One Day to Go

5 new teams

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.