Richards Looks to Le Mans

Formula One is a battlefield that former BAR boss David Richards says he is happy to be away from, for the time being at least

With the Honda-backed team yet to score a point since Richards was replaced last November after leading them to second place in the championship, he might be forgiven for feeling better off out of it.

In a sense he does -- even though he still had a year to go on his contract and would have liked to guide BAR to that elusive first Grand Prix win.

Richards has a new project now, taking Aston Martin back to Le Mans this month, as well as controlling the commercial rights to the World Rally Championship and running the successful Subaru team.

"It's like coming away from a war, you just want to escape it and sit in the garden and do other things," the Briton said this week at the launch of 'Driven Man', a book about him and his Prodrive company.

"If Formula One fits into the future, so be it. It's not one of those burning ambitions that says I've got to be back there. That's not my life any more."

Richards sidestepped questions about BAR's current predicament. "I haven't been to any Grands Prix this year and I haven't paid a great deal of attention to it (Formula One)," he told Reuters.

"I have spent the last six months actually just reflecting on lots of issues about what I want to do for the future and what's more important to me.

"Once you do that, it puts the overall issues of Formula One and everything else into perspective.

"I've often described it as like fighting a war. You're in amongst it and you don't think of anything else and you think it is the world. When you come to the outside, and you look at it and put it in perspective, it is a very small part of the universe."

Seven Races

In seven races this year, BAR have been disqualified from one and suspended from two others including the glamour Monaco Grand Prix because Briton Jenson Button's car was too light when fully drained of fuel at Imola in April.

Button, who took 10 podium finishes last year, was stripped of third place in that San Marino Grand Prix.

Despite the governing FIA suggesting that the team had been cheating, possibly for some time, by using fuel as ballast with a hidden secondary tank, BAR were cleared of deliberate fraud.

Richards said he believed they had done nothing different to many other teams and denied the system had played any part in last year's success.

"Anyone who has a car that is actually below the minimum weight, which they all are, has the potential to do exactly what BAR were accused of," he said. "I think many other teams could be looked at and asked the same question.

"To my knowledge that situation (with the fuel tank) was never entered into last year and I think it's openly admitted by their own submission that it was a redesign for this year for running for two race engines and things like that."

Richards took over at BAR at the end of 2001, as part of a deal involving Prodrive, after running the Benetton team in the 1990s. He left when Honda bought 45 percent of the team from majority owners British American Tobacco.

Few expect him to stay away forever, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone included. Although Richards has not spoken to Button since November, he has kept in touch with former colleagues and remains well informed.

Rule Changes

He has not ruled out a comeback, somewhere down the line.

"In the right circumstances, I would consider it," said Richards. "But it's not something I wake up with every day, it doesn't eat me away thinking why am I not there running a Formula One team.

"Taking Aston Martin back to Le Mans this year is a great challenge and an exciting project...I'm not without things to keep me occupied."

If he were to return to Formula One, it would be because of rule changes making it easier for independent teams to compete with major manufacturers.

"I think things will change," said Richards.

"It will only take one of the big car manufacturers to pull out of Formula One to change the financial landscape of Formula One quite quickly I would think, to make it a far more realistic situation than it is today.

"Hopefully the new regulations brought in and the (2006) engine regulations will actually start to lessen the impact of finance and show bigger returns to the teams with better management, better drivers," added Richards.

"That clearly is the goal of a lot of it, to stop the excesses of financial clout and deep pockets actually buying championships which motor racing has been guilty of for many years.

"Hopefully we can move away from that now and if Formula One leads the way, it will be a great credit to it."

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