The F1 teams’ Association, or FOTA as it was known, has been disbanded. The seven remaining members of the union decided not to continue after meetings in the last week.
A spokesman told the BBC, “I can confirm that FOTA has been disbanded, as a result of insufficient funds to continue, and lack of consensus amongst all the Teams on a revised non-contentious mandate”.
FOTA was formed in 2007, with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo the driving force, along with McLaren’s Ron Dennis and Flavio Briatore, then head of Renault. The idea was to stick together in crucial negotiations with the FIA and with commercial rights holders CVC and Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone himself had risen to his current position by convening the teams and negotiating on their behalf in the 1980s.
FOTA’s best work came in the global financial crisis, where it organised a cost saving plan called the Resource Restriction Agreement, which regulated things like wind tunnel use and the size of travelling pit crews as well as working with the FIA to reduce the number of engines needed for a season. A significant amount of money was saved.
Together with this website and with Santander UK, it also created the FOTA Fans Forum events starting in 2011, giving around 250 fans at a time the opportunity to meet face to face with team principals, drivers, engineers and managers to discuss the sport that both sides love and to ask questions and make suggestions.
The beginning of the end for FOTA came as the world began to emerge from financial crisis and teams like Red Bull and Ferrari wanted to spend more money than the proposed Phase 2 of the RRA would allow. At the same time, Ecclestone cleverly picked off those two teams and signed them up to the end of 2020 on generous commercial deals to participate in the F1 World Championship. They left FOTA at the end of 2011 and were followed out of the door by their affiliated teams, Toro Rosso and Sauber.
This left seven teams continuing to work together with the FIA, Ecclestone and the four outlying teams on cost saving and other measures.
The formation last year of the F1 Strategy Group, featuring the FIA, Ecclestone and the six leading teams, meant that the governance of the sport changed emphasis and this group is forging ahead with a cost cap for 2015 which, although it will be set high at the outset, will eventually glide down to a level which should make the teams able to return a small profit on their activities.
This was the subject of further discussions at today’s meeting of the F1 Strategy Group, with FIA president Jean Todt telling me earlier this week in an interview to be published soon in the Financial Times, that, “As the FIA I feel that we have a responsibility to the sport to make sure that F1 is less expensive. It has to happen this time.”
The losers from the demise of FOTA are the small and medium sized teams in many ways as they were part of the collective bargaining and their voice is heard less now with the F1 Strategy Group driven by the richer teams, making the decisions.
[More to follow]