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Frank and Ross; two perspectives on a crisis
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Frank and Ross; two perspectives on a crisis
Posted By:   |  08 Jun 2009   |  2:02 pm GMT  |  0 comments

“Williams needs a budget cap. Hopefully it will bring the others down to us.”

This was the view of Sir Frank Williams on Saturday afternoon, discussing the ongoing crisis over the 2010 rules. Frank has signed up for the FIA championship next season. After years of almost bankrupting itself to stay competitive in F1, the Williams team welcomes the budget cap as an opportunity to take a financial breather, make the team profitable again and shape it up for a possible sale down the line. Frank is also attracted by the idea of housing one of the new teams on his factory site, so he could offset some costs and make the budget cap work better for him.

Sir Frank: Hoping the others will join in

Sir Frank: Hoping the others will join in

Also being quite vocal over the weekend, but from the opposite angle, was Ross Brawn, who still resides with the FOTA teams. FOTA is only prepared to enter next year if two important conditions are met, one of which is that the 2009 rules remain until a new set of rules can be agreed through what FOTA considers to be the proper rule making channels.

On the face of it, Ross and Frank are in the same boat; their teams both exist only to race in F1, they are both independents and therefore reliant on manufacturers for their engine supply. But Frank has sided with the FIA because of legally binding agreement to race in F1 until 2012 (the FIA contends that Ferrari has a similar contract in place), while Ross believes his best interests are served by staying with FOTA.

Here’s Frank: “The key feature in all of this is the supply of engines. At the last meeting before the removal of Williams from FOTA it was not lost on me that the engines on the grid today are brilliant pieces of engineering and they almost never go wrong and they last three or four times longer than Cosworth 30 years ago.”

(The relationship with Toyota) “It was tested a little bit for the first ten minutes then it settled back to normal. We have a contract (for next year) and we would wish to continue. I don’t think the damage goes that deep. I’m very happy with an up to date modern engine. The problem with the Cosworth is that it was fine in 2006 but there’s a lot of catching up to do.

“Ferrari is a key point. The curious thing is that Ferrari is not part of the FIA camp. I don’t think anyone is going to die about this. Max doesn’t want this to turn to pooh, spread all over the papers for the next six months, what damage [people] did to F1. I think there is a will to let’s be human for a change and talk to each other.”

“Max isn’t looking for a fight, he just wants to avoid having teams leave, smaller ones in particular because they cannot afford to continue. I would say that he shouldn’t worry if he has six or eight or ten entries, it doesn’t sound like hard times out there, now some of them are hoping to attract the money, but there’s one or two will turn up.”

Frank also said that he feels that Bernie could really do without this turning into a civil war because he’s getting on a bit and doesn’t have the energy for it.

Picture 22
Ross Brawn comes at this from a different point of view, mindful of the fact that his team wouldn’t be on the grid this year were it not for the support they received from the other teams over the winter,

“The existence of this team was dependent on the support of FOTA teams – McLaren and Mercedes in particular are the reason why we are here, and I think the FOTA initiatives are good.

“We seem to have had a disconnection in terms of liaising and negotiating with the FIA, and that has perhaps been the problem because FOTA has got a lot of good ideas and the FIA has got a lot of good ideas. Hopefully those ideas will be brought together to find a solution.

“I think there are interim solutions, but quite clearly if next Friday 10 [new] teams are given an entry in F1, then there is a problem because there is no room for the rest of us. And I don’t know what will happen then.

“I hope it doesn’t happen because if 10 teams are given an entry then there is a major problem. Even if it is a holding position until we sort this out, I hope we can find a solution.”

The manufacturers are all bound to each other with a €50 million forfeit if one of them jumps ship, but the pressure on Brawn to split from them is intense, especially as the current championship leader. From the signs he’s been giving lately, that ain’t going to happen.

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  1. Rusty0256 says:

    Wouldn’t you love to be listening into the phone conversations (and I’m sure there will be many) between Max and Bernie this week?

    Not to mention the calls Bernie will be getting from the suits at CVC.

  2. F1nn says:

    Insanely brilliant but immensely boring dominance by one (quasi rookie) team.

    KERS fiasco.

    The Macca lying scandal.

    Relentlessly processional “races”.

    Double diffuser confusion and disagreement.

    Teams unable to catch Brawn because of the testing ban.

    Teams saying they are using races to test their cars.

    The budget cap arguments.

    FIA/FOTA meringue.

    Reduced race attendance.

    Lower TV viewing figures.

    I could go on and on …. FOTA need to do something NOW to sort the sport out …. the FIA and FOTA need to show the fans some respect because right now this shambles is turning people away and the circus is becoming nothing more than a tiring, dull and irrelevant farce.

    I love F1, but 2009 isn’t what F1 should be.

  3. Aaron James says:

    What I find surprising is no one is really looking at Donald MacKenzie and CVC’s role in all of this. As far as I understand things, the regulation of the sport is but one part of the major team’s grievances.

    Mark Hughes obliquely mentioned this part of the controversy, saying that if the commercial revenues were more fairly distributed then the teams could more willingly accept budget capping initiatives. After all, it’s a bit much to expect Ferrari to layoff hundreds of loyal, highly talented employees to ensure the commercial viability of a ‘sport’ for an investment fund.

    An investment fund that takes the lions share of revenues, but provides zero value-adding to the mix. I.e. if CVC were suddenly gone, would F1′s revenues simply fall off a cliff? They wouldn’t. So it’s hard to justify why CVC are entitled to such a disproportional share of the revenues.

    If Ferrari leaves the sport then it’s quite clearly going to hit revenues. So the argument of value is quite clearly with the teams.

    Then there is the marketing side of things. Paddock club, FOM (and therefore CVC’s) big money spinner. Do high rollers come to rub shoulders with CVC or with Formula 1 team members and personnel? Why do drivers have such onerous Paddock Club responsibilities, when it’s the investment fund and not the teams that get most of the value from their time?

    It’s madness.

    I think Brawn understands this preposterously unbalanced equation better than most. He is running an independent team from the ashes of the free spending of all the manufacturers. He came from Ferrari, whose budgets were effectively limitless.

    So his background is quite different from Frank’s. I guess that can explain the different viewpoints.

  4. lower-case david says:

    “Hopefully it will bring the others down to us”

    there it is, the quasi-egalitarian epitaph for late-20th century decline and fall, there you go.
    remember when people used to be able to make Saturn Vs and Concordes.

  5. George says:

    I think the Brawn team gives FOTA quite a big boost politically, given Ferrari and BMW have their influence reduced slightly by their results this year. Has a team ever quit following a championship win?

  6. Luciano says:

    Why would Brawn want to race in a championship that didn’t have Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull….

    If their main competition was Williams plus a bunch of teams that are brand new to F1 (even if they are using an old name), how much competition would they’re really be?

    This year Ferrari and McLaren can’t keep up with Brawn, what chance would Litespeed F1 and Campos racing have in their first year?

    I don’t think there is really that much pressure for Brawn to break ranks with FOTA as F1 without the FOTA teams really is unthinkable for so many reasons.

  7. BobhereYo says:

    I am tired of hearing about FOTA this FOTA that, let’s face it…FOTA has NO Power to dictate anything here and I think that is the biggest issue with Max and the FIA.

    FOTA has voted to do away with KERS but where in the FIA regulations does it say that they can dictate rule changes or any other Association (GPDA???) for that matter? FOTA should be more like a lobbying association just like the GPDA is instead of “trying” to dictate the rules.

    ASK FOTA this…Why should we trade the FIA for FOTA rule? With Bernie’s FOM we would have three rulers of our precious F1 Series.

    All the MFG’s with the exception of maybe Ferrari (Fiat though?) are losing money, they playing field has already been leveled this season anyway why not just go from their. the Cap will build up again after a few years anyhow.

  8. chris says:

    Brawns unwavering commitment to FOTA is extraordinary given their independent status. His comments this weekend were very clear, robust and full of conviction. He won’t be picked off.

  9. Alexx says:

    I think Max Mosely should consider that he wouldn’t be able to trim his living expenses by 75% in a few months. [mod]

    How does he expect the teams to cut their budgets by 75% in a few months??

    Max, please see the light!

  10. Joaquín Correa says:

    Hi James,
    Do you where is or what is Luca di Montezemolo planning? I find it very strange that he’s almost out of the picture considering how vocal he was against FIA/Mosley just a couple of weeks ago.
    I don’t know why but at a couple of days from the actual deadline this just sounds fishy to me…

  11. Kevin says:

    After the boycott talk from Turkey, I had a wonderful thought. If, on June 12, the FOTA teams aren’t named as eligible for 2010, boycott the next race. Can you imagine Max and Bernies’ faces if the only comptitors at the Silverstone GP is only Williams and Force India?
    BTW, kudos to Brawn for standing up for their principles, rather than simply thinking of their bottom line ( Frank Williams take note )

  12. Luke Dalton says:

    As I’ve said before, screw the teams who just want to spend and spend and spend and spend, they’ll only do a Honda and sling their hooks in a year or two’s time when they run out of money then say “why didn’t we do anything about it?”
    I certainly wouldn’t miss the likes of Toyota or BMW, what have they brought to the sport (except money) compared to what Williams, Lotus even Minardi brought?
    About a breakaway series – I’ll still be watching F1, it’ll only end up like the CART/ IRL split, even now its unified again, its not a patch on what CART was in its heyday.

  13. MartinWR says:

    I am very greatly saddened by Ross Brawn siding with FOTA. For one thing, it seems strange for a team which doesn’t appear at present to have a dedicated money-no-object sponsor for the future to want to swim with the big spenders, who are each prepared to throw hundreds of millions at the game every year. Puzzling …….

    Another downside is the possibility that Jense might be prevented from competing for back to back Formula One titles if this thing can’t be sorted.

    I notice that a majority of FOTA teams want to bin the wretched KERS junk. Oh dear. It’s hardly surprising when teams wasted tens, maybe hundreds, of millions (£70 million by Mclaren alone) on this senseless foray into the daft fantasy world of anthropogenic (sic) global warming, only to go slower than rivals didn’t bother. Is it possible that some of them are thinking that if they had spent those tens of millions on designing proper racing cars, rather than trying to score political correctness Brownie points, they might not have found themselves trailing the field. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

    I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if this colossal waste of money, at the FIA’s behest, wasn’t the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Could the KERS fiasco actually have been the trigger for the FOTA breakaway movement?

  14. jed says:

    It seems to me that Williams are being opportunistic. They want to be in a championship where they have the biggest opportunity of winning. Williams knows that it will be difficult for them to compete against the top FOTA teams.

    I see a split coming. FOTA will have a competing series, which Williams don’t wanna be part of.

    FOTA and the FIA have the same goals in terms of costs. The difference is the way the goal of cutting the cost is being acheived and the time frame.

    Any sensible person can say that FOTA’s way is the more democratic and practical way.

    Why then would Williams bolt from FOTA. when by 2012 under the FOTA proposal cost would already be at the level of about 40million a year coupled with more stable regulations?

  15. Steve Clark says:

    Obviously I don’t know all the details but the budget cap seems to be a bit of a misnomer given what it does not include. The teams, even the small ones, could still be spending oceans of money in 2010 if they want.

    If the FOTA teams really want to preserve the current spend while also threatening to leave F1 because they can’t spend as much as they want then why not run F1 under a budget cap in 2010 AND run LeMans and spend the rest there.

    I’d love to see the FOTA teams running LeMans on the off weekend with all the F1 drivers present as well as any other series they see fit to spend a lake or two of money on.

  16. Anthony says:

    Just a point or two, whilst I am very fearful of the consequences of the FIA/FOTA argument, no true fan will stop watching F1 because of the politics. The truth of the matter is when the race is on you are going to watch, just think how long it seems when one season finishes and you cant wait for the next to begin. To me the big worry is not of a breakaway series, but if the manufacturers say enough is enough and pack their bags and shut up shop. If FOTA were to form their own championship perhaps we will have two series to follow on TV, and then I would be well pleased and yes I admit I even watch Indy car racing. Lets be honest now that GP2 has gone ( to Setanta), we need something else

  17. Howard Hughes says:

    “The existence of this team was dependent on the support of FOTA teams – McLaren and Mercedes in particular are the reason why we are here”

    I’m really curious as to whether the very teams who genuinely helped Brawn survive over the winter now regret their largesse… Now that the same life-support-machine team is making them look very ordinary indeed, are there rumblings in the paddock that they shouldn’t have bothered?

    “Hopefully it will bring the others down to us”

    For shame Frank. You and Patrick were surely never about hoping that restrictive new rules would compensate for Williams’ lack of engineering supremacy. That’s a very sad statement indeed…

  18. robatclaxby says:

    Perhaps SETANTA would end up being the TV provider for any breakaway from F1, With great benefits for both sides, as Setanta is struggling cashwise at the moment, and could be the answer to the FOTA prayer. as they would be a fresh start from a Contract point of view. they already are worldwide in other sports.

  19. rpaco says:

    Yes a man after Tony Blair’s heart! Bring all others down to the lowest common denominator, kill off or muzzle all who excel. We don’t want to see this done to F1 as it has been to the country thanks ot it will suffer a similar fate.

  20. James says:

    Well yes, but in those “good old days” they couldn’t build an internet, or devices that can hold hundreds of hours of audio or video in the palm of your hand, or insanely powerful computers that can be bought for a few hundred pounds, or suborbital rockets built from composites, or robots that can walk, or genetically engineered lifeforms, or carbon nanotubes, or F22s or ….

    The list is endless – we live an era of unprecedented and accelerating innovation and engineering brilliance, notwithstanding Sir Frank’s wish to compete on a more equal financial footing!

  21. Snail says:

    >Saturn V.

    Great achievement, but bank rolled by the cold war US military machine.

    > Concorde.

    Loss maker from day one. Made operational profits, but sponsored and subsidized by two governments.

    The X Prize (Virgin Galatic et al) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_Prize is an example of what can be done with sensible spending of money and good engineering, no governments involved.

  22. GP says:

    “Hopefully it will bring the others down to us”

    It’s hard to believe that those are Sir Frank’s words. Frank, maybe it’s time to hang it up. This is starting to sound like those famous names that have been mentionned lately, Brabham and Lotus. Those 2 teams were in decline for a number of years before they departed.

    Maybe in 10 years’ time some nobody will want to join F1 (in whatever form…) and call his rickety little team Williams…

  23. Richard Mee says:

    Excellent post. I too would like a big spot-light shone on the suits behind the agendas.

  24. MrExasperated says:

    I’m surprised its taken anyone so long to mention this end of the equation (CVC), and such an important end of the equation it is. I’ve been reading this blog for many weeks and reading almost all comments, and not a word about CVC.

    Mosley expects to cheapen up Formula 1, yet CVC gets exactly the same as before?? if CVC didnt get such a lions share of the revenue, there would be more to spread around the teams who after all are the one providing the spectacle that generates much of that revenue.

    Im surprised that CVC have let Mosley be so forceful and arrogant in this story when clearly they have such a big stake in the outcome of all this.

  25. phil c says:

    I have said this in previous post and totally agree, well written. Thats the underlying issue with f1, the whole funding of it. Teams get approxmatley 50% of tv revenue distributed to them. My understanding its about 400 to 500million divided up between the teams. Then there is prize money. F1 is estimated worth in excess of 1.5 billion a year. Split total revenue up and you have ten teams earning 100million each plus sponsorship. Way more then they are currently getting.

    James allen has mentioned if a new championship was developed the teams will be starting on the same money, but the difference is they own the whole thing, and things will improve substaintially

    At the moment tracks are losing money, teams are getting screwed and the only person making coin is CVC, Bernie and the FIA. Get rid of them, tracks will make cash because fee’s wont be as high, teams make more then 50million each a year (in the first year) just in tv revenue, plus track apperance money, plus sponsership.

    We then have a sport which is governed correctly, proper rules, still have the best drivers and teams in the world. Only difference will be f1 name verse fota world championship. I hope they tell bernie and max to get lost.

  26. Meeklo says:

    “KERS fiasco”

    Why the hate? Do you honestly feel the ontrack racing we’ve seen this year when a KERS and nonKERS car BATTLE it out has been bad? I think it has produced some awsome action, even to the point where one driver makes a failed overtake and even looses a couple positions. THATS GOOD RACING! And I think we’ve seen it every single race this year.

    Its better to have tried a pass and failed, then never to have tried at all.

  27. phil c says:

    Anthony, the thing is none of the new teams will be supported by a manufactures and i doubt if the 8 of the current teams leave, there will be an f1 championship. Eddie Jordon, said something valid on the weekend. It takes a min of 6 months to develop a car, and thats when you have proper resources and can carry stuff over from the previous year. How in the world are these new teams going to do that, when there is no engine yet apart from an 06 cosworth, no gear box, nothing. The manufactures supply this to every team on the grid. Without them we have a spec series. Thats what will happen to f1, the appeal will be gone and the FIA and Bernie disappear.

    Max wants to screw the manufactures and then tell them you must provide the teams without proven budget or sponsor ship etc etc with a gear box, engine etc etc.

    Bugger that. Only way forward is a complete separation. FOTA world Championship with the 10 teams dividing all the funding amongst them. They will earn way more then what the current agreement with bernie is.

  28. George says:

    I imagine Mercedes are just happy one of their cars is winning, at least this shows it isn’t their engine that is the problem (imagine it without Brawn, McLaren in the midfield and Force India at the rear). Lewis has publicly backed Button several times, I imagine his team feel the same way, and that anyone is better than Ferrari.

  29. Snail says:

    Nothing to do with lack of engineering supremacy. Its to do with the funds required to allow your engineering staff to do the same work.

  30. James Allen says:

    Hang on, Phil. I didn’t say that. I said it would be hard to get F1 money from circuit owners and TV companies. What I went on to say is that they would only need to raise half the commercial revenues of F1 to receive the same income for the teams as currently the teams only get 50% of the pot.

  31. phil c says:

    James

    You are correct, i should have separated the qoute ” will be starting on the same money”

    Sorry for misquoting.

    For those interested the story is here

    http://www.itv-f1.com/Feature.aspx?Type=James_Allen&id=46030

    im just passionate about f1, and i think this is a perfect time for the teams to fight back. If they dont do it now we will have the same problem in 3 years.

  32. Martin says:

    Vanwall in 1958 is the only one really. Alfa Romeo won in 1951 but couldn’t afford to build a new car for ’52. Mercedes Benz quit in 1955 in the aftermath of the Le Mans crash. Nothing since then, although Wolf came and went in 1977 where Scheckter came second.

    Renault also bailed after the 1997 championship win as an engine supplier.

  33. F1nn says:

    KERS is being scraped at the end of this season. What a waste of money.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8088272.stm

    The *overtaking* it has produced has been fake and meaninglessness, IMO.

  34. Meeklo says:

    I guess you probably feel the same about the Turbo Era….

    Its too bad about FOTA ditching KERS. I know some of the teams don’t like it primarily because weight/performance vs pure laptime. That’s all very idealistic, but come race day and battling it out on track KERS does make a difference. We’ve seen used to good effect by Hamilton in overtaking, and Renault when defending positions. And fighting to defend a position is just as entertaining as overtaking.

  35. Howard Hughes says:

    True, but then isn’t a relative lack of funds simply indicative of a deficiency elsewhere, namely your marketing / sponsorship team. Which in turn often feeds off the team’s on-track success in order to have something worth selling… So they’re substandard in two areas really – and I say this as a fan of Sir Frank, who was charmed when meeting him…

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