Le Grand Retour
Paul Ricard 2018
French Grand Prix
Messy start to season in prospect
Messy start to season in prospect
Posted By:   |  21 Mar 2009   |  7:48 am GMT  |  0 comments

It was all looking so good, Ross Brawn saves the Honda team, the car turns out to be a rocket ship, David threatens Goliath, a shake up of the old order was in prospect. The racing was shaping up to be really close, with many teams on roughly the same pace. In other words a great season was in prospect, as many of you have said in your comments on this blog.

And now with a week to go until the first race, we have the FIA backtracking on the winner takes all points rule, because the FOTA teams did not unanimously agree it and then there is the virtual certainty of a messy technical protest into the legality of the diffusers on some of the cars, including Brawn, which will dominate the weekend and be well beyond the understanding of most of the fans and the media.

F1’s capacity to shoot itself in the foot is to the fore again.

As I’ve been saying in my recent posts here since the Barcelona test, the Brawn car is seriously fast, perhaps fast enough to stay out front for quite a while before teams like Ferrari and BMW catch up. It would be intriguing if one of the Brawn drivers got a good head start on the field with four or five early wins.

It would then be tough for one other driver to get beyond that total. With McLaren seemingly out of the picture at the start of the season and the two Ferrari drivers likely to share the wins between them across the season, the way is clear if one of the Brawn guys can gain supremacy, to open up a bit of a lead, which under the winner takes all system might make him champion.

Ed Gorman in the Times today writes that this is the suspicion of the FIA as to why the teams are now refusing to sign off on the new winner tales all system for deciding the champion.

Brawn’s pace is certainly not going to encourage the other teams to sign up, but I think the real reason the teams have kicked back on this one is simply because they can.

To bring in a new rule at short notice requires the teams to sign off on it unanimously and, stunned by the FIA’s budget cap move, they’ve said, “You know what? We aren’t going to to that, Max.”

Mosley must have known that there was a risk of this and the blame appears to be being deflected onto the teams, but also onto Bernie Ecclestone, who allegedly told Mosley that the teams were on side with the new system. Maybe they were at the time, but given the opportunity to put the brakes on an FIA initiative, they’ve taken it.

In other words its another step in what is now clearly going to be a drawn out battle
between the FIA and the FOTA teams. It’s not what anyone wants or needs, for a sport to be seen to not know what the hell it’s doing eight days before the start of a new season. One of my old heads of sport at ITV, a football man, used to say that he quite liked F1 as a spectacle, but that it too often it opened itself up to ridicule. And that’s what we have again here.

The FIA brought out some stunning material on Tuesday, particularly the £30 million budget cap, which would oblige the top teams to shed three quarters of it workforce, and would encourage a gold rush for new teams to come in to the sport.

This blocking move by FOTA and the embarrassment caused to the FIA, is likely to harden the FIA’s resolve to leave the capped figure at £30 million, rather than negotiate it up to the £50-60 million, which is more feasible.

I was also interested to see Lewis “No comment” Hamilton commenting quite strongly yesterday on this. His words, especially the second paragraph below, read like they were drafted by a FOTA or McLaren speechwriter, but as the reigning world champion, who has hitherto kept his opinions to himself, his words carry real weight,

“It’s a shame what is happening to Formula One. It’s hard to believe that these recent decisions will improve things for the trackside spectators and TV viewers, who should always be our No1 priority, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

“For the first time in recent years we have the teams, drivers, sponsors and fans all working together for the good of our sport – now we just need the governing bodies to listen to us and help us.”

Yesterday’s short statement by the FIA that the new system would not be introduced if the teams did not all agree it, sits oddly for me. Max Mosley is famous for planning everything meticulously. Something has gone wrong here.

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