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Williams ousted as FOTA unity damaged
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Williams ousted as FOTA unity damaged
Posted By:   |  27 May 2009   |  1:34 pm GMT  |  0 comments

At a meeting of FOTA teams in London today it was decided to suspend the membership of the Williams team, after they broke ranks and submitted an entry to the 2010 world championship.

“Fota’s decision, although regrettable, is understandable,” said team boss Frank Williams. “As a company whose only business is F1 with obligations to our partners and employees entering was unquestionable. In addition we are legally obliged under our contract with FOM and the FIA to participate in the world championship until the end of 2012.”

Williams acknowledged that the suspension of the team is temporary, pending ongoing negotiations with the FIA over the rules for next season. FOTA had no choice really and although their discussions concern the longer term issues which will also concern Williams, it is a sign of the irritation of the other teams that one of their number has been picked off, thus breaking the ‘all for one and one for all’ spirit which has made FOTA a force in F1 politics since its foundation last September.

It remains to be seen whether any of the other teams who signed up to a similar deal to Williams in 2005 feel that they are legally obliged to submit an entry by Friday’s deadline, particularly Force India.

The Williams team has been one of the staunchest supporters of the idea of the budget cap and believes that the proposed £40 million level is about right.

Meanwhile talks continue.

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  1. Kirk says:

    Lets just hope this dispute can be cleared up once and for all this week – sick and tired of this budget cap saga.

  2. Mon Pen says:

    Suspending Williams makes sense, it strengthens FOTA’s hand as they are still unified.

    Look at it this way, as you point out Williams only exist to participate in F1 (same as Brawn and Force India, who I thought may follow suit but keeping Brawn on board is politically sensible given they are currently top of the tree) so it’s an honest and at first sight a non politically motivated act to sign up. If nobody else does the FIA will look really silly if 2010 becomes Formula Williams. Not that they are bothered about looking silly, viz the Indy 2005 fiasco, but there you go.

    Frank Williams has been around long enough to know how many beans make 40 million.

  3. rpaco says:

    This is scary, someone is reading what I write and making it happen.
    rpaco given one million pounds sterling by Bernie as prize for insight. (bet that one doesn’t work ;-))

  4. muckymuck says:

    I find it interesting that Williams adds at the end of their PR “In addition, we are legally obliged under our contract with FOM and the FIA to participate in the World Championship until the end of 2012.”

    This statement comes off as a jab at FOTA. Simply stating that they submitted their entry because F1 is their main business is reason enough, but to remind everyone of their contract obligation undermines FOTA’s efforts to negotiate. If the contract is a key reason, then that would be one of the first reason they would state. The way the PR was written ( “In addition” makes it sound like an after thought) it comes off as a little underhanded.

  5. I remember when F1 was about racing, driving and cars.

  6. jed says:

    While other teams are fighting for the future of F1 and it’s proper governance, which is the only way forward, Williams choose to support the dictatorship of Max Moseley’s FIA. Williams is after their own self-serving interests. I guess they believe that without the other teams they will be the best team on F1. This selfish motives will come back to haunt them in the future.

    While drastically cutting the costs of F1 is noble, the way the new rules are being forced down the throats of the teams is not. The 2010 regulations was made in an irregular manner and therefore is a “fruit of a poisonous tree”. And this is the reason why all the other teams are opposed to the rules. In fact they are willing to risk everything for a more democratic way of governance. The other teams are doing this for the fans like you and me.

    Williams did not only betray FOTA but all of the F1 fans. I am really very dissapointed in them right now.

  7. Bradley says:

    James, the entry form as it currently stands obliges entrants to select one of the following options:

    “We hereby apply to enter the FIA Formula One World Championship Uunder the standard regulations/under the cost cap regulations (delete as appropriate) and we undertake to participate in each and every Event :”

    Do you know which regulations Williams have entered under?

  8. Howard Hughes says:

    If the rival team leaders are as shrewd as we all suspect them to be, they must surely have known Williams would never be in a position to hold out.

  9. Andy says:

    Why did Williams not wait until Friday to put their entry in? I would imagine that on Friday, Force India, Brawn, and maybe more will follow suit.

    Could the question what deal has Williams got from FOM/FIA for breaking rank?!

  10. GP says:

    I don’t quite understand Williams’ decision to submit an entry for the 2010 championship.

    I’m not a lawyer but from what I know the FIA has broken its own rules by unilaterally publishing new technical regulations. Furthermore, I think that a number of the other FOTA members have legal counsel of their own regarding the legality of their refusal to submit their entries. With the admission that Ferrari was given special treatment, both financial and technical (veto), by the FIA and FOM how will the EU legislators view the role of these two parties, especially the FIA? I don’t see the FIA in such a strong position anymore.

    I hope Frank has not “pulled a Ferrari” by agreeing to a special and secret deal in exchange for breaking ranks with FOTA. The old divide and conquer strategy that has made Max and Bernie so successful.

    However, I suspect Frank and Patrick know they will be accepted back in the club without any kind of penalty when matters are resolved.

  11. James, did you see this?

    Tony George reportedly ousted as IMS chief
    Wed. May 27 – 2009
    Anthony Schoettle – aschoettle@ibj.com
    IBJ staff
    Tony George was voted out as chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last night by the IMS board of directors after 20 years in charge, SpeedTV.com is reporting.

    IMS board members include George’s mother, Mari; his sisters Josie, Nancy and Kathy; attorney Jack Snyder and George himself.

    George, 49, will reportedly retain his position as CEO of the Indy Racing League, which he founded in 1996. George is the grandson of Tony Hulman, who rescued the Speedway from probable demise in 1945.

    A racing industry source told IBJ that Tony George’s mother and sisters became fed up with the financial losses incurred by the Speedway and Indy Racing League.

    George’s dismissal comes less than one month after his wife, Laura, was removed from her job as staff adviser at the IMS.

    IMS officials were not available to comment this morning, but sources said that the IMS board hopes to talk to H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, one of the foremost promoters of NASCAR and former president of Lowe’s Motor Speedway in North Carolina, about a possible management position.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/bruce_martin/05/27/Tony_George/?eref=sircrc

    George ousted by own family as Indy Motor Speedway CEO

  12. Steve says:

    How childish! ‘We aren’t going to let you play in our team any more’…..

    You couldn’t write the script to the soap opera this season could you…

    Button leading the championship
    A new team leading the constructors
    The red team so far behind the leaders… but catching up…
    Lewis starting from the back
    All the top teams threatening to withdraw because the FIA have proposed them spending less money

    Etc etc….

    I will wake up in a moment I’m sure!!
    Keep up the good work James very entertaining read

    Steve

  13. James Bond says:

    “‘all for one and one for all’” unfortunately doesn’t exist in real world…
    It’s more like “every man for himslef”…
    Decision of Williams is expected.
    Let’s hope they all find some agreement…

  14. Craig says:

    These F1 politics are doing my head in!!! Everyone is moaning about on team dominating all the time. When Shuey went to Ferrari it took the team from ’96 till the year 2000 to win the championship. They earned the right to dominate the sport. They put in the hard yards and got the rewards. Then everyone complains “It’s not good for the sport to have one team dominating” but instead of the other teams stepping up, they make rule changes to bring Ferrari back to everyones level (referring to “04 season). It defeats the purpose of being the most elite championship in the world every time we step backwards through needless rule changes. If rule changes are neccesary then they shouldn’t be announced untill after the current season has ended. Then you don’t have teams (Brawn) getting a years headstart on everyone else. Especially when teams are fighting for the championship still need to develop the current seasons cars. Thats all I have to say about that. Apart from Max. Go home!! Stay there!! PLEASE!!

  15. rpaco says:

    Ok looking deeper into the budget cap, I found this and maybe it will help change some points of view:

    This is from the F1 forum which is quoting a Guardian article:
    <<
    An interesting article over at the Guardian has an outline of just how much debt was assigned to Delta3, the venture capital group that helped CVC acquire Formula 1, and how much interest the team are sating each year. While this interest is assumed to be manageable until its maturity in 2014, the teams are asked to cut costs by Max Mosley’s FIA at a time when their share of the revenue is reduced by the debt load and repayment of that debt.

    It is also suggested that Bernie Ecclestone himself has directed Max in these cost-cutting measures to force teams to reduce their overhead and perhaps allow more revenue to pay down the debt load of CVC. CVC has stated all along that they are a long-term partner and it is in Bernie’s best interest to help Delta3 and CVC remain solvent and on a path to debt elimination. It appears the revenues have been up in F1 as of late and this helps. the new circuits in Asia and the Middle East have been [squeezed] [mod] for as much sanctioning dollars as possible and the Canadian Grand Prix as well as many European races have been canceled in favor of high-paying exotic locations. If you are looking to sate the debt load your buyer incurred during the buyout of your interest, then extrapolating as much money out of the system makes sense. It also may make sense to cram down on minority holders, read teams, in order to get their earn-outs as low as possible, maximize profit and pay off debt.
    To those ends, it seems understandable that the teams would be perplexed at having to fund the entire acquisition of F1 by CVC with their share of profits. The teams would not be favourable to paying someone else’s debt and a cost reduction in the sport is really only understandable if the teams can’t raise the cash to support their operations.

  16. Roger says:

    No real surprises here. Williams will do whatever Moseley wants. F1 is their main income and that’s only backed up with [Mosley's] F2 project. He can hurt them a lot.

  17. George says:

    To be honest this was always going to happen when Ferrari and co decided to make this a FOTA issue. The independants dont have as much room to manouvre as they’re tied to the sport, and Ferrari have made it perfectly clear what they think of small teams on their website.

  18. Don says:

    Hi James,

    Fab blog as always! :)

    What is your gut feeling about this whole budget cap… both sides want the upper hand… will there be any winners?

    Personally I think its a shame to see the internal bickering been dragged into the public domain… it’sdamaging the sport and distracting fans from enjoying the spectacle of F1 racing.

    I just nope neither side does anything rash in the next few months… if Ferrari or any of the other big teams aren’t racing next year… what else can I watch on Sunday afternoon after reading the Sunday papers!!!

  19. Roberto says:

    James,

    Somehow history tends to repeat itself:

    From Wikipedia:

    “The FISA-FOCA war was a political battle contested throughout the early 1980s by the two representative organizations in Formula One motor racing, the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) and the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA). The battle boiled during the late 1970s and early 1980s and came to a head when the racing teams affiliated with FOCA, an equivalent to a racing team union, boycotted the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix.”

    This is a differente era, with much more business and ego in the middle than before, but at the end you can call it budget cap, new regulations, etc it is a power strugle, i think Max Mosley should give up a bit and leave the teams and the commercial rights holder decide what they can do best with their money.

    If not maybe Max Mosley can go from board to board and try to sell his Formula Jr. o GP4 with the Budget Cap

  20. Henri Toivonen says:

    Let’s cut through the bs :

    1) Let the teams which have more money spend it
    as they see fit. The principles of Darwin, or of
    Keynes, do not involve “budget caps”.

    2) Money alone is no guarantee of supremacy ( see
    “Brawn vs. Ferrari, 2009 season ).

    3) The money doesn’t come from Bernie or Max. The
    money comes from people who buy products.

    4) It is painfully obvious that the overwhelming
    majority of the people who buy products and thus
    enable F1 to continue existing are NOT in favor of
    the budget cuts, whether they are fans of Ferrari
    or not.

    5) Bernie and Max need to go. I am now busy sticking pins in voodoo dolls which bear close likenesses to each of them. Let’s hope it works.

  21. MichaelC says:

    Despite an outward sign of unity there is a fundamental divide within FOTA. Some teams exist only to compete in F1. The talk is about this or that manufacturer quiting but that isn’t a real option for all the teams. What I wonder is what advantage those teams think they gain by towing the FOTA line?
    Manufacturer teams have come and gone in F1, that is the reality of the situation and it must be difficult for the independent teams to have faith they won’t be left high and dry by the commercial pressures on the manufacturer teams.

  22. Phil says:

    Slightly misleading headline, James! Williams have been “suspended” rather than “ousted”. This implies they will be allowed back reasonably soon.

    In any case, FOTA’s position is largely unchanged and will still be so even if the other teams who share Williams’s predicament also sign up on Friday. Nobody with any sense would believe that the likes of Williams would put their very existence on the line. The remainder of FOTA will have been completely aware of this and prepared for it.

    I think the only reason the other teams are surprised and possibly annoyed is that Williams sent in their entry a day or two early. Clearly Williams are up to something but given their history of fierce independence, it’s not unusual for them.

  23. Sig says:

    Divide and rule.

  24. James Allen says:

    I saw that but he’s denied it in an IMS statement this evening

  25. James Allen says:

    No, but I’ll find out. Imagine it’s the capped version, but as things are progressing the other version might well be deleted by the FIA anyway

  26. Howard Hughes says:

    Not even in the days of Ben Hur was it merely about the racing… Certainly it’s never been solely about that – even in the inter-war years it was all about national politics and pride. Post-1945 it’s always been about ego, money, rivalry; and it’s great!

    The ex-editor of Motorsport told me a story once about how Frank Williams (whom I’ve met, and is every bit as charismatic as you’d expect – but I wonder how many know that his perennial nickname in the sport during the 70s was W***** Williams…) once sold the very pair of trousers he was wearing to a chap his size in a garage en route to a race meeting, in order to raise the entry money.

    If you’d tapped his shoulder while he was making his pitch to this complete stranger in the queue who happened to be of similar height and girth, and said, ‘Frank old chap, why are you doing this? All that counts is the racing, driving and cars!’ he’d doubtless have slapped you and said, F*** off, I’m trying to raise a couple of bob here!’

    Basically, always follow the money…

  27. monktonnik says:

    intensive driving, that was a long time ago, you are showing your age ;)

    Personally I love all the politics, I really do.

  28. Antoine says:

    I know how you feel :-(

  29. Darren Fellows says:

    Ah the issue here is not that the other teams are still “Developing” the cars, They have been out-smarted plain and simple, the Rules were given, all teams look at the rules differently unfortunatley Brawn (And the others were more clever (This isnt a dig to the others)).

    The Double Deck diffuser isnt as dominant as reported (We have already seen this over the last couple races (And also touching on the win or RBR in Shanghai)) I personally dont think if Brawn were still Honda they would be where they are, yeah the cars good, but that Mercedes engine is all round a lot better than its Honda counterpart (See the record of 3 wins with the same engine).

    I think we would have always seen Williams break rank due to they are solely F1 based. I think we need an end to this A.S.A.P though as it is dragging the sport through the dirt again and thats all we need after the lasy few years !

  30. Richard Mee says:

    This is the killer point for me Rpaco and you’ve nailed it. The “reactionary panic” about current costs from Max that we don’t see reflected by any of the teams.

    Surely if it were so ominous the guys that actually get their wallets out each week to pay for the stuff they need – ie teams would be onboard. Only the lower teams support the cost-cut out of self interest at not having such a budget disadvantage or not having to work quite so tirelessly to get hold of every last sponsor dollar.

    Why though is there a seeming reluctance from the media to question these commercial aspects more? Has Bernie threatened a blanket ban on any media operation that chooses to do so? It may well be the case that there is nothing that can be done to untie the arrangements before 2014 but at the very least they should be common knowledge to all fans around the world. They are an essential part of explaining to casual fans why this sport is bouncing all over the place.

    The elephant in the room is that this is all being driven by an agenda that is beyond the teams themselves – they have been reduced to expendable bit-parts in a wider money making scheme and that for this reason [mod] it stinks.

  31. Roberto says:

    I posted something similar here last night, they are gambling hard on a champiomship without the big ones so they can collect the pieces, it is a shame because long time ago Ferrari was Ferrari, Mclaren was Mclaren but Williams was still a team to beat, but somehow they never managed to grow to develop their operation at the same rate of the rest, even with a huge BMW backing for quite some time.

  32. Antoine says:

    Nice peace Jed

  33. Kirk says:

    How can you say that? It was obvious that after all Sir Frank Williams has done to keep his team running over the last few years – even after many years where the team was working in the red – he wasn’t going to let it go down the pan just because of a battle between the egos in the FIA and FOTA. I’m all for the resolution of this, and I wish the FIA would work with FOTA on a solution soon, but I would never dare to criticise Williams for doing what they need to do to keep racing and fullfilling their contractual obligations.

    Ferrari, Toyota and Renault are right now pushing FOTA into doing what is in their best interests – and therefore they should at least understand and respect that Williams has to do the same.

  34. Darren Fellows says:

    Sorry your second point isn’t valid, Brawn’s Car was/is made off Honda’s money, so technically even though the car is entered as a “privateer” it is actually a manafactuer based car…

    Ok Brawn needs to add the extra parts out of privateer money but most of the R+D was done off Honda money ;)

  35. Phil says:

    The first point isn’t valid either.

    You forget that F1 is, fundamentally, a sport – and as such is a series of arbitrary rules which are supposed to be designed (or can be tweaked) so as to avoid precisely the kind of dominance that Darwinian struggle often produces. This is not to say that competition does not happen – of course it does, that’s what sport is about – but it does mean we can change the nature of it if it looks as though it’s unsustainable. There are, I suggest, few who believe the current level of spending is sustainable.

    If left alone, the well-funded teams will continue to out-spend the smaller ones until we reach the point where the smaller teams simply can’t compete at all. Some might call this survival of the fittest. I reckon it’ll just be the death of F1 as a meaningful spectacle.

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