The FIA makes its case

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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.

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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.

One Day to Go

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With just one day left until the FIA announces the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship team line-up, it’s anyone’s guess how things are going to work out.

The events of the last few days however have given us some insight into the political games, still afoot in Formula 1.

The relative silence with which the FIA had been dealing with FOTA following its conditional application for entry in 2010 was finally broken when Max Mosley wrote to the FOTA teams telling them that he understood that they were unhappy with the 2010 regulations. Their conditional entry however was no way to deal with this. If they didn’t like the rules, the best way to influence a change, said Mosley, was from the inside. He was willing to talk, and willing to amend the rules, but it couldn’t be done via a conditional entry. Enter the championship unconditionally, said Max, and we will work together in the correct fashion to amend the regulations.

It was an olive branch. Or as close to one as we were ever going to get.

Mosley wanted the remaining eight teams to enter unconditionally by Tuesday night. Suffice to say, they did not.

Max Mosley was never going to capitulate to FOTA’s demands, and his giving of an olive branch was a positive step in the right direction. FOTA’s reaction was said to have been “not entirely negative” but their conditions for entry, including the signing of a new Concorde Agreement by midnight tonight, are still in place.

So why can’t the teams agree to join and change the rules the right way? From within?

Yes, for them this is about governance, but they are also worried about the budget cap. That cap is here to stay, but if they do not include themselves within the decision making process, how can they possibly hope to influence the level at which it is set? At the moment they are on the outside looking in. They will make no real difference until they are back on the inside.

The budget cap is not, I must stress, a simple bargaining tool. I have seen, at first hand, the FIA’s Cost Cap Handbook and its two Appendices. They are enormous documents covering every conceivable possibility and eventuality of a budget cap. If FOTA want us to believe that the FIA is only using this Budget Cap as a political tool, they have got another thing coming. The FIA has got this Cost Cap worked out, and it is very, very serious about it. The Handbook is proof evident of this.

So FOTA and the FIA are still at loggerheads. But where does that leave us for tomorrow.

If my sources are correct, we are likely to see FIVE new teams unveiled tomorrow. My money would be on USF1, Prodrive, Lola and two others… to my mind the most likely being Brabham (Formtech), and either Campos or Lotus Lite.

Brabham is being set up on the remnants of Super Aguri, and if one team knew how to develop smart cars under a tight budget… it was Super Aguri. The double decker diffuser? Yep, that was an SAF1 concept, taken to Honda when Super Ag went tits up and Honda did the smart thing and employed all the clever bods at Leafield who’d turned a year old Honda into a better car than its replacement. There are some in the F1 paddock who are calling Button’s BGP01 the SA09 and claiming that if Super Aguri hadn’t been run into the ground, Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson might well be leading the world championship right now. It’s not as silly as it sounds.

But I digress.

Brabham / Formtech’s credentials are pretty good, then.

Adrian Campos is a guy I’ve known for some time and I don’t believe for a moment that he would have entered his name unless he had the budget and the ability to make this thing work. With two F1 races in Spain, a Spanish team is not such a shabby idea. And if anyone can make it work, I think Adrian may just be that man.

And Lotus Lite? If we’re being brutally honest, Litespeed really are not much cop in F3 terms, but with Mike Gascoyne on board you’ve got to take them seriously… and there’s a buzz in the F1 paddock that they might actually have a shot… and a budget! Lotus cars have said they’re not a part of the entry, so it’s just the Lotus GP name. But it’s an iconic name, and one that could attract the sponsors.

Oh, if only fag adverts were still allowed. I don’t know an F1 fan alive that wouldn’t love to see a JPS Lotus in F1 next year. And while we’re on the subject of sponsors, if Brabham get in, I’m praying for a Martini title sponsorship.

Anyway, what this all means is that, if my sources are correct and five new teams are announced, two existing F1 teams will not make the cut.

There are stories doing the rounds today that the Renault F1 Team has informed its suppliers that it should not rely on business with the team to continue in 2010. It is further indication that the French manufacturer is seriously questioning its continued involvement in Formula 1.

One might also question whether Dietrich Mateschitz will still be willing to pay for two F1 teams. Toro Rosso is up for sale, and he may wish to sell on the Faenza base and cars to a new F1 entry.

Toyota are also said to be wobbling, although speaking to John Howett in Turkey he seemed to be adamant that the team were not going anywhere.

One thing that isn’t going anywhere is negotiation over the Concorde Agreement. The FOTA teams, as part of their conditional entry, made it very, very clear that if there was no Concorde there would be no entry from the FOTA teams.

With just hours to go until FOTA’s self-imposed deadline for Concorde to be signed, their tough stance may yet see their entry conditions broken before the 2010 announcement is even made.

Whether Max will even take any notice of their conditions however, remains to be seen. The next 36 hours will be fascinating.

Is the Alliance Crumbling?

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It’s official then, Force India has capitulated and put in a late, unconditional entry to the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship.

Cue the wrath of FOTA, their impending suspension of Force India from the soon-to-be gang of eight, and no doubt a fair few extra statements and arguments over the weekend.

To be honest, Force India’s decision comes as little surprise. The team itself has, just as Williams before it, claimed that it still fully supports FOTA’s position, but that it has been forced to enter on its own due to “commercial obligations.” The question in the media centre had been of whom and when the next FOTA team would split from the umbrella body as the June 12th announcement of the 2010 grid draws ever closer. And now, with Force India’s unconditional entry and FOTA’s position once again compromised, the questions have moved on to who will join them.

The favourites are Brawn, then Red Bull (one or both fizzy drink teams) and McLaren. It is perfectly possible that, in the not too distant future, FOTA will be left with but four members.

The real problem for FOTA in all this is that it has played its hand. In making its block entry and applying conditions it has no further cards left to play. The position of strength now rests almost exclusively with Max Mosley and the FIA.

He knows it. FOTA knows it. And now we all know it, too.

Because if FOTA’s position really was as strong as they’d like us to believe, they wouldn’t be losing members. They’d remain as one, strongly committed to the cause, sure in their stance and in their belief that they would ultimately win the war.

But with every passing day and the continued silence over this entire issue, those teams who rely on Formula 1 for their existence are going to panic. And they are going to do their own thing.

Williams was the first, and Force India has shown its true feelings today. How long we have to wait before they are joined by their racing rivals is uncertain. But it may not be long.

What is perhaps no longer in any doubt however, is that Max Mosley is winning this particular war.

The March F1 Entry

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A few weeks ago, my colleague Adam Hay-Nicholls told me about an April Fools article he’d written, in which he’d reported that the legendary March name was set to make a return to F1. The team was, said the report, to be reborn under the sights of the FIA’s Max Mosley, Alan Donnely, Richard Woods, Charlie Whiting and Herbie Blash. Of course it wasn’t a serious article, but it made me chuckle and was intelligently thought through.

So imagine my surprise when, over the weekend, I see online that March had entered its name for F1 2010. Was Adam having another laugh? Surely this was taking it too far.

Until a few hours ago I had no actual confirmation the rumours were real. But yes, it’s true, March really has entered its name for an incredible return to F1 in 2010.

The March F1 Team entry has been submitted by Andrew Fitton, who took over March in the 1990s following a management buyout.

I spoke to March F1’s Team Principal Graham Manchester earlier today, and although he, as his fellow prospective F1 team bosses can’t say too much before June 12th, he was nevertheless clearly excited about the prospect of bringing the March name back to F1… as much for the entertainment he hopes to display in the sport as for the technical challenge it presents!

“Quite a bit going on already but there is much to do even if we do not receive a F1 entry. March will be moving forward in several directions. High technology engineering and product development is the core business model, but when we know more that involves F1 we will certainly keep you informed.

“We are not getting too excited about it, there is a lot of good competition with considerable experience to be honest and for so seemingly few places. However Formula One is about entertainment for the spectators and TV viewers as much as engineering so a good balance is essential we feel.

“We are keeping an open mind as to what may or may not happen and quite frankly the World being what it is at the moment, anything could, and possibly will happen, but as Max Mosley has apparently said ‘everyone, even independents need to start somewhere’ , Snr Ferrari did, Frank Williams did (with a March I might add)  and possibly there may not be a better time for a while.

“F1 is in one of its ‘States of flux’ which happens now and again, we wait and see.”

March originally came into existence in 1969 as March Engineering, and made the audacious move in 1970 of entering F1, F2, F3, Can Am and Formula Ford as a provider of customer cars. Formed by Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd, there is clearly a fairly high-profile name amongst its founding fathers who could have some influence in the March entry’s acceptance.

It’s certainly another good name to add to the list of prospective F1 teams for 2010, and given Graham’s insistence that March wants to entertain as much as it wants to compete, there seems a genuinely fresh approach amongst the new teams.

As with all the prospective new entrants: Campos, USF1, Prodrive, Litespeed, Lola and Superfund, I really do wish them well in their bids. New blood in F1 is just what the sport needs.

What’s in GPWeek this week?

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The latest issue of GPWeek is online now, bringing you all the news from the worlds of Formula 1, MotoGP and the WRC.

In this week’s issue:

F1 2010 Crisis: The latest news and analysis as the 2010 deadline passes and the FIA and FOTA lock horns.

BMW-Sauber: We chat exclusively to Willy Rampf on what’s gone wrong in 2009.

GP2: An in depth feature and interview with Bruno Michel, GP2 Series organiser.

MotoGP: All the latest news from Michael Scott in Mugello including…

Stoner beats Rossi on home soil in thrilling GP
Another Nightmare for Pedrosa
All the news from Mugello including the 250s and 125s

Rally: All the latest from the world or Rally with Martin Holmes

An in depth analysis of Sardinia – How did Llatvala get it so right… how did Loeb get it so wrong?
Turbos back on FIA agenda
Opel in IRC

Click on the blogroll now to check out this week’s issue.