AFP - Formula One teams on Thursday unveiled drastic cost-cutting measures to secure the future of the sport and boost entertainment value ahead of this month's season-opener in Melbourne.
The proposals will halve costs within two years in an attempt to keep small teams alive and stop big automobile makers and sponsors from leaving the sport, claimed F1 Team Association chairman Luca di Montezemolo.
"This is an unprecedented moment in Formula One history," said di Montezemolo, insisting alongside all the other team chiefs that the proposals were agreed unanimously by the newly-formed FOTA.
"This year is crucial. If we hadn't done this cost saving I think it was difficult for many teams to maintain activities in Formula One," he said at a press conference.
"Our goal is that we have a budget saving from 2008 to 2010 of 50 percent -- that's 50 percent in only two years," said Montezemolo.
In the absence of Honda team principal Ross Brawn, who is reportedly leading a management buy out to salvage the team, manager Nick Fry suggested that the team had a future in Formula One.
"I think it's correct to say that our team has, and will benefit in the future, from FOTA in two ways - the first one is clearly the cost reductions will help us enormously with the challenges that our team will face over the next two or three years," Fry said.
Fry also praised behind the scenes support from the other teams.
Di Montezemolo suggested that he was confident the team will be in the starting line-up for the first Grand Prix in Melbourne.
"Today Ross is not here but we are sure that the former Honda team can have a future and can have all the rights that they need, and that they can look ahead in a positive way."
Brawn led the work on the technical side of the proposals, which still have to be endorsed by motorsports governing body.
In some instances they go further than those adopted by the FIA last month, and also distance themselves from FIA president Max Mosley's proposal for a single engine for all teams.
The first steps this year would limit the number of engines per driver to eight in a season, eliminate testing during the race season and decrease the price of engines for small teams.
In a bid to boost audiences, race winners would earn 12 points instead of 10, while real-time race data currently restricted to teams will be opened up to television.
More measures would be added in 2010, including a further cut in engine cots to five million euros per team, a further 50 percent cut in costly aerodynamic testing, and restrictions on the use of "exotic" materials.
Once the cost-cutting is secured the teams want to focus on boosting revenue and value for TV audiences, with more points scoring in 2010 such as for the fastest pit stops, and shorter races -- up to one hour and 40 minutes long.
Honda Motor has been the biggest casualty of the economic crisis, announcing late last year that it was abandoning the sport.
Sponsors have dropped out while smaller teams that are not backed by automotive giants have warned they are suffering from spiralling costs, threatening their existence and the future of the sport.
Di Montezemolo said the teams were "prepared and committed" to sign up before the start of the season to the "Concorde" commercial agreement tying them with the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management, until 2012.