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Will F1 pull itself back from the brink today?
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Will F1 pull itself back from the brink today?
Posted By:   |  22 May 2009   |  7:38 am GMT  |  40 comments

This is going to be a big day. The F1 team owners meet this morning to discuss their next move in the escalating row over the 2010 budget cap rules.

By the end of today, the teams will really have to make their minds up whether they are going to put an entry in before the deadline of May 29th.

At the moment, there is every indication that Ferrari are determined to stick to their guns and if nothing changes they will not put an entry in for 2010. They are backed up by other manufacturers including Renault and Toyota. I sense that BMW are sitting on the fence a little bit, having given indications that they would put their own statement out along the lines of Ferrari and Renault last week, but the statement never came and you keep hearing that the view of the race team management on this issue is different from what the board of the car company thinks.

The FIA is sticking to its guns too, determined to drive through the budget cap, but possibly able to make some concessions around what is included and what is not.

One point I heard last night from Mark Webber, which hasn’t been said much before is that Ferrari is important to F1 for all the other teams because racing against them adds prestige to their own team. Without Ferrari, in other words, F1 would be struggling for a reference point. From the way McLaren and Mercedes are behaving at the moment, they may be well placed to benefit from a manufacturer withdrawal from F1 and so would become one of the few reference points for the teams who would continue, along with Williams. But it is too soon for Brawn, for example, to be seen as the reference point for F1, despite their strong form this season.

As for the new teams coming in, I Sport’s Paul Jackson has given an interview to Autosport website where he talks very confidently about coming into F1 with his team, which has been very successful in GP2. His is precisely the kind of team which used to make the step up, as Jordan did and Sauber in the past. He contends that F1 is for teams like his and that the manufacturers’ place is as an engine supplier, as it was largely until the late 1990s.
“F1 always was small teams. If they named GP2 Formula 1 and put it on the TV, how many people would know? Only the real hardcore enthusiasts,” I’m not sure I agree fully with this, as you cannot unknow what you know, but he makes a good point.

All eyes on Flavio Briatore’s boat for the first of the day’s meetings.

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40 Comments
  1. Gary Davidson says:

    Reference Paul Jackson’s point about engine suppliers, is it even possible for new engine suppliers to enter the sport with the engine freeze currently in action?

  2. martin_tf says:

    I think it will all be sorted out eventually. Its the usual F1 practice to play out a drama in the press and then reach a compromise at the last minute. Must keep the sponsors happy to get all this extra coverage too.

  3. Adie says:

    It’s worrying though isn’t it James.

    Something needs to be sorted, I’d hate to see Ferrari ‘take their ball and go home’ – but I fear they’re backing themselves into a situation they’re not going to get out of without seriously losing face.

    I can’t see a breakaway series getting off the ground this late into the year – and it would, in my opinion be the death of the sport.

    Very few single seat categories enjoy any level of coverage halfway close to F1. A1GP is good in its own way, but it hardly sets the world on fire.

    The teams need to look at the CART / IRL split for any indication as to what would likely happen in a breakaway was formed.

    Adie

  4. Colin S says:

    To answer the headline question; yes of course it will. Ferrari needs to be racing other big teams as much as the big teams need to be racing Ferrari.

  5. Richard Mee says:

    This week merc high performance engines and Renault F1 have both announced significant lay-offs. Why they would do that now if they weren’t gearing for a scaled down F1 operation in future?

    I would question how loyal Renault is to the Ferrari stance.

  6. jw1980 says:

    As many people are probably aware the BBC show classic GPs on red button/internet prior to each GP. Some of the races from the 1980s are great where more often than not a team won with a Cosworth engine in the back and manufacturer involvement was limited. And Ferrari did not win a driver’s championship between 1980 and 1999!
    As I have said many times before would we miss the departure of BMW, Renault and Toyota? For example BMW achieved much more success as an engine supplier to Williams.
    When you talk about F1 heritage then Ferrari have the most. However, teams like Williams and McLaren have much more than the aforementioned manufacturers. Personally I would prefer a full grid of 26 cars with Ferrari in it but if BMW, Toyota and Renault leave then so be it. Teams like Red Bull, Brawn and Williams will step up to the challenge (indeed they already have) and take on Ferrari and McLaren. It’s my belief that most fans prefer drivers (with exception of Ferrari) and therefore if the racing is great people will still watch.
    How many races have Toyota and BMW won between them? One fairly lucky win in Canada last year….

  7. Northern Munkee says:

    +1 Jackson is correct. Like Jordan, Sauber before taking F1 back to the 90′s, I can get with that. The racing wasn’t always the best, but it always the same.

    +1, while understand where Webber is coming from, if Ferrari go, no they won’t be forgotten, rose tinted, but they will soon slide out of the conversation, I’d say a season or two tops, assuming they don’t keep giving it the will they won’t they comeback or sniping from wherever they are.

    +1 Becoming ‘the reference point’ I also reckon this could be a reason why McLaren has been very quiet. McLaren could be rehabilitated from bad boy in FIA eyes, to blue eyed boy in 6mths.

  8. rpaco says:

    [Quote]From the way McLaren and Mercedes are behaving at the moment, they may be well placed to benefit from a manufacturer withdrawal from F1 and so would become one of the few reference points for the teams who would continue,[/Quote]

    You seem to forget that McLaren are also manufacturers of road cars, at present in low volume, but I am sure that Ron has aspirations to increase the volume by many hundreds of percent, vis the new cheaper models in development.

    McLaren in LMS would also be good. I am pretty sure that they would have also sided with the “manufacturers” had they not been on best behaviour doing community service.

  9. MartinWR says:

    Basically it’s up to the poodles, the manufacturer teams whose interests are the very opposite of Ferrari’s, but who, nevertheless have been coralled to side with Montezemolo in his silly and childish power struggle with Max Mosley.

    Ferrari wants to be able to go on winning by gaining maybe a second a lap at the cost of an extra three hundred million pounds a year, every year. But if your Toyota Starlets, or whatever it is you churn out for the masses these days, aren’t selling, then the last thing you need is to continue Formula One’s current demented race to Carey Street.

    It may be that Max made a tactical mistake by saying that Ferrari wouldn’t leave F1. That was certainly true at the time, and we all knew it was, but to rub their noses in real world stuff like that seems to have unhinged them to an even greater degree than before. Hence the unholy alliance with the poodles, Toyota, Renault, et al., an alliance which will inevitably shortly self-destruct from its own internal contradictions, if it ever achieves its aim of wrecking the governance of Formula One.

  10. Alexis says:

    I find it ironic that Ferrari were against a 2 tier championship, yet Ferrari have always been favoured by the FIA financially.

    There’s always been a 2 tier championship – Ferrari and everybody else.

  11. Trev Smith says:

    Formula 1 has become a complete comedy. Whilst you have that heady mixture of ego and greed the formula cant move on.
    There does need to be change, but at what cost to the people that watch and pay.. ?

    If I wanted to watch a cheap standardized formula, there are plenty around and plenty of cheap seats to site and watch the race.

    F1 should be the absolute peak of technology, and thats not cheap. There is only so much polishing a “henry 3rd” can take before people realise that it is, in fact, a henry!

  12. Nitin says:

    James, I have been reading that Bernie has also threatened Ferrari over this fiasco, saying he would sue if they pull out, this can be true, however can you add some more to this new direction!

  13. Jonathan Schutte says:

    I’m a huge Ferrari fan (have been since I was 8), but I must say that their press release stating that with teams like iSport etc. coming into F1, we may as well call it Formula GP3, was a bit harsh. Yes, iSport doesn’t yet have the heritage that Ferrari has, but then again neither did Williams when they joined F1 in the late 1970′s. Today they are 1 of the staples in F1, with a great heritage of winning (9 Constructors Titles is a testimony to their success). The flip side is that they would never have had that kind of success without manufacturer support in the form of engines.

    F1 is at a definite crossroads… Now we have to wait and see which path each team chooses. If Ferrari goes, then alot of their supporters will too. F1 will have to do a lot to win them over and try to keep them interested. I should know… I’m 1 of them.

  14. Dominic J says:

    I have to agree with iSport here.

    Whilst Ferrari will be sorely missed, so were Lotus for a year or two. As long as several different prestigous engines remain, and competition at the front is tight (and not too many of the leading drivers leave at once) then F1 will still be F1.

    What I don’t understand is the FIA’s unwillingness to allow 14 or 15 teams to compete for 26 starting places. Qualifying meaning qualifying, not just “determining the order” would be the greatest argument for cost-capping, yet they choose not to permit it (as part of a powerplay, to force the teams to sign up quickly).

  15. benno says:

    They joke on BBC last nite: Who will be the first to walk the plank!

  16. Q says:

    Midnight mass for the BBC

  17. Big Fred says:

    “You know who” has already got his beady eye on Flab’s ship through the periscope of his U-Boat. Achtung Flabby…

    On a serious point, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the budget would be policed. I think the budget cap (level we can argue about) and the greater freedom for engineers is an ideal situation to bring more innovation back into F1.

    F1 should be about innovation not the continual refinement which we’ve had over recent years.

    I just don’t have any faith whatsoever that the budgets can be policed and I fear more and more season’s will end up being decided in the courts.

    We’ve seen many financial scandals and indeed the recent financial meltdown where overly complicated and intricate accounting has hidden monies off balance sheets. I suspect many of the manufacturers have done it in their road car businesses to avoid tax where possible. Why would F1 be any different?

    The will to win at F1 has always meant teams bending the rules so why wouldn’t teams have “hidden” resources.

    James, your thoughts please.

  18. Do we think that some of the other companies are using the dispute to pull out of F1 for another reason – it’s too expensive.
    Ironic, given that the proposals were introduced to keep costs down…

  19. Tim says:

    It’s iSport by the way :)

  20. monktonnik says:

    James, I sort of agree with Paul Jackson that the sport doesn’t need the car manufacturers running full racing operations, and that the real prestige of the sport rests around teams like Williams and Maclaren. Not withstanding Ferrari, I don’t think F1 would be significantly worse off if we lost the manufacturers and they were replaced by smaller privateer teams.

    Personally I have always followed the driver rather than the team. It is an oversimplification, but I would suggest that that the public at large decide their loyalties based on a) nationallty and b) performance at any given time. Apart from the Tifossi do we really follow the teams?

    Do you feel that the landscape of F1 has really changed all that much, and if so, when did this happen? Has the inclusion of Renault, BMW and Toyota really made that much of a difference to the fans?

  21. Rackboy says:

    Leave it to Webber to tell it like it is. What a mess this whole thing is!

    Where’s Stoddy when you need him? If he was still around he’d be kicking heads on both sides of the fence…keeping the monstrous egos of the players in this debacle in check.

    I think this’ll sort itself out. Bernie, Max, the Manufacturers and the independent teams need each other more than ever to keep the pinnacle of motorsport alive in this econonomic climate. They’re all very aware there’s a lot at stake…so we get the politics and threats.

    Ferrari won’t leave.

    Bernie will make Max cave enough to keep the current teams happy. Hopefully he’ll bring a few new teams into the fold without compromising the quality of the competition.

  22. Mattw says:

    Question James.

    McLaren have not been making any noise on the cost cap. I just wonder if perhaps they are contemplating something radical – like maybe entering two teams?

    Would this be allowed?

    They would need two separate chassis designs of course – but there must be savings they could make due to scale (sharing the rent of the facility across two teams for example, or using common components)

    Just a thought.

  23. Kenny says:

    “If they named GP2 Formula One and put it on TV, how many people would know?”

    This guy is right up Max’s street. He’s in.

  24. floydthebarber71 says:

    i find it amusing that *budget* cap talks are taking place on someone’s huge yacht in monaco.

  25. Wen says:

    Ferrari cannot leave. They are the most recognized in F1 and is very much the ‘soul’ of F1. It is true that the sport may be able to continue, but F1 would lose a lot of spectators. Above that, it would be even harder to attract new fans. I remember watching my first race at the age of 11 on television. It was the first Malaysian gp, which happened to be where I come from. I had no knowledge of f1 at that point and only stumbled upon it when my dad said it was the first f1 race in malaysia. The first thing I asked was if there was a Ferrari in it as that was the only race car company I knew at that age. Ferrari is a legend in racing that every child and adult recognizes. Needless to say, I have been hooked on F1 since then, thanks to ferrari. It would be a huge loss to F1 if they were to leave and I will still continue watching F1 even if they leave. But I just can’t help feeling that there would be a big chunk missing from it.

  26. David S says:

    As James has previously indicated most seem to back Ferrari at the moment so to redress the balance here are my top tips for Bernie and Max to protect our beloved F1….

    - Bernie and Max should sign-up Monaco, Spa, Suzuka, Delhi, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Bahrain, Montreal, Sao Paulo, Paris, Silverstone and 2 North American venues as exclusive F1 venues..(i think we can all guess where Monza and Rome will pledge allegiance…)
    - Someone in the FIA make sure the F1 trademark is protected for another 25 years…..what are Ferrari going to do call it Formula Punto or SuperGP….???
    - Bernie smoothes through a deal for Danica Patrick and Catherine Legge to join new F1 team, FemaleF1….
    - The FIA persuade l’automobile club de l’oest to have diesel as the fuel of choice for sportscar racing in the long-term…..
    - Reform the Cooper and Vanwall marques so re-establishing a link to the ’50′s and 60′s…
    - Radical redistribution of funds between teams, engine manufacturers, FIA and circuits….this can happen just as Ferrari exit stage left……

    Just some of the options open to Formula One to protect it from the Red Barons….

  27. MartinWR says:

    As today’s Times article has pointed out, the most important outcome of Ferrari’s legal action against the FIA was that it validated the legal commitment they made to stay in F1 for the next three years. Not simply that Ferrari lost the action itself. Oh, dear.

    All this makes it look as though F1′s spoilt brat, the team that can only compete by throwing three or four hundred million at Formula One every year, are just as clueless in their choice of legal advisers as in their appearances in motor races nowadays. Ross Brawn come back, all is forgiven. Remember how they blew the legal action on the diffuser issue through an attempted character assassination of Brawn in court? Clueless.

    This latest court case has well and truly blown up in their faces, as the above shows. Big mistake (another one). Unfortunately this makes things even more difficult for FOTA, because Ferrari have boxed themselves into a corner in a so badly that it is impossible to see how they can gracefully cave in. If that doesn’t put FOTA in one hell of a quandary, I don’t know what. And on top of that, Max is, after all, right.

  28. jed says:

    I think a lot of people are missing the point in this latest F1 controversy. There are a lot of criticisms against Ferrari.

    To me this is not a fight between Ferrari and the FIA but a fight between all FOTA teams against the FIA. From recent press statements by teams like Williams and others claiming that they knew of Ferrari’s special veto right and had no problems with it and that it was totally ok, is an indication that the teams are united against the FIA.

    The main issue here too is not the budget rule but more of how the rule was arrived at. Allowing the budget cap rule to take effect would set a very dangerous precedent in F1. This would mean that the technical regulations can be arbitrarily changed soley based on the opinion of the FIA president. This method is totally unacceptable to all the teams.

    No matter how good the intentions of the FIA are in making the new technical regulations or even assuming that this new regulations are the best ever F1 regulations made, the fact that it was made hastily and in a very arbitrary manner, the new regulations are unacceptable.

    Moreover, all the manufacturers worked hard and are still working hard on how to cut costs. All these work seemed to have been ignored by the FIA. FOTA gave some major cost cutting plans, which were given to the FIA where the FIA made sure or at least made it appear publicly that they did not even take into consideration the Suggestions of FOTA and just hastily come up with their own regulations coupled with a fast approaching deadline for the teams to submit theor 2010 entries. These actions by the FIA is what hurts and scares the teams the most. Totalitarian rule will not be tolerated by the F1 teams.

    Mr. Montezemolo is the president of FOTA and the head of Ferrari. Now with Mr. Motezemolo’s position in FOTA and Ferrari’s prestige in F1, the teams in all probability asked them to lead they way in this controversy for and on behalf of the rest of the teams.

    On this issue, it is Ferrari fighting for the welfare of all the active teams in F1, which incidentally is also for the best interest of the sport itself

    Ferrari is sacrificing the very reason why their company was made by Enzo, which is to go grand prix racing, just so that F1 can be properly governed.

    It is very noble of Ferrari to do what they are doing now.

  29. sean says:

    some people are missing the point that ferrari are making is about the governace of the sport .Max has railroaded these changes through with no consultation,put it into relation to your own work place if your boss tried to change the contract you are on without consultation how would you feel,I think ferrari is justified in jumping up and down.As for Toyota well who knows what’s going on there but they are only in NASCAR in the US having pulled out of all other forms of motorsport to concentrate on F1.To withdraw with no real success would be a massive loss of face something the japanese do not like to do.I hope this garbage of a season is sorted soon and we can just go racing and just from my own personal level as I have corporate passes for melbourne and I aint going if Ferrari arent there and I love Melbourne.

  30. David S says:

    Jed’s earlier comments ‘It is very noble of Ferrari to do what they are doing now’ made me laugh out loud.

    With respect you are naive to think that they act in any way other than to protect their own interests. They are the masters at it.

    From Enzo, through Todt to Montezemolo they all show a ruthless, cunning streak worthy of any hollywood blockbuster. The current figurehead, Dominicali is probably the ‘straightest’ Ferrari guy in 30 years but his buttons are pushed by the godfather Luca.

    Patrick Head reckons his recollection of today’s meeting and the current FOTA position is very different with only Toyota in Ferrari’s corner.

    Smoke and Mirrors everywhere….

    let ‘em leave…it WON’T HAPPEN..Why? Because it’s not in Ferrari’s interest to leave F1..simple…and on that basis and that alone it won’t happen.

    Diesel Ferrari’s modelled on Le Mans racers don’t sell in Dubai too well…

  31. Mike Phiri says:

    With all the feverish goings on. Has anyone stopped to think why the FIA don’t let market forces dictate the spending in F1….or is Max creating a crisis as a trump card to use on seeking re-election later? Its been used by many a politician before

  32. It is possible, as long as the FIA satisfy themselves that the engine the new supplier is bringing into F1 is within the performance range of the current engines. In theory, it is impossible to bring in a better or worse engine than currently exists.

  33. MartinWR says:

    Further to my comments above, I am more than ever convinced that Toyota’s stance as one of the poodles tagging along on a leash behind Ferrari is motivated by the desire to find an excuse for exiting F1. That excuse will be that their oh-so delicate sensibilities have been hurt by the mental cruelty inflicted on them by the regulator of the sport, Mr Mosley. When he told Toyota what the rules were, that is. Damaged their poor little egos.

    The Toyota F1 team are the “perennial under-achievers” of Formula One, probably largely as a result, I am afraid, of being built in the wrong country. They have disposed of literally stupefying quantities of dosh over the years, and what have they to show for it? Nowt, is what. Almost certainly the team are under notice to produce some kind of a result this season, any result, or they are finished. And that is in addition to the huge financial pressure of the recession on the parent company. What better then, than to find a face-saving excuse for getting out such as “boo, hoo, Max was nasty to me”.

    Pretty lame, but when you are obviously desperate for something, anything, to save face …….

  34. Kenny says:

    Richard- Renault’s racing engine division has been in very bad financial shape for some time, and I think the layoffs would have occured no matter what was going on elsewhere.

    You may have a point about Mercedes, though.

  35. Northern Munkee says:

    Yes. People seem to have forgotten their were strong rumours toyota would follow Honda out the door, there questions over renault and flav has been moaning about a limited budget during the DDD row.

  36. Wen says:

    You are forgetting red bull already have 2 teams in F1

  37. McLaren could have two teams as long as each designed and built its own car. The customer car arrangement that has allowed Toro Rosso to have a Red Bull will end at the end of 2009 whatever regulations are in place because of what was agreed between Force India and Red Bull outside the arbitration court. Other savings could certainly be made, though.

  38. Northern Munkee says:

    Well exactly. MM’s pitch would have been better if he had said, can we put on as good or better “show” for a fraction of the price? So long as they are as fast cars (fairly easy, they keep changing rules to control speeds), it’s marketed and promoted through terrestrial tv, then “they” (sponsors, drivers, engineers, glamour)will come.

  39. Mike W says:

    with moorage at a cozy $30,000 per space

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