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Decisive week as future of F1 takes shape
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Decisive week as future of F1 takes shape
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Jul 2009   |  11:06 pm GMT  |  14 comments

If Silverstone weekend was all theatre and drama, regarding the rebel teams battle with the FIA, this weekend has been much calmer and more subdued. Possibly because of the cold, wet weather. But behind the scenes in the warm and dry motorhomes there has been a great deal of activity.

Yesterday I heard that the eight FOTA teams had aligned themselves with CVC, the money men behind F1 and that the position now is that if they cannot find the agreement needed with the FIA  to get the new Concorde Agreement signed this week, then they will breakaway. FOTA had set a deadline of Friday 10th July, but this was extended into this week. Crunch time is going to be Tuesday/Wednesday this week.

It is interesting that the FIA said on Wednesday that the eight FOTA teams were not entered in the 2010 championship, including Ferrari and the two Red Bull teams, because those three were always entered in the FIA’s eyes before.

But where we appear to have got to now is that CVC has realised that they need to be a part of the breakaway so that they can have a chance of recouping their money. If F1 splits, they would thus be involved in both series, but would likely sue the FIA for what happened in F1. The teams have realised that they have to have CVC on board, even though they will take money out, because if they don’t CVC could  sue them for amounts of money which could finish a business like Ferrari and even cause major damage to giants like BMW and Mercedes.

Today comes news that CVC and Bernie Ecclestone are using the “GP1 Series”  banner for this and have been registering the trademarks and logos for it, according to an article by Christian Sylt in the Express today.  GP1 could run outside the FIA. Most of the circuit and TV contracts are with FOM and so could be transferred across to the new series. It would be a worse case scenario because it makes more sense for everyone to stick with the well established brand and history of F1, but F1 would wither on the vine very quickly without Ferrari and the other big names and drivers, so the two would probably be forced to merge again in a year or two at most.

CVC would have a foot in both camps and although the product would be diminished in value by the split, CVC would at least have protected its assets. It also conveniently allows CVC to avoid the veto which the FIA has over the sale of F1.

The senior figures I spoke to today are hopeful that the end is in sight and seem happy with the work that has gone on this weekend with CVC. They hope for a positive outcome, but are not counting their chickens.

The next question will be what Bernie Ecclestone’s role will be going forward. The Hitler comments have not gone down at all well with teams, sponsors and particularly at CVC, especially with the powerful Jewish non-execs on the F1 management board, including Sir Martin Sorrell. I’ve heard it suggested that this could be the trigger for change; Ecclestone might continue but retreat slightly from the front line, with a new chief executive taking over the day to day management. But it’s hard to imagine Bernie accepting that quietly.

It certainly feels like a pivotal moment for the sport. F1 has had two major shocks recently; the Honda pull out in December and the announcement of the breakaway at Silverstone. Those events have led us to this point and in a couple of days we will know whether F1 is to be stabilised by the new Concorde Agreement or split.

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14 Comments
  1. Jeremiah says:

    ” The teams have realised that they have to have CVC on board, even though they will take money out, because if they don’t CVC could sue them for amounts of money which could finish a business like Ferrari and even cause major damage to giants like BMW and Mercedes.”

    So now we know what this is all about. I hope the teams contracts and vinculation with CVC end soon.
    This is tremendous. 21st century serfdom

  2. Frenchie says:

    Congratulations to Mark Webber. Long overdue and well deserved.

    It is now time to mount a championship challenge.
    I wouldn’t mind another championship that goes to the last corner.

  3. artorwar says:

    Lets just hope it dosn’t come to that. GP1 will be a bit of a hollow setup. Sure they will have most of the circuits and some of the teams but that name…’Formula 1′…theres something magical about it and as you said James, the history, the ability to conjure up thoughts of Fangio, Stewart, Senna, Schumacher. I just think that if we lose that we cheapen ourselves hugely. I wopuld think the teams know this as well and I hope they don’t sink the sport in its current form. With Max and maybe Bernie heading for the door they can’t want their swansong to be setting fire to the barn and letting the horses out….Can they?

  4. Luciano says:

    Many thanks James for this interesting article.

    So basically you’re saying that the FIA’s F1 could be left without the FOTA teams AND the circuits AND TV contracts?

    Wow! Good for FOTA….

  5. Silas Denyer says:

    First, whilst CVC obviously have influence, surely the teams’ agreements are with FOM, not with CVC? I realise the point seems moot, but it is important, not least because it ringfences Ecclestone’s continued involvement by virtue of his shareholdings.

    Obviously we are not party to the agreement which governed the sale of the commercial rights for F1. However, given Mosley’s legal background, it seems almost beyond belief that CVC, FOM et al would be able to proceed as you seem to suggest they may without threat of considerable sanction. Now, clearly, it may be that the main sanction would be the voiding of the commercial rights to F1, which CVC may believe have little value. But then again, if CVC lose the F1 rights, that might void their circuit contracts.

    As regards CVC (well, FOM) suing the FIA, on what grounds do you think they could do that? I really don’t think that Mosley is actually stupid enough to do anything which is not within the normal rules of the FIA; in fact, the teams have almost gone out of their way to note the lack of any formal reason why the FIA’s actions were invalid.

    It is all, of course, a mess. It is just a great shame that pettiness has percolated into all of this; for my part, I was MUCH happier with the FIA’s 2010 regulations than with anything else I’ve seen in F1 in the last few years.

  6. Peter Rafferty says:

    Splitting the sport in 2 may lessen it’s value but if FOTA pick the right set of regulations for the proposed GP1 then that loss may not last long.

    Imagine a championship with racing being reintroduced with the best drivers and race engineering in the world! If that doesn’t bring disillusioned fans back to the sport nothing will!

  7. Steven says:

    This makes some sense to be honest. Having Bernie and CVC on board would make a breakaway appealing knowing that GP1 would become the premier racing series and that within one or two years it will be merged back into Formula One. All it takes to stay in one though is Max Mosley to leave. I have the utmost respect for him and understand why he was upset after di Montezemelo make those quite nasty remarks. But Max is a big boy so walk out with your head held high and leave the FIA to Vatanen and have a unified F1 (either now or two years down the line).

  8. Richie Mee says:

    Trouble is, are the teams at the top of the FOTA tree very interested in close racing being reintroduced… no.

  9. rpaco says:

    “As regards CVC (well, FOM) suing the FIA, on what grounds do you think they could do that?”

    Once you reach a certain number of millions in your bank account you can sue anybody for anything with a 50% chance of winning. The only certainty is that the lawyers will get even richer!

  10. john g says:

    what is the contract between the teams and CVC – on what grounds could CVC sue the teams if they left the FIA championship for ‘GP1′ – CVC would still have FIA F1. of course, it would be worth a fraction of what it was, but that’s their and bernie’s problem.

    if a breakaway series did go ahead, it would be nice if it wasn’t tied to a faceless corporate entity that needed to take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the sport each year just to service the huge debts it ran up when it bought the rights from bernie. talking of rights, and bernie, what hold does he have over Formula 1? there are Formula 1′s in a wide variety of sports, none of which have anything to do with bernie.

  11. Baart says:

    FOTA ? what is it?
    It`ll be GPOTA rather :)

  12. Harveyeight says:

    Rumours seem to suggest that today, Wednesday, is the day when an announcement will be made with regards any agreement between FOTA and CVC and even, perhaps, FOM. One would assume that the FiA would have been approached with the decision before the announcement.

    So what’s going to happen? We’ve now got empty stands in Germany despite a quarter of the field coming from just down the road, then there’s the gap in the programme next season where the German GP used to be. We look to have no French GP, none in Britain (despite the suggestion we might have two) and just two or three in the remainder of Europe. The rest on sand or rice.

    The current dabacle has hurt the sport. Is the decision going to be a new dawn with everyone pulling together or is it going to be just another disasterous headline?

    I’m nervous.

  13. The thought of an F1 version of the CART/IRL mess is a scary one – something that still scars US single-seater racing to this day

  14. john g says:

    Leigh, read pat symmonds comments made during the friday press conference at Nurburgring (i think) regarding a series split. he says that the situation is much more akin to what happened in US racing about 20 years ago when a split was created over reasons of governance and revenue, and the breakaway was the successful series.

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