After the initial stunned silence over the decision to introduce a £30 million budget cap in F1, followed by a muted reaction from FOTA, today has seen some of the sports biggest names express great unhappiness.
Chief among them is Ferrari and FOTA president Luca do Montezemolo, who didn’t mince his words,
“It really is grave and absurd that our world finds itself in a situation like this. I hope for a climate of responsibility like that of the teams, who have reduced costs. It’s really absurd and dangerous that one week from the first race F1 finds itself back in this kind of situation, which is very negative for credibility, for the teams, the manufacturers, the fans and sponsors.
It’s more important to have a calmer atmosphere and to avoid continual changes which generate uncertainty, for those who work in the sport and raises question marks about the future.”
That last bit is a veiled threat to take Ferrari out of F1, it seems to me. We’ll hear more like that I think, in the coming weeks.
Seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, who became close to FIA president Max Mosley through his work for the FIA Foundation, described the decision as ‘astonishing’.
Renault team principal Flavio Briatore also came out and expressed his ‘shock’ at the move,
“It was a bit of a shock,” he said. “I believe all the parties need to be working together to achieve a target. The financial crisis makes everyone worried and we need Formula 1 to be more efficient but sometimes we are not happy with the sentences that are imposed.
“I believe the teams have already done an incredible job for 2009 and 2010, and now we’re ready to go further but we need to continue working together with the federation.”
I still think that this is not a done deal, but rather a starting point, albeit a very firm one, in a negotiation with the teams over budgets in the short term and budget control in the long term. Think of it like the banking crisis. The governments loosened their regulation of banks and that led to banks taking bigger risks and doing things even they didn’t understand. It’s brought the world to the brink of a depression. What we will end up with as a result is a whole new system for regulating banks in the future.
In F1, teams have been allowed to spend what they want and the arrival of the manufacturer era in the sport around 2000 drove costs through the roof. No-one was regulating that, the FIA accept that they should have done, and so we ended up with a model which is unsustainable in a recession. Drastic cuts were needed, the FOTA teams came up with what they thought was a pretty drastic package, but Mosley has gone much further and introduced an idea which will regulate budgets to make sure they don’t get out of control in future.
At the same time, he’s put the cat amongst the pigeons with FOTA, as the smaller team owners will love the idea of a) making a profit and b) seeing the value of their franchise go through the roof, so they will want to back the plan. The manufacturer teams and established teams like Ferrari and McLaren have the most to lose from this and the union of FOTA is put under strain.
A £30 million F1 team only needs 250 employees, it could only afford that many, and so what you will probably see is more teams doing what Red Bull does and owning two. McLaren will be looking at this, so too Ferrari. I wouldn’t be surprised to se jean Todt and his son popping up fairly soon with an F1 team and at least three of the GP2 teams could afford to go F1 racing on that basis.
There will now be a rush of teams coming into F1, like the US F1 outfit and a waiting list will develop of wealthy people who want in. It will create a market.
And Ross Brawn, who was given the Honda team plus a subsidy for year one, is now sitting on an asset worth tens of millions of pounds.