I did an interview with Max Mosley for the Financial Times on Friday in London, all about the budget cap introduced to F1 for next year, the first part of which was posted yesterday.
We covered a lot of topics, but I couldn’t help asking him about Ron Dennis’ departure from McLaren. He made an interesting comment about how the McLaren situation had played into his hands this week, “I don’t hate Ron Dennis, “ he said. “But he was always very obstructive. And he would have been difficult in this situation (budget caps), whereas Martin Whitmarsh may not agree with us but it will be a rational disagreement not an irrational one.”
This is an interesting twist on the McLaren saga and the timing is significant from Mosley’s point of view. McLaren, having created problems for themselves in March, by acting dishonestly, have engineered the removal of Dennis, which has in turn removed someone who would have provided a major obstacle to the budget cap plans.
Many people, not least Ferrari, are concerned that the FIA will not be able to police the budget cap. Mosley accepts that the system may not be perfect to start with, that there may be ‘grey areas’ as there were in the diffuser rules, so problems cannot be rules out. But he contends that minute attention has gone into planning for how to intervene if foul play is suspected,
“People cheat the Revenue, but the Revenue can’t put even one tax inspector into each business on a permanent basis. We can, we can put several in. the difficulty and danger of cheating would be enormous. If we had the slightest suspicion that anyone was we’d send a team in to check. That’s part of the deal. It’s obviously very annoying to have all these people checking but that’s the price you pay for saving hundreds of millions of euros. In today’s climate people would be prepared to do that.”
“There are going to be grey areas and what we have to do is narrow them down to the point where they become negligeable. We’ve give ourselves enormous scope in the rules.”
As for Montezemolo’s argument that Ferrari have certain ‘rights’ under the deal withe signed in 2005 to extend the Concorde Agreement whereby rules can only to be changed by the F1 commission, Mosley claims that the budget cap rules do not have to affect Ferrari and if they choose not to run ‘capped’ they will enjoy an advanatage, in other words, budget capped teams will be less competitive than the non-capped teams,
“We are saying we’re not interfering with this (Ferrari’s rights), “he says. “We’re saying that all we are doing is bringing new teams in and giving them enough freedom so they can control expenditure. If you want to carry on with unlimited expenditure running at the front we won’t interfere. And we won’t have a cost-capped car running in front of your car so it doesn’t interfere with you because they will be at the back.
“But if Ferrari have any sense at all they will come in under the cap because it would be an instant €200 million to their bottom line.”
What does he expect to happen next? Will the 2010 season start with two different classes of car?
“I’m anticipating a big row and at least to begin with a two-tier system, ” he says. “But eventually they will see sense.”
And the $10 million question, will the cap ever be lifted or is it here to stay?
“I believe that the cost cap is here to stay. There is room for discussion, it might go up or down in 2011 and if the economy picks up after than then it might go up. You might adjust the cap in the interests of the sport, but you’d have everyone on a level playing field. “
“The credit crunch hasn’t really hit F1 yet, obviously we lost Honda, but the real crunch will com when current contracts come to be renewed. At the moment, you see ING, RBS Allianz, big circuit sponsors, but they wouldn’t be there this year if they didn’t have a binding contract. Those contracts were signed before their share prices took a dump. I believe FOM will not be able to give the teams as much money as they have been giving them.”
Final question, how many new teams are out there who seriously want to come in and have the means to do it?
“We’ve got seven quite serious outfits wanting an entry and two less serious ones, its going to be very hard selecting three.”