“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is full.”
Henry Kissinger – New York Times Magazine – 1 June 1969
For the rights or wrongs with which Henry Kissinger’s role in International Politics will come to be viewed by history, he certainly came out with some great quotes… and ones which, this week, relate all too closely to the power plays afoot in Formula 1.
The sport sits just a week before its most famous and glamorous race, with not one but two crisis talks being held today. The first, this morning, is between the members of FOTA as they discuss their stance on the 2010 budget cap and two-tier F1 of the future. Later on this afternoon, FOTA President Luca di Montezemolo, whose Ferrari team has threatened to quit F1 along with Toyota, the two Red Bull teams and Renault, was due to meet with FIA President Max Mosley and F1 Commercial Rights Holder Bernie Ecclestone*. As far as the latter two are concerned, Formula 1 simply cannot have a crisis next week. As Kissinger so beautifully stated 40 years ago, their diaries are pretty tied up.
A crisis at Monaco is just what the FIA and Bernie don’t need. As the most watched race of the year, it remains, however, the best possible canvas for FOTA to paint their political landscape.
That political landscape is in flux. The teams at the centre of the controversy have made this battle about much more than budget caps and two-tier systems of technical regulations. Perhaps sensing an opportunity for change, the teams who have threatened to pull out of the sport now seek a clearer and fairer system of governance. With a new Concorde Agreement a long way from being agreed, they are using their political weight to readdress the political balance in the sport.
“History has so far shown us only two roads to international stability: domination and equilibrium.”
Henry Kissinger – The Times – 12 March 1991
Formula 1 has existed for almost 30 years, since the end of the FISA/FOCA war, with the domination of the FIA and Commercial Rights Holder over the teams. It was a fair deal… the organisers created a unified and strong championship and sold it to the highest bidders, while in return mechanics and engineers became wealthy men… some of them millionaires.
Times have changed however, and the percentages at play are no longer viewed as fair by those who argue they make the sport what it is – ie, the teams.
And yet, even amongst the teams there is the threat of a split between those who can conceivably pull down to the budget cap and those who can’t. Perhaps this morning’s meeting then is about much more than simply maintaining the unity of FOTA and the unity of the teams who are against or for the budget cap. Perhaps it is about rallying all of the teams to the same cause, that for the first time in almost 30 years there exists a very real possibility for the teams to make big changes to the way the sport is run.
The budget cap and two tier system of F1 is no longer the bigger picture. It’s about politics and who runs what and how. It’s about replacing dominance with equilibrium.
Neither side will want to budge however. Neither side will be willing to give an inch. The powers that have ruled F1 for 30 years will not want to see their authority nor their slice of the commercial cake reduced. At the same time however, the teams are aware now of just how much power they hold.
Neither will be willing to give that up.
For, as Kissinger stated in 1971, “Power is the great aphrodisiac.”
* Di Montezemolo will not attend today’s meetings following the death of his father. His place will be taken by Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali.