Flav and the FIA: Round 2

Tomorrow morning Flavio Briatore will begin his fight back against the lifetime ban imposed upon him by the FIA World Motor Sport Council for his part in the 2008 Singapore scandal.

His appeal against the decision will be heard at the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, at the Palais de Justice. Justice has been handed out on this site since medieval times, and the Palais was once the seat of the French parliament.

But will Briatore get the justice he craves and that he believes he deserves?

Little is known about what Flav will argue but his options appear limited. We know, thanks to leaks to the press, that he will seek €1 million in compensation and to have his lifetime ban from FIA competition overturned. We know that he will argue that the case had been decided before it had even been heard and that he was made a scapegoat for the situation due to the personal vendetta of Max Mosley. But, as I said, how he hopes to argue this is, and may remain due to French judicial procedure, a mystery.

One of Flavio’s strongest arguments may well be the simple fact that both Nelson Piquet Jr and Pat Symonds were offered immunity to testify against Briatore. This could quite easily be argued to signal that the FIa was only intent on prosecuting Briatore and could give credence to his claims of a witch hunt. That Symonds ultimately chose not to take that offer, however, led to his own downfall. He will also be arguing his five year ban tomorrow.

Briatore and Symonds will try to argue that the case was heard without them being present, despite both of their testimonies to FIA investigators being used in the hearing at the WMSC. Had they wished to have been present to represent themselves, they could easily have done so. Their choice in not attending may thus stand their claims of a decision in absentia void.

Personally however, I do not believe that Briatore expects to win his case tomorrow. Frankly I don’t even think he wants to.

Had he wanted the decision overturned, he could have appealed in the first instance to the FIA’s International Court of Appeal. A body separate and independent of the WMSC and one filled with legal minds, he could easily have argued his case here and stood a good chance of being reinstated.

He has gone a different route however, taking his appeal through the French court system. But why? And why do I think he will lose?

He will lose because if he wins, the regulation of sport… any sport… could fall into chaos. Sporting bodies have always been and must continue to be free to punish those who break their rules.

We are not, for the most part, talking about legal issues when it comes to sporting penalties. Take the Bloodgate controversy in English rugby. While it is not illegal to bite down on a blood capsule, the fact that a player in a match of rugby did so to initiate a “blood replacement” led to him being suspended and his manager and physio being banned from the game for a period of some years. The Renault Singapore scandal isn’t too dissimilar.

So what happens if Flavio wins tomorrow? It essentially tells anyone who has been handed a penalty by a sport’s governing body that if they want to get it overturned they should appeal the decision through the courts. Can you imagine what that would do to world sport? Every yellow card, every red card, every sending off, every touchline ban, relegations, promotions, points dockings… every sporting penalty in every championship on earth could be appealed through the courts. It could create an enormous mess, and one which effectively strips the world’s sports’ governing bodies of any real power to govern their own sports.

But, as I said, I don’t think Flavio even wants to win this one. For me, tomorrow’s case was always one he was going to lose, and I think he knows that.

Flavio has gone the route he has because he expects to lose the case so that he can appeal to a higher body. And ultimately, when all other appeal courts in France have been expended he will take the case to where he really wants it to be heard… and that is the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

He will take his case to the highest court in Europe and he will argue that the FIA has stripped him of his basic human rights. In doing so he will seek to further discredit the reign of Max Mosley at the FIA, and to smash any chances Mosley might have had at entering European Politics, if indeed that is where Max had wished to end up after his FIA Presidency, as has been rumoured for many years.

I will not be surprised in the slightest if Flavio loses his appeal tomorrow. Afterall, if my hunch is right, it’s exactly what Flavio wants.

Oh bloody hell

crying child

Remember that agreement in Paris on Wednesday? The one between FOTA and the FIA that was going to save F1? You remember… the one in which Max Mosley promised not to stand for re-election and the future of the sport was assured by all the teams agreeing to carry on in F1 until 2012?

Yeah, well forget that.

Max apparently wasn’t very happy with the way the press conferences went, and was rather upset that it was announced that he was standing aside immediately from his F1 roles and that Michel Boeri would be taking over as F1 mediator for the next few months. He also wasn’t very happy with being labelled a dictator…. perhaps unsurprisingly.

So he’s written to the F1 teams, to tell them in no uncertain terms to apologise or all deals are off.

Given your and FOTA’s deliberate attempt to mislead the media, I now consider my options open. At least until October, I am president of the FIA with the full authority of that office. After that it is the FIA member clubs, not you or FOTA, who will decide on the future leadership of the FIA.

We made a deal yesterday in Paris to end the recent difficulties in Formula 1. A fundamental part of this was that we would both present a positive and truthful account to the media. I was therefore astonished to learn that FOTA has been briefing the press that Mr Boeri has taken charge of Formula 1, something which you know is completely untrue; that I had been forced out of office, also false; and, apparently, that I would have no role in the FIA after October, something which is plain nonsense, if only because of the FIA statutes.

Furthermore, you have suggested to the media that I was a ‘dictator’, an accusation which is grossly insulting to the 26 members of the World Motor Sport Council who have discussed and voted all the rules and procedures of Formula 1 since the 1980s, not to mention the representatives of the FIA’s 122 countries who have democratically endorsed everything I and my World Motor Sport Council colleagues have done during the last 18 years.

If you wish the agreement we made to have any chance of survival, you and FOTA must immediately rectify your actions. You must correct the false statements which have been made and make no further such statements.

You yourself must issue a suitable correction and apology at your press conference this afternoon.

Formula 1 is run entirely by our 25-strong team without any help from me or any other outsider. There was no need for me to involve myself further in Formula 1 once we had a settlement. Equally, I had a long-standing plan not to seek re-election in October. It was therefore possible for me to confirm both points to you yesterday.

So was any apology forthcoming in yesterday’s FOTA press conference? You bet your bottom dollar it wasn’t. And why? Possibly because FOTA didn’t want to apologise, or possibly because, as usual, Max had made his statement, or sent his letter, while those to whom the letter was addressed were deep in a meeting. It’s not unheard of for major announcements to be made minutes before press conferences on F1 weekends. His letter seems to have all the hallmarks of such a game, being sent at a time when he knew nobody would be able to read it, and thus making his request impossible to meet. It makes FOTA appear to be unrepentant.

It’s enough to make you scream.

While FOTA yesterday was talking about taking the sport back to the fans, listening to what the fans wanted and outlining a vision for a bright future, we hear that behind the scenes politicking from Mosley has thrown the whole thing back up in the air.

While Mosley is the FIA President, there is a general feeling within the sport that he considers himself to be the FIA. His agreement to stand aside from a Presidency which, in the words of Luca di Montezemolo, has had the hallmarks of a dictatorship, appeared to give peace a real chance. It was Mosley’s continued involvement that stood in the way of the sport’s future.

So why would he risk the deal he had done being scuppered by threatening to stand again for the Presidency?

Read the online bulletin boards and you will find little or no sympathy for Mosley. The boards scream that he is authoritarian, dictatorial, out of touch and running the sport on his ego alone. He may not like these accusations, and he may not see them as true, but they are the views of the fans of this sport and they are growing louder with every passing day. It is a sport he has helped fashion into its current guise, and a sport he has nurtured. But it is a sport which, through his continued involvement, he threatens to obliterate.

We had the smallest chink of light in this infernal darkness of a political mess on Wednesday. One hopes that light is allowed to shine, and is not snuffed out by silly gripes and playground politics which can be resolved as simply as they can be forgotten.

Blast from the Past…

walken

There’s a great passage in the movie “Blast From the Past” delivered by one of my all-time favourite actors, Mr Chritsopher Walken. Admittedly the film isn’t great, but Walken, as always, is just brilliant. The movie essentially revolves around a family who have lived in a fall-out shelter for 30 years, erroneously believing in the late 1960s that the Cold War had become Nuclear and thus they had saved themselves from perishing by going underground. It is at the end of the movie, however, that the father, Calvin (played by Walken) discovers from his son who has been up to the real world, Adam (played by Brendan Fraser) that the nuclear war never actually happened and that the Soviet Union fell without any fighting taking place…

CALVIN: You’re sure?
ADAM: Positive. The Soviet Union collapsed without a shot being fired. The Cold War is over.
CALVIN: What? Did the Politburo just one day say – “We give up?”
ADAM: That’s kind of how it was.
CALVIN: Uh-huh. My gosh, those Commies are brilliant! You’ve got to hand it to ‘em! “No, we didn’t drop any bombs! Oh yes, our evil empire has collapsed! Poor, poor us!” I bet they’ve even asked the West for aid! Right?!
ADAM: Uh, I think they have.
CALVIN: Hah!!! Those cagey rascals! Those sly dissemblers! They’ve finally pulled the wool over everybody’s eyes.

It’s a scene that’s been running through my mind today, ever since Max Mosley walked out of the World Motor Sport Council meeting and announced he would step aside and that FOTA had, essentially, won the battle without even having to go into the basics of setting up their own rival championship. Even Jean Marie Balestre held out until a rival championship began back in the early 1980s… and yet Mosley, the most astute of politicians, the hardest nosed of all brinskmen had simply capitulated?

It took a little while to sink in.

And yet it genuinely does seem as though we have peace. The essentials of the 2009 regulations will be carried over into 2010. New teams will receive technical assistance from established teams. A FOTA suggestion of a gradual limitation of budgets to early 1990s levels will come in over the next two seasons. The 1998 Concorde Agreement will be resigned until 2012, before which date a brand new agreement will be discussed and signed.

And Max Mosley will stand aside. He will not run for re-election. And his day-to-day dealings with Formula 1, if we understand correctly from the rumours currently circulating, will be taken over by Michel Boeri, head of Monaco’s ACM.

It is a complete and total victory for FOTA. Without a comparative shot ever being fired.

It is brilliant news for Formula 1. It means we have one championship, and one championship alone. It means no division and no fears over the end of something we all adore.

But it also means the end of Max Mosley and his reign as FIA President… something that few within the sport will be truly sad to see.

However, just as Christopher Walken’s character found it hard to believe that the Communists had simply given up without a fight, so there will be those in Formula 1 who view today’s statement by Mosley with some trepidation.

In the past what Mosley has said and what he has done have not always been closely aligned. Just last year he said he would not stand for re-election as FIA President, and yet this week claimed that he would do exactly that. Only a last minute U-Turn has changed his mind.

What’s to stop him from turning again? With Formula 1 saved and the teams all committed to a future in the sport, what happens if no suitable Presidential candidate emerges? Would Mosley stand again? Would he claim force majeur?

Given how close F1 has come to the brink over the past few weeks, I’d doubt it. Maybe this really is the end of Max Mosley’s reign as President of the FIA.

But after so many political battles, and so much deception… it’s just taking a while to sink in.

An important day in Paris

The World Motor Sport Council will meet today in Paris, and the result of this meeting could have a huge impact on the future of Formula 1 as we know it.

Perhaps most important of all, is that today, for the first time in a number of weeks, FIA President Max Mosley will come face to face with FOTA President Luca di Montezemolo. It will be a face off, and I, along with many colleagues, would love to be a fly on that particular wall today.

Mosley’s hardline position over the past month will have won him many friends within FIA circles. There are many within the halls of power at the governing body who look upon Max as a Knight in shining armour, who has stood up for the authority of the FIA against the rebelious FOTA teams who, in their view, are trying to wrestle control of the sport away from them.

Mosley and di Montezemolo’s exchanges will thus be fascinating. For if di Montezemolo convinces the FIA that FOTA’s gripes rest not with the FIA, but with Mosley’s system of governance, then he may well start a groundswell of negativity towards Mosley from within the very body over which he presides. What the FIA doesn’t want is to see FOTA taking control of Formula 1 away from them. However it will also be only too aware that without the FOTA teams, there will be very little left of Formula 1 to govern.

Mosley wrote yesterday to all FIA Clubs, informing them that he had little option but to stand again for re-election to the FIA Presidency, owing to the unprecedented attack the body was enduring from FOTA. This announcement comes despite his assurances last year that he would NOT stand again.

So the exchanges between di Montezemolo and Mosley will be crucial today. If di Montezemolo comes out on top, and Mosley does stand for re-election, there is every reason to believe that somebody out there within the FIA may be bold enough to stand against him. If di Montezemolo can convince the FIA that FOTA’s gripes rest not with the FIA, but with what Mosley has turned the FIA into, then Mosley’s position could become unstable.

But if Mosley wins today’s confrontation, not only will he stand again for re-election, but he may do so unopposed. Worst still, if today cements his position as FIA President, Formula 1 as we know it will die.

It seems now that only Mosley’s stepping aside, or being forced aside, can begin the negotiation process between FOTA and the FIA.

FOTA is not averse to the FIA, nor is it averse to Ecclestone. All it wants to see is a new system of governance and a fairer distribution of revenue. Mosley currently stands in the way of the first of these demands, and until that is resolved there will be no movement. The breakaway will remain.

Which is why today’s meeting in Paris will be so important.

So what now?

Another day, another development in the ever evolving mess that is Formula 1.

Yesterday’s news that FOTA intended to establish its own championship was met in the afternoon with the FIA’s own news that it intended to launch legal proceedings against the rebel alliance.

Their statement read:

“The FIA’s lawyers have now examined the FOTA threat to begin a breakaway series. The actions of FOTA as a whole, and Ferrari in particular, amount to serious violations of law including wilful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari’s legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law. The FIA will be issuing legal proceedings without delay.

“Preparations for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship continue but publication of the final 2010 entry list will be put on hold while the FIA asserts its legal rights.”

This statement is a fascinating one, and shows us perhaps for the first time that Max Mosley and the FIA is now on the back foot. As soon as FOTA announced its intentions to establish a rival championship, many of us expected the FIA to march forwards with its 2010 plans and to release an entry list for next season which included USF1, Campos, Manor, Williams, Force India, Ferrari, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and two extra new entries. That publication of this list has been delayed is the first signal of stalling.

Yes, with the announcement that this whole debate has gone legal, the issuing of the list was unthinkable, but in launching legal proceedings the FIA has at least bought itself some time… time to negotiate, time to reflect and time, ever so importantly, to save Formula 1.

The World Council will meet next week and there are differing views on what could happen when it convenes. Some areas of the paddock think that Max Mosley will suffer a heavy defeat in a vote of no confidence. Some think he will stand aside. Others believe he will hang on, defiant to the last. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the latter.

The teams have reiterated that this argument isn’t about deposing Mosley. He, meanwhile, claims that the FOTA teams are trying to wrestle the governance of the sport out of the FIA’s hands and to steal Bernie Ecclestone’s business from under him.

The truth is somewhere in between.

The sport requires clear and transparent governance. It demands a fairer distribution of income. Both of these are essential for its future, but if either is to be achieved there will have to be casualties. And the longer this goes on, the greater that list could become.

The sport is dead… long live the sport!

breakaway_1

An F1 World Champion walked through the gates to Silverstone this morning and was mobbed by television cameras. His reaction to last night’s news was simple and forthrite.

“Formula 1 is dead.”

The reality that none of us wanted is here, and it is far more than an empty threat. FOTA will, unless earthshaking changes are made to the governance of this sport, start their own championship next season which will feature, in its own words, “transparent governance, one set of regulations,” the encouragement of “more entrants” and one that will “listen to the wishes of the fans, including offering lower prices for spectators worldwide.”

I’ve written much in recent days about the political war in Formula 1, and I have been cast in some circles as being an ardent supporter of Max Mosley. As I have written time and again, my observations have been based purely on politics. This battle stopped being about sport a long time ago. It has become a war over the governance of Formula 1 and has been waged on purely political terms, and as such, and to my mind, Max Mosley had played by far the stronger game. He sensed, as perhaps the majority of us did, that FOTA’s resolve would not hold, that by playing politics he had the stronger hand. He sensed that FOTA would not be brazen nor bold enough to split from the sport.

He was wrong.

He has backed FOTA into a corner, and one from which it looked as though they could not emerge victorious. By announcing their intention to set up their own rival championship, however, FOTA has played the only card left at its disposal. Mosley played the hardest game he could, but the teams have, against all expectation, stood firm. He insisted that there were elements within FOTA determined to disrupt the peace process and that they would not win.

But he underestimated the resolve of FOTA and the underlying resistance that exists in this sport to his Presidency.

When all is said and done, however, nobody has won. And certainly not the fans.

Division is an outcome that nobody wants. But it is the future we all have to face.

Pressure on Mosley’s Presidency will now come under enormous strain. From standing his ground and making a bold case for the FIA and its governance of the sport, Max Mosley now faces the prospect of being labelled as the man who has killed Formula 1. There are many within this media centre who now see his days as being numbered. Be there a movement from within the FIA to depose him of his Presidency, or whether, as he suggested he might one year ago, he stands aside rather than run for re-election, last night’s announcement by FOTA may yet come to be seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I stated earlier this week that I believed Lola’s pulling out of the running for a 2010 F1 slot had been made so that they might be considered for entry to a FOTA championship. Today’s news that N.Technology has followed suit would seem to give credence to this. I would not be surprised to see a number of other prospective 2010 teams do the same before the end of the day.

I sit here now, at my computer, in the Silverstone media centre as Formula 1 cars run around this great track for potentially the last time and I feel drained. I have loved this sport for as long as I can remember, and today I look on, as a fan, and one privileged enough to work within this wonderful world, and I watch something that I adore crumble around me. Nobody with any love for this sport will take any satisfaction from what is going on at the moment. But accept it, deal with it and make the most of it, we must.

How could things have got this bad? And how can they ever be resolved?

This war of brinksmanship has reached a critical moment. As things stand the sport, as we know it, is destined to die.

As a journalist, as a privileged member of this community, but mostly as a die-hard, life-long fan of this sport, today just fills me with sadness. I pray common sense will win out. But I am reluctant to hold my breath.

Compromise? Or is it too little, too late?

FOTA today made a move towards trying to resolve the war over the future of Formula 1 in a timely letter to FIA President Max Mosley.

“The time has come when, in the interests of the sport, we must all seek to compromise and bring an urgent conclusion to the protracted debate regarding the 2010 world championship,” Reuters quoted the letter as saying.

“We hope that you will consider that this letter represents significant movement by the teams, all of whom have clearly stated a willingness to commit to the sport until the end of 2012.”

FOTA has proposed, among other things, that the Budget Cap be renamed a “resource restriction” and that its auditting be done by a group of independent accountants under regulations agreed by all the teams. FOTA also wants to ensure that a discussion over the governance of the sport takes place, and therefore that a new Concorde Agreement is agreed, and with negotiations protracted that the deadline for conditions to be dropped be moved back from this Friday.

The FIA’s response has not been overtly negative, but neither has it been overwhelmingly positive.

In Max Mosley’s view, the Friday deadline will stand. It won’t be extended any further because the debacle has already gone on too long. If the FOTA teams want to ensure fair governance they will therefore have to agree to a resigning of the 1998 Concorde in lieu of a new Concorde being agreed. Should the teams sign up to this agreement, then all parties can negotiate a brand new 2009 agreement which would over-ride the extension of the ’98 pact.

With regard to the Budget Cap, Mosley’s only real reservation was that FOTA had failed to set a level for the cap.

As such, and in line with previous comments, he has asked all remaining FOTA teams to drop their conditions and sign up for 2010, agreeing to the £40 million Budget Cap. Once in, they will be able to debate a resolution to the regulation debate. The two-tier system will be scrapped, says Mosley, although the new teams running Cosworth engines will be allowed to run engines to 2006 specification as their last minute call-up and continued delay in agreeing a firm foundation for 2010 means there is not enough time for the engine manufacturer to get up to 2010 standards.

So are we any closer to an agreement?

Well yes and no.

FOTA is clearly aware now that if it does not make a move in a positive direction, then Max Mosley really will not shed a tear if they pull out. Because of the brinksmanship used by the FIA President, he has placed the onus on them not to rip the sport apart.

FOTA has therefore suggested methods by which this mess can be resolved, which would make them and, they hope, the FIA happy.

Mosley, in turn, has replied that this is all well and good, but the only way they can seek to change the regulations is from the inside. And until they drop their stance and enter the 2010 championship unconditionally, FOTA is on the outside. Join, and we will talk this through.

But FOTA will be wary. For if they drop their guard and enter, there is no guarantee that the negotiations will actually lead to the changes they want to see. Promise of discussion is not a promise of revolution.

And with the news today that Lola has pulled its application for entry to 2010, one of Mosley’s trump cards has disappeared. FOTA may yet sense a weakening in his defences.

So while things appear to have moved on… they haven’t. We’re still at loggerheads.

Mosley has written to each remaining FOTA team individually and asked them to agree to his terms. Friday’s deadline still looms. Who falls in line, and who stands firm, we wait to see.

The FIA makes its case

fia logo

The FIA has released a public dossier on its dealings with FOTA over the past few months, as both bodies strive towards finding a solution for the future of Formula 1.

I ask you to take a few minutes from your day and read the document through in full. It is fascinating reading, and with FOTA’s own document sure to be released soon, gaining a full understanding of the FIA’s position is, I feel, of great importance.

The FIA Statement in Full

The document makes genuinely intruiging reading, but it is concrete in its resolution.

The FIA and FOM have together spent decades building the FIA Formula One World Championship into the most watched motor sport competition in history.

In light of the success of the FIA’s Championship, FOTA – made up of participants who come and go as it suits them – has set itself two clear objectives: to take over the regulation of Formula One from the FIA and to expropriate the commercial rights for itself. These are not objectives which the FIA can accept.

It is this section of the document, perhaps more than any of the whys and wherefores, that matters. It is in this that the FIA sets out its stall and says, perhaps in stronger fashion than ever, that FOTA will not and cannot win this fight.

It’s over. Time at the bar. If FOTA stands firm, this sport as we know it is done. Finished.

The teams simply cannot win. The governing body and the commercial rights holder are now so steadfast in their position and their belief that the teams are trying to stage what, in their eyes, is a coup d’etat, that they will not give in and relinquish even the scantest element of their authority. The rules will not be changed. The budget cap will not be raised. It’s over.

Which means that the threat of a division, and of either the establishment of a new championship or of the manufacturers going their own separate ways, is now an almost certainty.

The only question left, it seems, is whether FOTA will remain united and do its own thing, or if its membership will start to capitulate to the FIA.

Unfortunately, and as a result of this document making public the instances of battle in a war that still rages between two bodies so fundamentally opposed to the existence and demands of the other, there seems little question that this Friday’s deadline could yet see the single most cataclysmic event in the history of the sport.

Fifty nine years ago, Formula 1 was born at Silverstone, with the running of the first ever World Championship Grand Prix. Could it be that at that very circuit, which itself is being ejected from the sport it helped to create, we receive confirmation that Formula 1, as we have come to know it, will cease to exist?

God, I hope not. But it seems as though there just isn’t any room left to manouevre.

No Movement: Budget Cap Stays.

cash money

FIA and FOTA financial representatives met yesterday to discuss the voluntary 2010 Budget Cap which sits at the base of the issue of a two-tier F1… the one that caused all of these arguments in the first place.

The news coming out of the meeting however, is not good.

An FIA Statement, released this morning, reads as follows:

As agreed at the meeting of 11 June, FIA financial experts met yesterday with financial experts from FOTA.

Unfortunately, the FOTA representatives announced that they had no mandate to discuss the FIA’s 2010 financial regulations. Indeed, they were not prepared to discuss regulation at all.

As a result, the meeting could not achieve its purpose of comparing the FIA’s rules with the FOTA proposals with a view to finding a common position.

In default of a proper dialogue, the FOTA financial proposals were discussed but it became clear that these would not be capable of limiting the expenditure of a team which had the resources to outspend its competitors. Another financial arms race would then be inevitable.

The FIA Financial Regulations therefore remain as published.

This news will come as a great disappointment to those hoping for peace, as just yesterday an FIA statement reported that the objectives of FOTA and the FIA on cost reduction were now very closely aligned. A resolution on the issue seemed imminent and yesterday’s meeting between the bodies could, and arguably should, have resolved at least this one issue.

FOTA’s reluctance to discuss the FIA’s regulations and debate instead only their own proposals means that a golden opportunity to make an important inroad into the political debacle that threatens to rip the sport apart at the seams has been thrown away.

Such a move by FOTA seems to add credence to the FIA’s suggestions that there are elements within FOTA that are trying to derail the peace process.

Their statement yesterday, regarding a meeting between the FIA and FOTA on the eve of the 2010 entry publication stated:

The FIA believed it had participated in a very constructive meeting with a large measure of agreement. The FIA was therefore astonished to learn that certain FOTA members not present at the meeting have falsely claimed that nothing was agreed and that the meeting had been a waste of time. There is clearly an element in FOTA which is determined to prevent any agreement being reached regardless of the damage this may cause to the sport.

This is a view shared by Bernie Ecclestone, who has gone as far as to name names in this week’s Auto Motor und Sport in Germany.

“Flavio Briatore wants to create a new series and decide everything,” the F1 supremo said.

“Luca di Montezemolo [FOTA President] has a problem with the FIA president. With John Howett [FOTA Vice-President], I wonder: what does he want? I’m not even sure he knows himself. Everyone else just wants it all to stop so they can concentrate on the sport once again.”

So what is FOTA’s game? Are they really prepared to take this all the way to the brink and to set up their own championship?

At the moment there is a lot of talk about the future of Formula 1, and that the current political mess is threatening to break it apart and potentially kill the sport we love.

Some blame the FIA and Max Mosley. Others are increasingly growing tired of FOTA’s stubborn position.

One thing that cannot be denied however is that, as things stand today, it is the FIA that is appearing to be making itself open to negotiation while FOTA is not. And if the factions within FOTA that the FIA claims are trying to disrupt the resolution of the crisis are indeed, as Ecclestone claims, those in whose hands the leadership of FOTA resides, it looks increasingly unlikely that any agreement will be reached by Friday.

And if that is the case, then the split that nobody wants may be the reality that we all get.

The lie of the land

So… a lot’s happened since my last post.

To be completely frank, with everything that started kicking off on Friday it seemed like a much better idea to let all the news wash in via email and on the ipod touch, and just sit by the canal with a beer, enjoying the British summertime.

As soon as the list was out, it was obvious that the war wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. So Friday was a day to chill out and and sit back and watch as all the statements and press releases came out.

Now, in the clear light of day, it’s become possible to take an overview of the situation… and once again it’s Max Mosley and the FIA that have come out on top.

The entry list released on Friday is a very clever ploy by Mosley. USF1 was no real shock, but the inclusion of Manor, and to a lesser extent Campos, was a surprise, particularly as the likes of Prodrive and Lola were not entered for 2010. Believed to have been two of the favourites, their non inclusion really was a shock.

As expected, Williams and Force India got their entries, and so too were Ferrari and the two Red Bull teams included on the list due to their specific contracts with the FIA to run in F1 until 2012. The other FOTA teams have until Friday to drop their conditions and enter. Ferrari and the Red Bull teams have sworn solidarity with their FOTA brothers.

So once again, the FIA has the upper hand. Once again it’s up to FOTA to make the concessions.

Mosley offered FOTA as much of an olive branch as he could last week, and they rejected it point blank. By doing so they now appear to be moving more and more out of touch. The fans don’t want the politics to ruin the racing, and with Mosley offering routes out and FOTA failing to take them, it remains to be seen how much longer fan sympathies rest with FOTA.

By standing firm Mosley’s position at the FIA is perhaps stronger now than at any point in the last decade. He is the man who has stood up for the FIA’s authority against the might of the manufacturers. To the FIA he’s a hero, and one whose re-election is now in little doubt. If FOTA wanted to make this about governance, all they have done is cement Mosley’s Presidency.

But back to the list for a minute… We can possibly expect Red Bull, Brawn and potentially McLaren to capitulate to the FIA’s demands this week as the three of them are teams that exist to race, not to sell cars. There’s every chance that by the new June 19th deadline only the auto manufacturers will remain in FOTA.

Mosley also knows that there’s a very real chance that two of those manufacturers will pull out at the end of 2009 anyway. So even if two out of the four manufacturers do drop their conditions, there could still be two free spaces in F1. At the most there will be four.

That leaves a large hole, but one that could easily be filled by Lola, Prodrive, Lotus Lite or N Technology. By keeping the trump cards of Lola and Prodrive in his pocket, Mosley has perhaps given us the strongest indication yet that he knows we will lose at least two F1 teams at the end of the season, because by keeping two of the strongest entries in his pocket, he holds the upper hand in the negotiations over the future direction of the sport.

So it’s not over yet. Ohhhh no.

The next challenge will be for FOTA to remain united. We’ve got another fascinating five days ahead.