FOTA Enters as a Block

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I’ve just received a press release from FOTA, stating the following:

All FOTA Teams have today submitted conditional entries for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship.

FOTA confirms all its Members’ long-term commitment to be involved in the FIA Formula One World Championship and has unanimously agreed further and significant actions to substantially reduce the costs of competing in the Championship in the next three years, creating a mechanism that will preserve the technological competition and the sporting challenge and, at the same time, facilitate the entry in the F1 Championship for new Teams. These measures are in line with what has been already decided in 2009 within FOTA, achieving important saving on engines and gearboxes.

All FOTA teams have entered the 2010 championship on the basis that:

1) The Concorde Agreement is signed by all parties before 12th June 2009, after which all FOTA teams will commit to competing in Formula One until 2012. The renewal of the Concorde Agreement will provide security for the future of the sport by binding all parties in a formal relationship that will ensure stability via sound governance.

2) The basis of the 2010 regulations will be the current 2009 regulations, amended in accordance with proposals that FOTA has submitted to the FIA.

All FOTA teams’ entries for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship have been submitted today on the understanding that (a) all FOTA teams will be permitted to compete during the 2010 Formula One Season on an identical regulatory basis and (b) that they may only be accepted as a whole.

All FOTA teams now look forward with optimism to collaborating proactively and productively with the FIA, with a view to establishing a solid foundation on which the future of a healthy and successful Formula One can be built, providing lasting stability and sound governance.

This is an interesting, if not unsurprising development. However what shouldn’t be ignored is that the FIA is yet to comment on FOTA’s proposals and there is absolutely no guarantees that the FIA will amend the 2010 regulations as FOTA wishes. As was reported and correctly predicted in Monday’s GPWeek however, the teams have used the clever option of entering FOTA as a block so that if any conditions are not met, F1 immediately loses nine teams (all existing teams minus Williams.) It also means that if the FIA wants a full grid, it can’t possibly drop one of the existing teams in favour of a new team, as the block entry is for all nine teams as a unit.

The FIA’s response will be very interesting indeed, as FOTA has admitted that it is now ready to do a deal over the Concorde Agreement, something which Bernie Ecclestone will be keen to convince his old friend Max to agree to sooner rather than later.

Today’s the Day

Will iSport and other new teams enter before the midnight deadline?

Will iSport and others enter before the midnight deadline?

This is it then. Friday May 29th. Deadline Day.

The prospective F1 teams of the 2010 championship have just over 12 hours (at the time of writing) to decide whether or not they will submit an entry… new and old teams alike. And if the existing teams are having a tough time making up their minds, just imagine how tough it must be for the new teams.

Let’s imagine for a moment that we are in Paul Jackson’s position. As head of iSport International you have a very tough decision to make. You currently operate a GP2 team on a rough figure of £5 million a season, and you have been working all winter on trying to find the backing to pull your annual budget up to the FIA recommended £30 million for a budget capped F1 entry.

A few weeks ago you were told this figure would rise to £40 million but that, regardless, you would still be afforded certain dispensations if you agreed to fall under that budget cap that would help you compete in Formula 1.

Now you’re not so sure. With just over 12 hours until the deadline for 2010 F1 entries shuts, there is absolutely no guarantee that the regulations as they stand today will stand by the time you enter the sport in 2010. Furthermore you don’t even know if Formula 1 as you know it, the Formula 1 with Ferrari, McLaren, Renault etc, will exist next year. You’ve had your entry mocked by the grandees of the sport and the very suggestion that you might consider putting an entry forward for Formula 1 cast aside as belittling the great name of the sport by some of those team bosses who would be your peers next year.

As the deadline looms, FOTA has apparently made suggestions to the FIA that next season should be run on a 100million Euro budget cap, on the provision of the sharing of technology between the bigger and smaller teams (similar to the current arrangement between McLaren and Force India,) with a budget cap of 45million Euros being brought in for the 2011 season. It’s not quite a reversion to customer cars for next year, but it’s as close as you’re going to get. It’s a one year deal, though. In 2011 you need to build your own car.

So do you risk it? Do you risk running a team on £30-40 million in 2010 when your rivals are spending three times that amount, on the off chance you’ll be able to compete in 2011? Sure, Bernie’s cash incentive will help, but with the financial world in crisis, is this the time to be taking such a huge risk? Afterall, teams like iSport, as teams like Williams, exist only to compete. They don’t make cars to sell them. They make cars to race them.

But maybe this has been FOTA’s plan all along. That by failing to reach a decision, they have effectively shown the FIA it isn’t as powerful as it thinks it is as with so much confusion over the 2010 regulations, there is the possibility that by midnight tonight only USF1, Campos, Williams and, we are hearing this morning, Prodrive-Aston Martin, will have submitted entries for the 2010 championship.

Knowing that it can’t run F1 on four teams, the FIA will have to either extend its deadline for entries, or slap fines on those who enter later on. Perhaps the FIA will be forced into a two-tier penalty scheme, whereby new teams are given a small financial penalty for late entry and those FOTA members who have caused this confusion by their reluctance to accept the FIA’s plans are handed a hefty fine.

Or will the FIA capitulate to FOTA’s suggestions and effectively smash any chance the new teams have got of competing?

Today’s the day when we learn if Max Mosley really is as politically strong-willed as his rhetoric has suggested. Can he really afford to stand up to the manufacturers? Can he really afford to lose them in favour of the promotion of the smaller independents?

If he stands his ground the small teams can not only afford to enter, they can afford to compete. If he capitulates now and gives in to FOTA, not only will the small teams stand no hope at all, but Mosley’s own position of power will have been seriously affected… if not terminally.

The Brawn Domination: Boring or Brilliant?

Something got me thinking in Monaco, and it’s something I hope you can help me with.

This whole BrawnGP domination thing… is it exciting for you, the fans, or is it a bit dull?

The reason that I ask is that there is pretty much universal delight in F1 circles that we’ve got new teams winning races in 2009. The BrawnGP story is a fairytale, and seeing JB up on the top step of the podium is something we’re all really enjoying. He’s done his time, taken the knocks, and come out smiling as he finally reaps the success his talent and hard work deserves.

But outside the paddock, I wonder how this is all viewed? Are you enjoying watching this season’s racing, or, to your mind, has the domination of the likes of Ferrari and McLaren simply been replaced with the domination of another team? With five out of six wins going to Brawn and JB, is there a risk that 2009 is actually becoming a bit of a bore at home?

Personally I don’t think it is, and I don’t think that it would be seen like that… but you never know. That’s why I’m interested in finding out…

Independents to Break FOTA Unity?

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Yesterday’s news that Williams has entered its name for the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship caught many of us unawares. After a weekend of multiple meetings and relative media silence from FOTA representatives the media was, on the whole, fairly convinced that FOTA unity was tight. The teams had written to the FIA demanding the 2010 regulation changes be dropped and, from what I had understood to be true from a number of reliable sources, FOTA was due to enter its name for the 2010 championship as a block unit if their condition of a revision to 2009 regulations was met.

So why the sudden change in position from Williams? If the teams had agreed to make their demands known to Max Mosley and the FIA in writing, in return for the teams agreeing to sign a new Concorde Agreement, has Williams’ entry to the 2010 championship not seriously reduced FOTA’s bargaining position? Furthermore, does the action of Williams not call into serious question the unity of FOTA, and give us a true reflection of the divisions between the manufacturer teams and the independents over the issue of budget caps?

“The unity of FOTA is of paramount importance to Williams,” Williams F1 CEO Adam Parr told Reuters. “Yesterday [Sunday] we joined the other members of FOTA in writing to the FIA to request a continuing effort to find a compromise concerning the regulations for 2010.”

“We believe that under the leadership of di Montezemolo and John Howett, FOTA has extracted some very significant concessions from the FIA. These include not only the procedural aspects of the budget cap but also other elements that will enable the higher budget teams to participate. Having said that, Williams has, and has always maintained, that we have a binding contract with both FOM and the FIA to participate in the world championship from 2008 to 2010.”

“We have been paid in full for our participation and we feel both morally and legally obliged to make it clear that we will participate in Formula One in the future as we have in the past 30 years. We owe this to our employees, our sponsors and the fans, all of whom are affected by statements that the teams may not enter next year’s championship.”

“We will continue to work within FOTA and with FOM and FIA to find a compromise but no one should be in any doubt about our commitment to the FIA F1 world championship.”

Williams has long been known to have been in favour of a budget cap in Formula 1. Indeed, there have been very few public comments from Williams, Brawn or Force India over the past few weeks over the subject of budget caps. Quite simply, it makes an enormous amount of sense for independent F1 teams to agree to the budget cap. They cannot compete forever with the big spending of the auto manufacturers.

A division was always going to occur within FOTA at some point, and Williams’ decision to enter its name for the 2010 championship could yet come to be seen as a pivotal moment in not only the future of FOTA but the future of Formula 1. Williams, in citing its contractual obligations to F1 and in not wishing to let go of its 30 year history in the sport, is drawing a very clear line in the sand, as the team is displaying a position completely at odds to that of Ferrari which is claiming that all deals are off in F1 as the 2010 regulation changes breached Concorde, and that they have no qualms in breaking their 60 year history in F1.

It is widely rumoured that two of the major manufacturers will pull out of F1 regardless of what happens in these negotiations, at the end of 2009. Why then would Williams wish to align itself too heavily with a group whose own members do not even know if they will be around in 2010, if Williams itself is already certain that F1 is where it wants to be next year?

Williams may not be the powerhouse it once was, but its place in Formula 1 is no less important. It is the third most succesful team in F1 history. Its name is as synonimous with the sport as that of Ferrari and McLaren. Indeed, in both historical and emotional terms, Williams falls behind perhaps only those two teams in the heirarchy of Formula 1 public perception.

It’s also worth noting that in the top six most succesful teams in F1 history, only two (Ferrari and Renault) are motor manufacturers. The rest are independents.

Independent teams then have formed a critical part of this sport’s history, and could yet play a decisive role in its future. Williams’ decision to enter for 2010 has seriously weakened FOTA’s position. If they are joined by another independent team over the next few days, FOTA’s bargaining position will be weakened still further, particularly if Williams is joined by the championship-leading BrawnGP team.

Also, don’t rule out McLaren from splitting with FOTA’s bigger picture plan. Already under pressure from the FIA following the lie-gate scandal, Martin Whitmarsh has already claimed today that McLaren is playing peacemaker. The point at which the peacemaker does a deal to save its own skin may not be far away.

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:

Monaco Grand Prix: All the news and analysis from F1′s most glamorous race of the year.

French GP Future: Ricard to return?

F1 2010: Could new teams be Pantano’s best 2010 shot?

GP2: Grosjean’s smash and grab

MotoGP: All the latest news from Michael Scott including…

Rossi to Ferrari rumours surface again
Edwards to move to WSBK?
Five Minutes with Dani Pedrosa

Rally: All the latest from Rally Italia in Sardinia with Martin Holmes

Llatvala stops Loeb’s domination
Citroen’s WRC future depends on Ford’s presence.
All the news and reports from Rally Italia.

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

Formula Juan

I was chatting to a colleague yesterday about Jacques Villeneuve’s recent comments that he wouldn’t be averse to an F1 comeback. We pretty much agreed however that if Robert Kubica was having trouble reaching a suitable weight to run KERS, JV could be similarly troubled.

“Why not divide F1 into weight categories?” he asked.

“The heavyweight F1 world championship” I quipped… which got us talking about Juan Pablo Montoya.

This weekend marks six years since Montoya won the Monaco Grand Prix for Williams. Indeed it was the Colombian who scored the last of Williams’ 113 F1 victories back in 2004, and I couldn’t help but feel that Formula 1 of today is slightly poorer without him. I just loved his personality, his honesty and his humour. More than anything, though, I think I loved the way he raced. Foot to the floor, balls to the wall, hard-ass racing. He was one of very few drivers who really took it to Michael Schumacher, and in any other era might well have been an F1 champion himself. Arguably, he should have been.

Here’s some of his best bits Vs Michael.

And the other side of Mr Montoya… fairly fruity language, and possibly the single greatest F1 quote of the last decade.

Oh, and just one more… a brilliant advert.

FIA and FOTA in No Agreement Shocker

Shock news from the Monaco Grand Prix.

Formula 1′s problems have not been resolved by a four hour meeting on a yacht.

This incredible non-development in the ongoing saga didn’t happen yesterday afternoon, following two meetings of F1′s decision makers.

In all seriousness, F1′s problems at present are so deep seated that they were never going to be resolved in the space of one afternoon and two meetings. The FIA will not budge over its plans for a budget cap, nor its intention to rigorously check the teams’ accounts next season. FOTA, on the other hand, will not budge over their insistence for a heightening of the budget cap, the dropping of the two-tier 2010 technical regulations nor the requirement of the FIA to check their accounts.

Interestingly, all these three points fall almost into insignificance when one takes into account potentially the most telling line from FOTA President Luca di Montezemolo yesterday, when he declared that all the teams were united in their insistence in a change of governance at the FIA.

That’s a huge statement, because it isn’t just aimed at questioning the way in which the regulations have been changed, it is essentially calling on Max Mosley, as President of the FIA, to stand aside. By saying that FOTA will not be happy until the method of governance has changed, they are leaving a very clear decision.

Either Max goes, or they go.

It’s therefore no shock that FOTA and the FIA failed to find an agreement yesterday. And in the current political climate, it looks unlikely that any agreement will be forthcoming in the short term.

Two immovable political objects have met head on.

Ferrari not very ‘appy

So Ferrari’s had its court case against the 2010 regulation changes thrown out, and the good folk at Maranello are not very happy.

Following a report on autosport.com in which a number of prospective new-for-2010 F1 teams was unveiled, Ferrari’s frustration has boiled over… resulting in a news piece on their official website that has got everybody in the F1 media centre here in Monaco giggling like school kids.

(For maximum effect, read the following in an Italian accent)

“They couldn’t almost believe their eyes, the men at women working at Ferrari, when they read the papers this morning and found the names of the teams, declaring that they have the intention to race in Formula 1 in the next year. Looking at the list, which leaked yesterday from Paris, you can’t find a very famous name, one of those one has to spend 400 Euros per person for a place on the grandstand at a GP (plus the expenses for the journey and the stay..). Wirth Research, Lola, USF1, Epsilon Euskadi, RML, Formtech, Campos, iSport: these are the names of the teams, which should compete in the two-tier Formula 1 wanted by Mosley. Can a World Championship with teams like them – with due respect – can have the same value as today’s Formula 1, where Ferrari, the big car manufacturers and teams, who created the history of this sport, compete? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call it Formula GP3?” Link

Toys… pram… thrown.

Wonderful stuff.

What’s in GPWeek?

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

In this week’s issue:

F1 Crunch Time: 11 days to save Formula 1. We reflect on the huge political movements of the last seven days with a News Analysis Special Feature on the current state of play.

Prodrive: In or Out? David Richards tells GPWeek that the latest controversy has made him question entering the sport in 2010.

GP2 Asia: Bruno Michel debates whether to keep the requirement for Asian drivers in the championship.

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

Gorgeous Jorge masters the conditions as Rossi slides off track.
Gibernau injured – who is favourite to land his seat in Mugello?
Moto2 Technical Regs Unveiled

Rally: All the latest from WRC and IRC with Martin Holmes

Scotland to close out 2009 IRC Calendar
Rally Italia Preview
5 minutes with Peugeots Carlos Barros.

Take a look online now by clicking here , or by clicking the link to GPWeek Magazine in the Blogroll.

Britain’s Got Nutters

Britain’s Got Talent may be car crash TV, but it is one of my guilty pleasures. It’s not the awful acts I look forward to, but those rare moments when somebody really talented somehow manages to emerge from the great rivers of sewage that flow across the TV screen for a good three quarters of the programme.

I was somewhat shocked however, when I noticed somebody I thought I recognised on this Saturday’s show. At first glance I thought it couldn’t be him. No way would he have the audacity. But then little Ant and Dec told us all his name, and my shock turned to disbelief. What was he going to do for his act? More to the point, how had nobody in the vetting process figured out who he was?

My shock and disbelief turned to anger when two out of the three judges passed him through to the next round. Still none of them had twigged. This man, as my colleague James Allen so correctly pointed out six years ago, is a lunatic.

And they put this guy through to the next round… in a competition where the prize is to perform in front of the Queen… something tells me there’s a researcher at ITV that is going to be joining the list of 2 million UK unemployed fairly soon. Neil Horan has a reputation for making bizarre protests. He pulled the leading runner out of the marathon at the 2004 Athens olympics, and as that last video reminds us, put not only his own life but the life of every F1 driver, and the Silverstone marshals, on the line with his idiotic stunt in 2003.

The man shouldn’t be applauded. He should be committed.

Britain’s Got Talent? Tell you what, for the next round let’s revisit 2003 and put him in the middle of the M1 motorway on a busy afternoon. See how talented he is then.

Idiot.