Renault is to be the next manufacturer to declare that it will withdraw from Formula 1 if the FIA does change the rules as voted by the FIA world council on April 29th.
Following on from Toyota on Sunday and Ferrari yesterday, the French manufacturer will argue that the two tier system and the budget cap are not the basis for a sport in which it wishes to participate. BMW are expected to follow shortly.
I would not expect Mercedes to take their place in this queue, as they are more likely to keep their heads down after the recent disciplinary events in which they were involved with McLaren.
What is significant is that the manufacturers are not simply saying, “Ditch the budget cap and the two tier system or we are off.”
They are looking to go further than this and use this opportunity to question the FIA’s system of governance. Sorting out the budget cap and two tier system would be relatively straight forward once all parties agreed to talk. However the wider issue of governance is more thorny.
The manufacurers are also very concerned that the public should not get the impression that FIA president Max Mosley is the only one who is trying to cut costs in F1. They argue that many teams would not even be racing this year if the FOTA cost cuts to testing and engine use had not been agreed in December. They want to go further, but they want to be in charge of deciding how far and how quickly. And they want to keep the vital idea of technology and research, which carries across into their road cars.
Mosley’s point is that there is no time for that. The economic crisis is the trigger for all of this. He accepts that FOTA has tried to cut costs, but has two fundamental problems with their approach; the FOTA measures don’t cut costs by enough and they focus on restricting technology, rather than encouraging innovation under a ‘same for everyone’ budget cap. He sees an opportunity to redraw F1 into something more sustainable and useful.
Both sides have a point. It’s an ideological struggle which goes to the heart of what F1 stands for.
The key question here is, “Who’s benefit is this for?”
One of the key points Mosley makes is that he wants new teams to come in. The problem with the way this is evolving is that at some point the question is going to be asked whether bringing in new teams like Lola and I Sport is worth sacrificing Ferrari and the manufacturers for.
It is also worth noting that many of the independent teams who favour the budget cap, such as Williams, Force India and Brawn are currently dependent on the manufacturers for an engine.
Cosworth is on standby to provide engines should they be needed, but it is a few years since they were involved in Formula 1.