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FOTA prepares new series, will Dennis get involved?
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FOTA prepares new series, will Dennis get involved?
Posted By:   |  22 Jun 2009   |  8:07 am GMT  |  81 comments

The noises coming out of the FOTA teams on Sunday evening were quite resolute. They are not swayed by the latest suggestions from Max Mosley of fresh dialogue and are pressing ahead with preparations for a breakaway series. Currently Flavio Briatore is making the running on this, given his strong reputation as a wheeler dealer, he is being positioned as the ‘new Bernie’ in the FOTA set up.

He has been in touch with several recent F1 circuits, sounding them out, preparing the ground. Several circuits are under the control of the teams anyway, like Fuji (Toyota) and Mugello (Ferrari).

“We will have it ready in the next few weeks. We have been planning for several weeks already. We want a Formula 1 championship organised by FOTA, ” said Briatore.

Briatore is a credible figure in this role. He and FOTA will appoint agents to start discussions with TV companies. I would imagine they will insist on free to air TV, rather than pay companies, like Sky, but we will see. It’s going to be tough in this climate. In the UK, neither ITV, Channel 4 nor Channel 5 would have much money to offer for a breakaway series, especially as most TV execs would know from experience that divided sports championships usually don’t work. Common sense tells you that everyone would prefer to retain a Formula 1 world championship with all the strong teams in it. FOTA’s point is that if they have to do their own series, the teams are clear that they will do it,

“The decision has been made by FOTA, ” said Ross Brawn. “FOTA now has to press ahead with its ideas and plans. We can’t wait until January and decide which way it is going to go. As each day passes, and each week passes then the options for reconciliation will reduce.”

The teams are suggesting that by the end of July most of the pieces will be in place so any compromise will need to be sorted out before then.

FOTA has been involved in plenty of working groups to frame technical regulations in recent months so they should not take long to draft a set of regulations, which embrace the vision they have for lower cost, but high technology racing.

“Meetings [to frame the technical regulations] start next week and we will arrive at a technical specification that we think offers the best racing and is cost effective, ” said Brawn. “Things start next week and we will start to put some more detail to the proposal.”

We are in a phoney war period now. There will be claims and rumours swirling around as each side looks to exploit the other’s weak points. Rumours of Mosley dropping the legal action against FOTA came out of an interview he did on Sky Italia yesterday. (Ferrari is certainly not dropping its arbitration against the FIA in Lausanne, which started last Monday).

Picture 34
One name which I have not heard mentioned recently in connection with all of this is Ron Dennis. He was removed from McLaren’s racing operation following the stewards’ incident at Melbourne and is now driving everyone crazy at McLaren cars. But as a 15 % shareholder of McLaren F1 team and a man who put in a lot of ground work on both the GPMA (manufacturer’s threatened breakaway in 2004) and FOTA, he will be monitoring this situation carefully and will be itching to get involved.

One senior figure at Ferrari said to me recently that he regretted that Dennis was not around any more as he contributed a lot to the cause. That tells you how much times have changed.

His involvement would enflame the situation as far as Mosley is concerned, so he may well be laying low, monitoring the situation until such time as intervention is appropriate. If a solution is found with FIA and FOM then it may never happen. But as a major shareholder in the team he will be involved in board meetings to discuss McLaren’s role in FOTA anyway and providing a guiding hand behind the scenes. Martin Whitmarsh has led McLaren well through this process, but it will not have escaped anyone’s attention that the race team is failing at the moment and he needs to concentrate on that.

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81 Comments
  1. Tim says:

    Ron is “driving everyone crazy” in what way?

  2. Phil W says:

    Great insight, James. I can’t find your style of impartial, common sense, easy to read, on the nose journalism anywhere else in the media. Long may it continue!

  3. Nigel Smith says:

    James, If the FOCA series where to go ahead, what tyres would they be using? Is Bridgestone under contract with F1 for next year, and could they supply both series?

  4. Lustigson says:

    Well, a role for Dennis sounds reasonable. With Flavio serving as FOTA’s Bernie, Ron could be their Max.

  5. Shaun says:

    I was at Silverstone at the weekend and it was a cracking atmosphere as ever and I am glad to report that at Copse E whenever Max was on TV people starting chatting angrily amongst themselves and at times even started booing him.

    In your report you state ‘Common sense tells you that everyone would prefer to retain a Formula 1 world championship with all the strong teams in it’. I agree with Martin Whitmarsh that there will not be two series. The strong teams are together, the classic tracks are under threat all the time and some of the biggest brains in the industry are commited to it. Even those teams that were thinking of joining the FIA F1 are moving their allegiance to FOTA. The FOTA series could become dominant very quickly

    Get RD on board would be a coup and may cause Max to pop.

    Hurry up Ron.

  6. Mike Dawson says:

    Hi James,

    Out of interest. If and when FOTA arrange a new championship, based around F1 engines and chassis, will they be able to test them before the end of this years F1 championship?

    Mike

  7. Alex M says:

    Ron would make a fantastic head of the FIA, or whatever replaces the FIA, unlike Max he has been very successful in his professional life and has the utmost respect of his peers.

    Good to see FOTA not getting distracted from the business in hand by Max’s sudden “niceness’…. Crocodiles are way more convincing than that one….

  8. RJ says:

    Bring back Dennis!!!!! ha would to see Mosley’s face if that did happen…haha

  9. jw1980 says:

    James,

    I have just returned from the British GP. It was an excellent weekend. There was enough going on in the race to keep me entertained although ultimately it was a shame that Webber could not take the fight to Vettel due to grid position.
    I could not believe how busy Silverstone was. The only time I can recollect it being busier was 1992, Mansell’s championship year.
    It is also fantastic that Silverstone could hold the race next year. With the current dispute and a more positive attitude to Silverstone from the authorities surely this must signal the death knell for Donington. With nearly a third of a million attending over the weekend it would have been senseless to leave a British GP off the calendar.
    However, is this Max and Bernie protecting their position i.e. a loss of the British GP would fall straight in to the hands of FOTA. I hope a compromise is reached and hopefully it will come this week with the removal of Max. All leaders reign come to an end eventually and not in the way that they like (look at Thatcher and Blair). A compromise is needed. The thought of F1 on C4, C5 or Sky with ad breaks again is not that appealing. There would appear to be a few good circuits about capable of holding GPs that are not used at present but not many. Whatever way you look at it a breakaway championship would have a much smaller fanbase than if a compromise can be thrashed out. The history needs to be maintained as well. We cannot afford to look back on the world championships of the 2010s being won by Nakajima, Sutil, etc with an asterix next to their names saying that Alonso, Hamilton, etc won the breakaway championship. Look at boxing. Do you see any major fights on terrestrial t.v. these days?…

  10. jw1980 says:

    James,

    interesting that Briatore is being mentioned as a possible key player in the breakaway championship. I’m not so sure if he’s the right person. Did he not call Lewis Hamilton a martian last year (as disrespectful as some of Max’s recent comments)? His obsession with the show could be a problem as well. In the early 1990s did he not suggest that the safety car should come out every time a leader built up a lead of 25 secs or so?
    If Max is ousted what damage could he cause from the outside?
    There was a lot of speculation at the end of last season that Ferrari were favoured due to some dubious stewards decisions. What we have heard in the last couple of months only reinforces that view. Okay Ferrari were not directly in cahoots with the stewards but you have to feel that there was a very strong culture at FIA to do everything possible to ensure that Ferrari had the best chance possible to win the world championship. Integrity definitely compromised.
    In addition he must know of other potentially very damaging stories that have been kept under wraps e.g. Schumacher/Benetton traction control, etc.
    Could we be about to enter an era not unlike the Olympics whereby stories of cheating that took place a number of years ago could come out in the open. Look where athletics is today. Hardly the sport it was in the early 80s….

  11. phil c says:

    James

    Another great read, as much as I hate Mclaren in a sporting sense, it annoys me that politics drove out one of the best team bosses well before his time. I truely believe he left because of bias towards Mclaren. I dont think a dispute with hamilton would have done it. (Whilst a mad tifosi ferrari supporter, 100million dollar fine was ridiculous.) He was pushed rather then leave on his own terms.

    Its clear Ron and Max didn’t get along, but I hope Ron returns an get the FOTA championship going. Its good to see Ferrari senior members have respect for Ron and miss him.

    As for tv Revenue, I dont think FOTA would be to worried, All the surveys i have read there is overwhelming support for the FOTA series. If they market it properly and make racing cheap for the fans, and bring back racing to the traditional areas, instead of a desert, they will be successful. I worked some figure out the other day and note the following. The aussie gp pays 42million a year increasing 10% a year and they lose millions each year. Us aussies are paying $500+ dollars for grandstand seats. If they can charge 20million, ticket prices can reduce significantly tickets are halved instantly, tracks make a profit and we have a very popular championship.

    Not only this, I would think BBC and other networks world wide would be re negotiating there contracts, if not cancelling them. Personally i see Bernie siding with FOTA and leaving the FIA and CVC high and dry. He is 78 he doesn’t need the cash, and doesn’t have nothing to lose.

  12. Peter Freeman says:

    Sorry James but I wholly disagree with you, in that I think it is 100% in F1′s interest that this break away series comes into being!

    The problem in F1 is FOM and the FIA, period. Getting away from them is the only way to solve the problem, or it will simply return.

    The solution to the financial crisis is not a budget cap, the solution is in a more equitable sharing of the revenue that FOM gets. Not only will FOM never agree to this, but the long term effect of staying in the hands of FOM is even more serious.

    FOM will not deviate from the path of stripping F1 of its venues, and its fans of all their money when they do visit a race day. We will live to see the entire calendar eventually replaced with new circuits that have paid FOM huge sums of money for staging a GP, over the Silverstone’s and Spa’s we all love so much. FOM will always take the path of most money and fundamentally has no interest in F1 beyond what money F1 can generate for FOM.

    What we want is a series that exists to race, not a series that exists to satisfy the greed and power hunger of a few individuals.

  13. Ed says:

    Interesting stuff! My personal view is that Mosley will go – he’s looking tired and nobody in their right mind actually wants a breakaway series.

    Good to hear your points on Ron Dennis but how is he “driving everyone crazy at McLaren cars”?

  14. The Flying Finn says:

    I recall Brawn was denied the Honda money from Bernie by the other teams a while back, a move which was led by Flavio? Curious Ross is being so vocal in the support here of FOTA’s plans, or is he leveraging this to get the millions from Bernie back ??

  15. Darren M says:

    Split series’ may not be ideal, but if this happens would there be two relatively equal series’ competing against each other in a few years time? Without the FOTA 8, I can’t see how F1 would actally survive. There would be 6 or 7 teams maximum- but would the investors behind the new teams still be interested in getting involved in a second rate championship? I think even Williams are Force India would struggle to survive. F1 might be able to live off its current circuit/ TV/ sponsor contracts for a few years, but once they expire, they would move over to FOTA.

    I think it’s important to consider the long term benefits of this situation. Any breakaway series might struggle initially, but once it gets going it will be the dominant motorsport championship, and Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley will be a thing of the past.

  16. Rick J says:

    I for one will be delighted to see Ron back involved in a premier racing series – and also Davey. One of my primary beefs against the Fia leadership is the way that it has happily ruined lives over what I consider to be trivial incidents. No offense James but the BBC have done a great job in taking over F1 coverage and whereas I would be delighted to see you replacing Mr. Legard in the commentary box, few would deny that the new presentation is a success. A more considerate premier series responsive to the fans has long been overdue. All the praise being heaped on Silverstone by fans and drivers alike just reinforces the injustice that taking the race to Donnington represents and the sheer hubris of FOM administration. Removal of the Canadian GP from this years calender further exemplifies this. I for one will definitely swing my allegiance to the new series if it flys. As a North American, I look forward to seeing Ron back at Indianapolis and Montreal!

  17. tentonipete says:

    does ecclestone own the F1/Formula 1 name itself?

  18. Jeremiah says:

    Very well, it would be good if Ron Dennis got involved in the new project. He would add his unique touch, and change the course of events for the better.
    Someone with the class of RD would be a great boost for the credibility of the new series.
    Its understandable that he keeps a low profile these days, so as not to add more gasoline to the fire, but surely he will emerge soon and take a leading role in the new championship.

    I hope the new series will permit us to see McLaren racing again in North America, where they have such a good record, in Can-Am, Indy etc. Hopefully the new TV transmissions of the races will link the present and the past of the sport, such as showing old footage of past races in the track where the GP is taking part. I would love to see old pictures of the beautiful orange McLarens racing in North America !
    This new series has a blank sheet of paper to do things with class and imagination, and one of the things to be done is to remind us of the beautiful vintage moments of the sport.
    I look forward to seeing RD in action again. As has been obvious in these past few months, the sport is not the same without him.

  19. Geoff says:

    One aspect of this activity by FOTA that I haven’t seen mentioned is the insight it gives into the manufacturers’ future plans. In the last six months there have been rumours of more big names following Honda out of F1. With the FOTA commitment, it looks like Renault and Toyota, the two most often mentioned likely departures, are planning to stick around for a good while. I can’t imagine that they would be entertaining the FOTA efforts if they were intending to leave anytime soon.

  20. Ben G says:

    Ron would be great for a new FOTA figurehead. I’ve been impressed also with Whitmarsh’s forthright statements on the breakaway – he sounds convinced that it will happen.

    A new series will be a success as long as they guarantee that the racing is close. The current qualifying format works, so they should keep that. But for the races, who will there be, if no FIA, to force the teams to adopt measures they may not like in the interests of close racing? Perhaps they need to adopt something radical like sprint and feature races, like so many other categories.

  21. TIBURÓN says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t get any bites from the broadcasting world they would work out an advertising revenue sharing model. What broadcaster would turn down content that requires little investment other than a budget for commentators and some production in these times.

    Hopefully James makes a return!

  22. Mini-me says:

    Bring back Ron!!!

  23. IrishTom says:

    I’m still confident that the split won’t happen, just a hunch though. However if it does go ahead, I’ll stick with the official F1 racing. It’ll be a shame to see F1 castrated, and a pretender trying to woo the fans. Then again, maybe I’ll just give up on F1 completely…..

  24. Red Andy says:

    Ron’s involvement would pretty much kill off any hope of a reconciliation between the FIA and FOTA. If he does get involved we will know that the new series is becoming a reality and is not just FOTA posturing.

  25. Harveyeight says:

    I’m a big fan of Ron Dennis. I met him in the pits at Silverstone directly after qually when his cars were about a second off the pace. He was abrupt, bordering on rude. Later, I saw him at the inaugral Goodwood FoS. He was in Mclaren no. 1 and waiting to go on the track. There’d been an accident and he’d been forced to switch off the engine. I went up to him and thanked him for the years of enjoyment and he was spectacularly friendly, removing his glove to shake my hand. We had a chat for a couple of minutes, all unforced from him, then his (now) ex came over so I made my excuses and left.

    I’ve followed his progress from the start of MP4 and he’s something of a hero of mine. Ferrari, for all their 60 years in the sport, are in reality a much different team to the original. Indeed, there have been a number of fundamental changes whereas Ron Dennis tips his hat only to Frank Williams. The pair of them – with Patrick Head of course – are F1 for me.

    But I’m not so sure I would want him having a prominent role in the new regime. He’s hardly at his best in front of a TV or press conference. By all means have him on the organising board: his experience alone is enough to demand that. But anything more would be hugely provocative.

    Let Mosley be the only one who goes back on his word to drop out.

    A friend of mine was involved in negotiations with RD over sponsorship – hence my invite to the Formula 1 Paddock Club for two years. My friend found RD a man of his word, something which is quite unusual evidently. If he agreed something that was it. I don’t know if he’s changed but there was, I’m told, never any fuss over the fine print. Once signed on the dotted, my friend said he almost felt like a partner.

    RD’s one of the greats of modern motor sport. In my opinion he’s the greatest living team manager. But he’s moved on. There’s nothing to be gained by coming back.

    Whilst he might feel he owes Mosley one, he should follow rugby theory: if you didn’t get the punch in on the field, then don’t do it in the bar afterwards.

    M. Whitmarsh is having a few problems, but he’ll soon pick up the niceties. He’s already shown himself to be streets ahead of RD with the press.

  26. Fulveo Ballabeo says:

    Flavio says the time for a deal has passed, and FOTA is focused on a breakaway series. And, he’s rumored to be the new Bernie.

    Meanwhile, Bernie says he’s invested 35+ years of his life building F1, and won’t let it disintegrate.

    During events, don’t these two eat dinner together most every night and travel to the circuit most every morning? If so, surely this must come up as a topic of conversation?

    If Flavio truly aimed to undo 35 years of Bernie’s work, wouldn’t that put a strain their relationship? Doesn’t seem like it has.

    Methinks they do discuss it. And they know exactly what they’re doing.

  27. jw1980 says:

    James,

    have you seen the provisional calendar for a FOTA 2010 world championship leaked to an Eastern European journalist (!?) in today’s Guardian? It makes very interesting reading but how much credit can we attach to it?
    There are 16 races which is the correct number. Any more than that and the season becomes too long.Monte Carlo, Monza, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Suzuka are included. How does that work if they have contracts with FOM?
    Some interesting inclusions such as Mexico (was that circuit recently butchered for indycars/champcars, though?), Portimao, Imola, Montreal, Indy, Silverstone (and reading a quote from Damon Hill today it looks like the BRDC are keeping their options open regarding which circuit Silverstone will support next year. I have also read that Simon Gillet may be involved in the promotion of the British GP at Silverstone now!) and Adelaide. A very interesting new addition would be Helsinki. I presume that would be the street circuit that was used for DTM Thunder recently. You can’t say that Finland don’t deserve a GP after the success of Finnish drivers plus good support Finns give at races in general.
    Concerning additions include Buenos Aires, Jerez and Lausitzring. Are these tracks suitable for F1? If memory serves me correctly B.A. and Jerez never had a straight worthy of the name. Would Lausitzring be similar to Indy, an oval combined with an infield, never a natural circuit? Indy gets away with it because of the history.
    Interesting to see that races with limited atmosphere or local interest are not included:- Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Turkey, etc. Disaster if there’s no Spa plus no mention of a French GP.
    With FOTA’s power could they influence next year’s calendar even if they come under the wing of FIA again?

  28. Rusty0256 says:

    The thousands of positive blog entries on F-1 and related news websites encouraging FOTA to continue on the path they appear to have chosen, a full breakaway from Bernie & the FIA, is creating an enormous sense of expectation.

    As a whole, the fans passionately want this breakaway to proceed and succeed. These of course are two distinct ‘wants’ that need to be looked at carefully.

    1) The hope that FOTA are genuine in their goal to start a fresh new series and for it not to be just a bargaining tool to bring Max and Bernie to heel and give them what they had previously wanted. If FOTA / FOM / FIA suddenly negotiates a settlement, even one that addresses FOTA’s basic aims, it will be viewed by the fans with great cynicism. A settlement might be accompanied by Max’s ‘retirement’ and some sort of level playing field for those participating but we will still be stuck with Bernie and his baggage (CVC, high ticket prices, GP’s at circuits nobody loves).

    2) The hope that the breakaway is a success; and a success in the way the majority of the fans would want. This means, the best cars, teams and drivers. It means new teams, supported by affordable manufacturer engines and technical support. We look forward to the return of fan-friendly, traditional circuits, consistent understandable rules that evolve rather than chop and change, lower ticket prices with profits that stay in the sport (rather than filling the accounts of faceless, investment corporations). We want a Championship that we can be passionate about, rather than be (as we have been for too long) cynical and resigned about.

    This is why I believe that FOTA must proceed with the breakaway. They have now gone too far to turn back and any half-baked attempt at reconciliation will leave, fans feeling empty and even more disenchanted.

    The ultimate irony is that in the past 10 or so years the dollar value of F-1 has risen to astronomical sums, but at the same time we, the fans, have suffered a gradual devaluation of what F-1 means to us. The cynical politics, the willful regulation changes, the loss of great circuits (and the hatred we feel for their replacements), the vast sums of money siphoned out of the sport, ridiculous ticket prices, cars that look identical bar their colour, the list goes on.

    The FOTA proposition may, and probably will not be perfect but it gives us a greater hope than we have felt for many, many years. It is inspiring and it represents the aspirations of the true motor racing enthusiasts, racers and fans alike.

    The time has come for change.

  29. Jose Arellano says:

    and add to that the fact that if they do it, maybe they would get a lot more money from the constructors championship, that means i could even get a profitable sport..

  30. Alv says:

    Hey James, I’ve just read this http://www.as.com/motor/articulo/ezpeleta-descarta-encabezar-campeonato-paralelo/dasmot/20090622dasdasmot_4/Tes about Carmelo Ezpeleta from DORNA (MotoGP owners) refusing to manage a possible F1 breakaway series and calling it “a nonsense, perjudicial for both sides”. If you find it interesting I can translate a bit more.

    bye

  31. Steve Clark says:

    The amount of flip flopping going on, or at lease reported, by Bernie and Max leaves me wondering if they are capable of dealing with this issue at all.

    Bernie has gone from Silverstone being dead, which he certainly gave the impression as being his desire all these years, to now it will be back in 2010 if Donington is not ready.

    Max has gone from who cares about Ferrari, to threatening litigation, to calling FOTA loonies, to dropping litigation. And

    Bernie has been quoted again over the weekend as saying that he provides the venues, the teams provide the cars and drivers and he gives the teams the money. How out of touch can someone be when its the fans watching or coming to the gates that pay the money.

    FOTA, at least publicly has acted more professionally and appears more consistent in what they want. I applaud them for sticking to their gun and calling Max and Bernie’s bluff. Although I really don’t want to see a separate series’.

  32. alex says:

    Well said Rusty.
    Personally I believe, in part, that the spirit of Max’s proposals is correct (bring back ingenuity/innovation, take away manic refinement achieved through excessive use of money) but not the method.

    I hope the drivers can be given some say too. I would hope they would show at least some of the courage (maybe craziness too) of those who came before them, and demand the return of the great corners, great circuits, the great crowds and yes, maybe a bit more danger as well.

    If I was a racing driver I would want to race on the old legendary circuits, test myself against the greats of the past on the same tarmac they raced on. F1 today is sanitized to an excessive degree.

    This is probably a taboo subject, but can we say that F1 felt different when driver’s lives were on the line. Not for nothing in many racers were (and still are) referred to as “pilots” not drivers. Precisely because there was a “twenty-minuter” aspect in their lives. And you never forgot it each time they went past.

    Now I would never go back to the deadly machines of yesteryear. But at the very least we could use our very safe modern F1s on some more demanding circuits, restored to their former “viciousness”.

    And we need to recruit some “pilots”. Rossi, Lorenzo, Stoner, indeed most of the guys in MotoGP, now they are pilots. I watch them and literally jump out of the seat. Our current F1 “chauffeurs” make me doze off.

  33. alex says:

    sorry correction:
    in many languages racing drivers are not called drivers but pilots

    that is what i was trying to say

  34. Knuckles says:

    Just a short point regarding TV rights, because I get the feeling it’s overlooked a a lot – it’s not been mentioned much on the Autosport forums, either.

    I would think that the TV situation is different per country, but in some countries TV stations simply don’t have a choice if the FOTA series happens, from my point of view:

    Germany:
    RTL simply cannot ignore the FOTA series if it has Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari (which is huge in Germany due to Schumacher), and Vettel (plus Rosberg, Heidfeld, Glock, and Sutil.)

    Great Britain:
    I know that everyone says ITV, etc., can’t afford it and the BBC is supposedly contracted to FOM. But the FOTA series will probably have two British world champions (Hamilton, Button) and all the big British teams. I can’t see it not being on free TV.

    Italy:
    Duh.

    Spain:
    Alonso in FOTA.

    France:
    Renault in FOTA.

    You get the drift; the countries that must have FOTA on free TV form quite a sizable power.

  35. Ambient Sheep says:

    Just a thought: Bernie and Flavio are supposed to be good friends. As a result I’d assumed until this weekend that he’d be one of the moderates in FOTA, not one of the “loonies”. Flavio was even asked about this by Martin Brundle on the Silverstone grid, to which he replied something like “[Bernie and I] are good friends, but on this matter we disagree”.

    So, could it possibly be that Flavio is manufacturing the threat of a breakaway series under Bernie’s instructions, in order to convince CVC to sell up cheaply and get out of the sport? Could it even be that the rest of the teams are conniving in this?

    Like I said, just a thought.

  36. Steve says:

    If only Mosely would go, but of course, he surely won’t. The allegations he faced last year should have been enough to crush anyone but Mosely is stubborn [mod]

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – I for one admire FOTA for standing up to him

  37. pbyrne says:

    I’m not sure i agree with the previous poster Rusty. I’d prefer to see them work out a deal, albeit one where the power of the FIA is reduced and the revenues distributed more evenly. Bernie’s 50% is a scandal. If the teams got a bigger slice of the cake there would be less need for such draconian cost-cutting inititives. Added to that is the number of races moving to E. European and Middle East backwaters because some ego-driven government or royal is willing to pay through the nose for an F1 race to satisfy their own ego – never mind that there is no fan-base in the country and the manufacturers are missing out on important markets such as N.America.

    And that’s before we even get to Max and his dictatorial hold over the sport and press…

    Come to think of it maybe a breakaway is the only option. Such a shame that Max’s meglomania and Bernie’s greed have brought us to this…

  38. Barry says:

    I almost totally agree with Rusty. If things could have worked out prior to the split, That would have been best, possibly.
    I however couldn’t stand all the aero apprtinances of the last few years. SorryRusty, but that’s where we differ, but I also like sailplanes.
    But now that Fota have got our hopes up, I only hope they succeed on both levels.
    Most F1 fans don’t own Ferraris, Porsches, or any of the other cars we’d like to have. We just go to work every day, and hope we can make ends meet. I hope that one of the primary objectives of FOTA is to make attending , and watching the races something that we working stiffs can afford to do once a year so that we can feel part of the sport rather than just hearing about it through TV and the print media. I’d like to see them utilize YOUTUBE extensively, rather than FOM’s constantly forcing the removal of clips that give us the opportunity to form our own opinions instead of having to be told what happened.
    I remember going to many Cam-Am races out here in California, seeing the best drivers in the world, and at the time, the most exciting cars.(Witness all the drivers and manufacturers from F1 that participated. The killing blow was Porsches entering the turbo.) That killed the series. Hopefully Fota will set up regulations that will preclude a similar occurrance in their new series.
    James, I sit with baited breath for each of your comments on this site, and only wish that you wrote 24/7. You seem to have the best grasp of what’s going on of any of the media. I hope you’ll leave this last comment in my post.
    Thanks again,
    Barry

  39. Sven says:

    Could not agree more with Rusty0256. There is so much wrong with the FIA / FOA concept which will only be permanented if there is a compromise with FIA at this stage.
    The time has come to put the fans whishes in the first place and make Grand Prix racing as exiting an interesting as it can be. ie great looking cars, great tracks and this should be the best tracks on each continent. Would F1 have failed in the USA had they raced on Laguna Seca and Elkhart Lake?

  40. GP says:

    I totally agree with the Ferrarri official that Ron Dennis would be an invaluable asset to FOTA at this stage. But, as you mention james, I think it’s best to wait a little before Dennis rolls up his shirtsleeves and puts this championship together.

  41. Peter says:

    I was wondering if you knew anything about the BBC story that the teams had agreed to sign documents stating they will stay in F1 untill 2012 but when the paperwork arrived, Max had changed the date to 2014?

    Peter (the other one)

  42. Maurice says:

    I have posted on this subject on other forums but I must say that I now believe this is all smoke and mirrors.

    Watch Martin Brundle ask Flav about the FOTA championship. Classic body language read. As Flav is saying it will definitely happen he’s shaking his head in an unconcious acknowledgement his thoughts and words are diametrically opposed. Given he is in business with Bernie at QPR how real is this fight?

  43. rdw says:

    I think your comment, James, about Ron Dennis’ involvement potentially inflaming the situation with Mosley is dead on. I suspect a great deal of Dennis’ guiding hand behind the scenes which is being kept out of the spotlight by letting McLaren’s public face (Whitmarsh) do all the talking.

    Rightly so too. As much as I admire Ron Dennis for what he has achieved, and the way he has achieved it, he can certainly be…let’s say abrasive from time to time.

    The only other point that I wanted to comment on in your post was that I don’t think what McLaren do with this years car is of any consequence whatsoever. I think McLaren should look, and probably are looking, further down the road than this season.

    This one’s over they should let it go quietly into the night. There are much bigger fish to fry at the moment…, to happily mix metaphors.

  44. Don says:

    Yes indeed I agree with Rusty… the time for change has come…. the time for change is now… give me a venue for the UK and French race next year and I’ll be first in line to buy a ticket!

    This time last year I was returning from the very last French GP… it was a no-frills, low key venue yes… but it was lovely, very accessable as the French government built a motorway right into the car-park of it. In the drivers parade Louis Hamilton drove a 100 year old 1908 Mecerdes-Benz that won the French GP in 1908 – an amazing sight to behold! :) Yet all that rich heritage held no mass to Bernie E when he cancelled the race this year!

    The only reason there isn’t a French GP this year is because Bernie E didnt like the fact the race was in the countryside away from the glitz and bright lights of Paris…. he wants Mangy-Cour replaced with a posh street race in Paris.

    What gives him the right to dictate what circuits are included – how dare he pick and choose circuits based on his team of accountants Profit/Loss Spreadsheets!!!

    Surely circuits rich in racing heritage should take precidence over P&L reports!

    Please FOTA follow your believe in passionate racing heritage.. and revive the soul of British & European Motor Racing – bin the dopey soul-less circuits like the Chinese and Bahrain races.. and take the dust-cover Magny-Cour and other such tracks!

  45. Steve says:

    James, Out of intrest, was there any discussion in the f1 paddock at Silverstone about what happened in America with CART & IRL?

    I remember that you were around the CART series back before the split working for ESPN in the pits so you should know better than a lot around F1 just how big CART was in the early 90′s. You should therefore also know better than most in F1 just how much damage that split did to Open Wheel Racing in America. I’ve been a longtiem fan of Indycar racing & went through that split & am saddened at how much damage that did to Indycar racing.

    I am praying that some solution is found & a Breakaway is avoided because I am terrified that should a split go ahead F1 Type Racing (F1 & FOTA series), that I’ve loved since I was 6 years old will go the way of Indycar racing & be largely irrelevant in 10 years time.

    I happen to support most of what FOTA want from the FIA, I however am totally against a breakaway series because I don’t want to see what happened in America repeated.

  46. Ivan says:

    James, thank you very much for the update regarding Ron. I never quite figured out if he was completely removed from the team or still had that invisible hand that provides guidance. It will be bittersweet revenge if he gets involved in the McLaren F1 team while Mosley is (hopefully) ousted. Many have asked during this ongoing crisis “where is Ron and what’s his take on what is going on”, yet until this piece I never came across any news.

  47. Fausta says:

    Sometimes you just have to tear the house down and build another. With all the adhoc changes and drastic modifications F1 has become the “strange old house down the street”.
    I hope FOTA builds anew taking on board all the mistakes from the past and reinvents an F1 we all would be proud to follow.

  48. What a difference a year makes !

    I too would like to see Ron Dennis involved in the new series – in what role, I don’t know but he’s a great businessman and a racer and that’s exactly what they need.

    Whatever the outcome of the current dispute, the FIA are going to have to take FOTA seriously and it will be FOTA calling the shots.

    Announcing Ron in a senior role within FOTA rather than McLaren would certainly convince me that there would be no going back.

    By the way, another Ron Dennis anecdote :

    At the second ever Festival of Speed I was walking across a near deserted paddock at lunchtime and came across Ron standing looking at a Mercedes W154.

    I already had a programme autographed by Jackie Stewart and John Surtees and asked Ron to sign on the same page.

    I commented that his name would be on the same page as two World Champions and he immediately fired back

    ” I don’t mind slumming it.”

    Tells you a lot about Ron, doesn’t it !

  49. Phil Hendo says:

    Hi James,

    I notice a few questions being raised regarding how FOTA’s championship would work – tyre suppliers, TV etc. But if the teams are running their own show, who is going to settle the disputes – like if one team found a computer disc will specs of another teams car. I can’t really see Ron or Flavio being very impartial.

    cheers

  50. Neil says:

    I can’t see Ron being a FOTA big wig in the long term.

    It’s all very well people (with red cars) saying they “miss him” now, but imagine the new series is up and running. As soon as a spat appears (and it will) there will immediatly be accusations of MacLaren bias. Inevitable I’m afraid.

    He might turn up a bit in tehy short tetm to annoy Max though ;-) As a part-owner of a FOTA team, he is bound to be involved.

    Neil.

    PS Same argument tells you why J Todd would never have replaced Max at the FIA.

  51. vicweir says:

    Bring back Ron?

    I thought we were trying to get rid of miserable control freaks with opaque communication skills from F1!

    Please tell me you’re all joking.

  52. Snail says:

    This is why I believe that FOTA must proceed with the breakaway. They have now gone too far to turn back and any half-baked attempt at reconciliation will leave, fans feeling empty and even more disenchanted.

    And on top of that, if the teams/manufacturers back down now, how can they possibly ever be expected to be taken seriously in the future? You can only cry wolf so many times.

    I didn’t want it to happen, but now that they’ve called Max’s bluff, they should see it through.

    “Never start a fight, always finish it”.

  53. mm says:

    Well, with Bernie and Max’s inconsistent comments lately; ignoring their own deadlines, contracts and everything previously held as “law” (such as no future for Silverstone) – yet still coming forward with new announcements, provisions and demands – it is clear that the revolution most of us support will soon come to an end.

    I thank both of them, with respect for what they may have achieved in F1, but it is clear that their date for retirement has now come. At least they can still rub or whip each other properly on the back for many reasons.

    Not ignoring your technical yearnings, my personal wish list is the restoration of events at historic tracks, lower payments demanded from circuits, lower entrance fees for locals and free TV-viewing for everybody. I’m sure the advertising people will know how to handle that globally.

  54. Ambient Sheep says:

    What an excellent post there by Rusty0256. My heart agrees with him 100%. My head however, can’t resist pointing out the catch: TV rights.

    To take the example of the UK: the BBC have just signed a five-year deal with FOM to show F1, which they do superbly, without ad-breaks. After 12 years of ITV’s advert-ridden (although otherwise fairly good) coverage, this is a real breath of fresh air.

    So it all depends on whether or not the BBC could get out of their FOM contract. Some sources contend that they could under English common law, claiming that the product they bought is no longer the one on offer. Others contend that they’d be locked into the FIA/FOM series.

    If they WERE locked into the FIA/FOM series, then the FOTA series would have to find its home elsewhere. Sky (pay satellite) would be useless – choosing to go to Sky for short-term gain rather than the BBC was, in my opinion, the biggest single mistake that the A1GP founders made, but that’s a polemic for another day. ITV have already spent their money elsewhere, and would struggle to find the airtime, which leaves Channel 4 or Five, neither of which one suspects would do a good job.

    Besides, in any of those cases, I haven’t spent the last few months celebrating finally getting rid of adverts after 12 long years only to end up getting them back again next year. One ITV insider has murmured about FOTA paying for advert-free coverage, but I don’t think I can see that happening, can you?

    And this is just the problem in the UK – what about all the other countries where F1 is watched?

    How the TV contracts are worded, whether or not they can be broken, and if not, how many other broadcasters in each country would be interested, are the key questions.

  55. James Allen says:

    FIA owns the championship. Ecclestone has the F1 logo trademarked

  56. James Allen says:

    Good question. It’s unusual to have next year’s car ready before the end of this season, especially when the rules haven’t been finalised by the end of June, but I guess if it was a different car, why not?

  57. James Allen says:

    Yes they are under contract, I think it might be tricky to supply another series. But there are other tyre makers, like Michelin, with plenty of relevant and recent experience.

  58. James Allen says:

    He’s very demanding, you know what Ron is like..and they are not used to having him breathing down their necks all the time!

  59. phil c says:

    Does this mean if Bernie sides with FOTA, he can allow them to use the F1 name. The worldchampionship can stay with the FIA. That will become worthless without any teams competing in it.

  60. ROBATCLAXBY says:

    What’s in a name James, the new formula could be called PREMIER GP RACING, and as long as they got the best Cars and Drivers, who’ll care, thats who the fans will follow. THE BEST RACING.
    It would be interesting to know what percentage of
    contributors here support a split, why not have a poll James.? lets find out. I would hazard a guess at 90%

  61. phil c says:

    Yeah i think you will find, that each one of these contracts would have some clause reflecting major changes etc etc. No tv network would sign a contract without a good get out clause if all of a sudden the series went belly up or 3/4 of the grid bolted.

    The series is valuated with the participation of the teams, they disappear the value is depreciated.

  62. Peter says:

    There are plenty of other channels these days!

    If a condition of the agreement was ad-free coverage. it might still be a very good deal for a channel such as Dave simply to get its ratings through the roof.

    I seem to remember them making a big boast about the fact that they were showing it on BBC1 with the exception of a single race. The BBC might have an agreement to show it on BBC1 but perhaps 3 &4 might be free to do with as they like.

    I think it would be a good idea to give their TV rights away for free for the first season or 2 to establish a fan base.

    Peter

  63. Harveyeight says:

    James,

    If this list is a release from FOTA it is extremely provocative.

    Prince Albert has said that Monaco will follow Ferrari. This must have been a massive disappointment to Mosley although, given that he was persona non grata last year, and there was a lot of non grata aimed his way this, he must have known his grip on the race was tenuous. Whilst it is viewed as the jewel in the crown of the FiA series, I wouldn’t have been sorry to see it go.

    Eccs has treated the Prince as royalty and evidently has taken the bookings on the strength of a handshake. Whilst you can say that he should not have put his faith in kings or princes, PA made his feelings towards MM’s behaviour evident last year so for him to turn up at the big do this year and act the big I am was probably a bit much to take. Mind you, for Mosley it was a must.

    Monza will, of course, follow Ferrari. Whilst there might be some restrictive clause in the contract with Eccs, as with any contract, it is open to (mis)interpretation. At the end of the day all Eccs would get out of a prolonged legal wrangle would be a few paltry shillings. Mind you, I bet his lawyers will be paying a visit to their local Mercedes dealer today.

    Abu Dhabi has come out strongly in favour of running a FOTA race, although in addition to the FiA version. One would assume that they are aware of the legal niceties as well.

    The BRDC, if they are indeed a professionally run outfit as both Eccs and Mosley believe, will be rather reluctant to sign any exclusivity clause – with either series – until such times as the front runner is clear.

    Imola was always a likely candidate and one would assume was a Ferrari condition from early on. But I am with you in the disappointment of no French GP. Is this because the FiA is largely regarded as a French creation? It didn’t stop the ACO from sticking two fingers up at them. Very odd and a real gap.

    I can see the inclusion of Adelaide being a bit iffy, but if the charge is right, there could well be two races in Oz.

    It would appear likely that the calendar is a bargaining ploy. A wish list if you will, something to stick up the chimney in the expectation that Father Christmas – and following the behaviour of MM and Eccs over the Silverstone weekend, it must seem like Christmas to FOTA – will at least refer to it.

    At the moment any series run by FOTA must be under the FiA’s ‘wing’ but that need not be as regulator. In other words, they must provide the infrastructure and necessities at the circuits by law. That does not mean they have any other authority specifically over a FOTA series. The issuing of superlicences is a dark area but things like pitlane press passes will remain the remit of the organiser. The ACO makes everyone, even the established press, come to them on bended knee at Le Mans time despite them need as many column inches as they can get. I once tried to return on of their yellow jackets after a LMS race only to find the press hut closed. I had a rather abrupt email – in French – waiting for me when I first turned on my computer at home.

    But I am as confused as you are, James, with regards to whether it is a genuine provisional calendar, a wish list or a weapon.

    Derek

  64. rpaco says:

    You mean bias if not an active “shoot on sight” campaign AGAINST McLaren “not bias for”

    I agree that we need uncle Ron back in some senior capacity for the FOTA series.

    Bernie may well TRY and change his allegiance to a FOTA series, but only in the hope of maintaining his income streams, not out of any sporting altruism.

    He still controls CVC with a minority shareholding (don’t quite understand how they allow this) but all the F1 rights and income streams are from other companies owned by CVC and/or Bernie and his Bambino group. (The Alpha and Topco groups of interwoven multi-layered corporate birdsnest.) He would like to be shot of CVC I reckon it is possibly his biggest liability, loaded with debt, but they would survive very well without him now as a multinational private finance house.

    Will he leave his (financial) guarantees in place for Donington I wonder, if the FOTA series happens or let Mt Gillet sink in a pit of huge debt. (He would probably buy the lease himself then)

  65. James Allen says:

    Yes, of course. In America all the leading teams split, they had the best drivers and controlled many of the circuits, but they lost their biggest showcase event, the Indy 500 and the TV package became less strong as a result. Monaco isn’t to F1 what Indy 500 is to that series, although it is important.

  66. lower-case david says:

    pattern it after most north american sports, with a league office and a commissioner. the office looks after administration, commercialization, expansion, scheduling and rulebooks.

    the team owners vote for who they would like to be commisioner. the commisioner works with the teams on rules during the offseason.

    while they were looking at administration, it’d be worthwhile taking a closer look at the NFL franchise system and revenue sharing too, it wouldn’t be a bad start for any newborn F1 championship.

  67. David Hodge says:

    Good point Phil. I guess the details will be worked out in due course. I suppose some sort of independent (from the teams) arbitration would work best – or to argue with myself immediately, the “jury” could be made up from representatives from the other teams not involved in the dispute. Perhaps more importantly, motorsport aware permanent stewards which would shut off a lot of the bias, perceived or otherwise, against particular teams or drivers – and those stewards to be consistent.

  68. Snail says:

    Its only Max and Bernie protecting their position if the following conditions are true:
    1) BRDC have signed a contract with FOM for next year
    2) The contract prevents FOTA from hiring the track at another date next year.

    I’d hope the BRDC aren’t so naive as to sign immediately.

    FOM needs Silverstone more at this point than Silverstone needs FOM.

  69. Shaun says:

    Hi JW, thought you may be interested in this, FOTA plan to use Silverstone on July 1st.

    http://www.crash.net/f1/news/148803/1/2010_fota_breakaway_calendar_leaked.html

  70. jw1980 says:

    CART was massive in the early 90s and I remember that at the time many thought it could take over F1 as the premier championship in the world. As most of the cars were fundamentally the same (customer cars) the racing was good. Remember 1992 when Nigel Mansell totally dominated F1 and then went to CART. What went wrong in the USA was that CART retained all best teams and drivers but lost the one key event: the Indy 500 (which is the only American race that I bother to watch now together with Daytona 500). CART or Champcar suffered a very slow death and only recently has a reunification taken place but with a series much weaker than in the early 90s. Chances are this may have happened anyway had the series not split. Even the NASCAR juggernaut has slowed down significantly in recent years.
    If their is a breakaway series in F1 lets hope that its swift and we have one championship very soon, preferably next year. In reality with what FOTA has to offer I cannot see how the FIA championship can survive next year anyway and commonsense will prevail and that championship will be binned if the breakaway does occur.
    Are we going to see customer cars in FOTA championship e.g. N Tech running second Ferrari team, Prodrive running a second McLaren team, Red Bull able to run STR with same car? Is this how FOTA will keep costs down but ensure full grids. Remember Williams are now in no position to oppose this now.

  71. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Spot on. You just described what happened with the CART/USAC split of 1979. USAC held onto AJ Foyt for a season, but that didn’t stop USAC from devolving into the regional series it remains 30 years later. CART went on to dominate open wheel racing here until the IRL split — a different situation entirely that resembles the FIA/FOTA contest only superficially.

    Gordon Kirby and Robin Miller have both written extensively about the CART/USAC war. I don’t have links handy, but you can get a thumbnail sketch just googling or hitting the wikipedia. It prefigures the FOTA/FIA situation, so much so it’s scary. I haven’t yet read anything in the media making the comparison, but that will no doubt come over the next few weeks.

    It will take Ron Dennis — relentless, thorough and respected — to keep FOTA out of the trap CART fell into, allowing self-interest and bickering to waste their success by destroying themselves.

  72. Rick J says:

    Very much agree with your post – except on 1 point. I don’t think Ron has moved on, more accurately I think, he chose to move out, by his own decision I am sure, but not likely by his own desire. It was a sacrificial gesture to save the team because of the Adelaide rubbish with the FIA. I reckon he is finding life away from the track boring in the extreme and itches to get back. As you say he is a diehard in the mold of Frank Williams, Enzo Ferrari, Ken Tyrrell and Colin Chapman and many others in the paddock. (Wasn’t Sam Michaels going to be the replacement for Patrick Head so he could back away from F1? Patrick seems to be in the paddock a surprising amount if so. As you point out, he is another who has it in his blood). I agree that Martin Whitmarsh is doing a great job as the McLaren figurehead and spokesperson but I think the team is missing RD. Simply put, it would be great to see him back.

  73. Howard Hughes says:

    Excellent post, though I have to say I disagree with your fundamental point, ie I believe Ron should return, especially given that it’s fairly clear he only exited F1 to save his beloved team, since he was too intrinsically bound up with McLaren in the eyes of Mosely.

    My old pal was editor of MotorSport Magazine for years, during the Jenks era. He has a similar view of Dennis to you, describing him as a ‘four square man’, ie someone whose word you can take to the bank. I think F1 is sorely lost without him…

    (Saying that of course, there was the episode where he had a wheelbrace thrown at his head by Giancarlo Minardi after the latter overhead him muttering ‘typical Italian spaghetti’ as he past a struggling Minardi garage…)

  74. graham says:

    This would have strong promotional value as well as engineering value. I would think that 2010 testing could start by September with a dedicated 2009 chassis as a mule.

  75. Howard Hughes says:

    And if I recall correctly, one Edouard Michelin fell foul of Max Mosley’s brand of personal insults back in ’06, around the time the FIA essentially drove them out of F1 in favour of a single Bridgestone tyre…

    How interesting.

  76. Howard Hughes says:

    Max, isn’t it past your bedtime?

  77. Jeremiah says:

    These are all very interesting comments about taking the best elements of series out there, that through trial and error, have worked the bugs out of the system and are doing well.
    I see Flavor Flav as the man in charge of the enforcement of the rules and settling the disputes. One man taking decisions on the spot might be more effective than a seriuos meeting of experts in Paris.

  78. Peter says:

    While this might be true for just about any other human being, I dont think there is a single person, even in the red garage that would question the integrity of Ron Dennis. Throughout all the difficulties of the last few years he has never been anything other than a dignified gentleman.

    My question about the idea of him leading FOTA is more about what would happen if something went wrong. Is Ron just too nice to bang heads together?

    Peter (the other one)

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