! They have to make everything so much more complicated, so much more difficult, than it needs to be. If it doesn't cost a fantastic amount of money, it can't be good - that's the thinking.
"Renault's budget is very small compared with some teams. I pay my drivers well, but other teams spend much more, to the point that it's ridiculous. You'd think they were employing two world champions..."
Flav's words came to mind recently when I read an interview with Ralf Schumacher, whose Toyota contract expires at the end of this year. Ralf, as Patrick Head has said, can be "majestic, on his day", but unfortunately those days rarely seem to coincide with grands prix.
For the last three or four seasons, Schumacher's presence has gone almost unnoticed - and yet, thanks to the bargaining skills of his erstwhile manager, Willi Weber, he has been among the very highest paid of all the drivers, his retainer hugely more than that of Jarno Trulli, who has routinely outperformed him.
Quite why Toyota chose to spend so much on Schumacher remains a mystery to all outside the team (and, I dare say, to not a few within it), for he was hardly in demand in 2004, when the Toyota deal was done.
Ralf's current manager, Hans Mahr, says he is in no hurry to conclude a deal for next year and beyond: "Ralf is one of the best F1 drivers in the world, and if he wants to drive, there will always be a cockpit waiting for him".
Somehow I don't think he should waste his time talking to Flavio Briatore.