Ecclestone expects Prodrive to give up on 2008

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SAO PAULO, Oct 19 (Reuters) Formula One is likely to continue with 11 teams next year instead of Prodrive bringing the numbers up to 12 as planned, Bernie Ecclestone said today.

''I think they (Prodrive) have decided to give up, haven't they?'' the Formula One commercial supremo told reporters at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. ''They were all excited about coming in, it's a pity for them.'' British-based Prodrive, run by former Benetton and BAR boss David Richards, had planned to come in next year using identical cars to McLaren.

However that move has been stymied by a legal challenge from former world champions Williams, who see the arrival of so-called 'customer cars' as a threat to their existence as an independent constructor.

The Formula One rules were due to be changed next year to reduce costs and allow teams to use cars built and designed by others.

However, the existing teams have yet to sign a new commercial 'Concorde' agreement.

Prodrive said earlier this month that a new team could not be viable financially until such an agreement was reached, but added they still remained committed to competing in Formula One.

Asked whether the customer cars should be allowed, Ecclestone replied: ''Probably not.

''The teams say they are all constructors spending for example about half a billion a year and the Prodrive budget was about 75 million,'' he added.

Ecclestone said he would like to see another manufacturer come in ultimately.

REUTERS BJR RK1935

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