It took Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier several high profile bouts to settle their differences and it seems that we are in for a rematch of Max Mosley’s FIA vs Luca di Montezemolo’s FOTA; a heavyweight showdown, just when we all thought things had been sorted out.
There may not be a catchy title to this bout, such as the “Thriller in Manilla”, but you certainly wouldn’t call this weekend’s scrap, set for the Nurburgring, “A mere trifle in the Eiffel”.
This is serious and FOTA have responded to being informed that its eight teams are not entered in next year’s championship with the line that this could put the future of F1 in jeopardy.
It’s been an odd week in F1, with the Bernie Ecclestone/Hitler stuff and now this. Non-F1 people I speak to in the media and public consider the sport as a bit of a pantomime. But I think it’s deadly serious and it has to do with money.
I noted that CVC were ‘shocked’ by Bernie’s comments but supportive of his apology, but I cannot imagine they are very happy about today’s development.
The document offering the debt on F1 to interested parties suggested that the new Concorde Agreement had been agreed and that the teams would all sign up during 2007. Here we are two years later and it has not been signed. That has to be creating some real pressure.
Part of the ‘peace deal’ agreed on June 24th was for the FOTA teams to commit to FOM until 2012. If the FIA considers them not to be entered in the championship, then one wonders where this commitment stands and the absence of eight key teams, including Ferrari, must threaten F1’s business model.
CVC is the venture capital company who hold 75% of the equity in F1’s commercial rights holder, which is subject to a debt of over $2 billion. It is felt that pressure from them led to the ‘peace agreement’ between FOTA and the FIA a few days after the British Grand Prix.
But almost immediately that deal started to unravel. First we had FOTA’s hubris at ‘beating’ Mosley, delight that he was quitting in October, accusations that he was a ‘dictator’, suggestions that the next FIA president should be ‘independent’. Since then there has been a steady drip of insinuation about the FIA’s Alan Donnelly and his role in the approval of new teams. We have also had suggestions that the new teams were obliged to sign up for Cosworth engines, as the Northampton firm had indicated that they needed three teams to make their F1 engine programme viable.
The FIA acted last night with a warning that unanimity would be required when finalising the 2010 rules and that would mean the non-FOTA teams, including the three new teams, seeing eye to eye with the existing teams.
I’m travelling at the moment to Germany, so I’m going to have to do some digging around tomorrow to find out what has motivated this latest move. But it looks set to push the FOTA teams back towards their previously suggested plan of a breakaway. If they are not entered in next year’s F1 championship then presumably they are free agents, unless they are now caught by commercial contracts obliging them to find a solution with the FIA.
FOTA believe that the deal struck in Paris on June 24th meant that they were entered in the championship (an entry list was published with their names on it) and that they had carte blanche to agree the 2010 rules themselves, which would then be rubber stamped by the FIA.
The shock of today’s news is that this appears not to be the case. I can’t wait to find out what this turn-around is based on.
The FOTA teams walked out of technical working group meeting at the Nurburgring today and a statement this afternoon shows their exasperation,
“As endorsed by the WMSC and clearly stated in the FIA press statement of 24 June ‘the rules for 2010 onwards will be the 2009 regulations as well as further regulations agreed prior to 29 April 2009’. At no point in the Paris discussions was any requirement for unanimous agreement on regulations change expressed. To subsequently go against the will of the WMSC and the detail of the Paris agreement puts the future of Formula 1 in jeopardy.”
Off to the Eiffel mountains we go then, into another weekend of great uncertainty.