The latest development in the stand-off over the budget cap and new regulations for 2010 is that Toyota’s John Howett has told the Italian media that if the conditions for competing in 2010 do not change, then “Toyota will not sign up for the world championship.”
Howett went on to say that the company was evaluating a return to Le Mans 24 hours among other possible alternatives.
Howett is the number two in FOTA, the team’s organisation. He is vice-president working underneath Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo. It would appear that Howett is articulating what all the other manufacturers are thinking. Is is also dangerous because it gives Toyota and other manufacturers the option, should they wish to take it, of leaving the sport and blaming these new rules.
They are certainly weighing up the possibility of a block move to not enter the 2010 championship. I can’t see how they could possibly take McLaren, Williams and Brawn with them on that, however.
Things are coming to a head very quickly and a meeting has been organised between Montezemolo and FIA president Max Mosley for this week. Things need calming down and it appears that Bernie Ecclestone has been extremely proactive this weekend, working the motorhomes, looking for a compromise. The manufacturers are united, but it is difficult for them to pull all the independent teams with them, many of whom depend on the budget cap for survival.
Ferrari are vehemently opposed to the budget cap concept. FIA president Max Mosley said last weekend that Formula 1 could survive without Ferrari, but not too many people in the sport agree with that view, including Bernie Ecclestone. And Ferrari do have ‘special rights’, as Montezemolo alluded to in his letter to Mosley of 28th April. We may be about to find out how they might be exercised.
Basically what Montezemolo was referring to is that Ferrari has a say in the rule making process until 2012. This is why the FIA rules for 2010 contain a ‘second tier’ alongside the budget cap, allowing teams like Ferrari, should they wish to, to run the same rules as currently.
The problem, as Patrick Head said this weekend, is that the budget capped teams cars would be faster because of the technical freedoms they would enjoy. This must be a key area of negotiation.
There was a team principals’ meeting on the situation today and negotiations are set to continue with Mosley this week and next. It is not in anyone’s interest for this to get legal, it could cause huge damage and would delay planning for next year which would cause chaos. It needs to be sorted out between principals.
One thing is for sure, Ferrari will not do what they did in 2005, when they caved in and signed up with Ecclestone and Mosley, thereby ending the threatened GPMA manufacturer breakaway series.
If the teams can come up quickly with a serious proposal for cutting costs down to a sustainable level in the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how the FIA reacts.