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F1 power struggle coming to a head
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F1 power struggle coming to a head
Posted By:   |  16 Jun 2009   |  5:04 pm GMT  |  0 comments

I have a feeling that the end is in sight in the battle between the FIA and FOTA. I’ve spent the day on the phone to many of the interested parties and read the statements issued by the FIA. It looks like Friday will be put-up or shut-up day.

The first statement this morning was about the negotiations over how budget restrictions are controlled and this stated that the negotiations were now over, the budget cap stays.

Later on the FIA put out a long document recounting the history, as they see it, of this process and of FOTA’s conduct through the process.

The FIA document suggested that FOTA, Ferrari and in particular its president Luca di Montezemolo have been obstructive all along. Although there is no official response to this, the word I’m getting is that the teams feel there are some misleading statements in here.

“The FIA and FOM have together spent decades building the FIA Formula One World Championship into the most watched motor sport competition in history,” says the document.

“In light of the success of the FIA’s Championship, FOTA – made up of participants who come and go as it suits them – has set itself two clear objectives: to take over the regulation of Formula One from the FIA and to expropriate the commercial rights for itself. These are not objectives which the FIA can accept.”

Ferrari would argue that they have created the history, but this sentence isn’t aimed at them. A bit further on there is a memorable sentence which is, “Good governance does not mean that Ferrari should govern.” As a sentence that is almost Obama-esque in its balance, but the meaning is one sided.

It goes on, “Ferrari now claim that the procedures followed by the FIA are contrary to their agreement with the FIA, but in reality they never objected to these procedures (indeed they voted for them) until they were not happy with the decisions themselves. Ferrari has been officially (as well as unofficially) represented on the WMSC since 1981 and never objected to the process or decisions until April and May this year.”

Attached to the statement is a raft of correspondence. There is a letter from Mosley to Montezemolo dated 26th May which indicates that the FIA would accept a budget cap of €100 million ‘but we must have a cap’ and we must have certainty’, writes Mosley.

For 2011 Mosley suggests a cap of €40 or €45 million. He offers to drop the two tier rules and the technical advantages originally offered to the budget capped teams, if the teams will engage in an exchange of know-how with the new entrants for 2010 and ‘possibly’ 2011.

I seems to me now that the talking has stopped. After the finance meeting on Monday, the FIA’s Tony Purnell is reported to have said that the parties would meet again on Wednesday or latest Thursday. But now no meeting will take place.

The time is fast approaching for the five teams, whose entry in conditional, to either enter the championship or go off and start their own series. Of those five, Brawn GP and McLaren are under the most pressure. Surely they will have to think very seriously about the wisdom of not entering, while the other three manufacturer teams, Toyota, Renault and BMW would have to either do a dramatic U turn or leave the sport. Many people in F1 circles believe that this is Mosley’s agenda. If that were to happen then there would be spaces for Prodrive and two other new teams.

The alternative for the five teams would be to start a breakaway and hope that Ferrari won its legal battle with the FIA and FOM. That could take months to resolve and it would be hard to plan a breakaway without knowing that Ferrari was definitely part of it.

The FIA believes it has Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso under contract, the same contract as it has Force India and Williams under. I’ve spoken to Williams’ Adam Parr on this, he is a barrister and he says the contract is watertight, which is why they have entered. Ferrari say it isn’t because the FIA breached it when drawing up the 2010 rules.

Red Bull and Toro Rosso have stayed in the FOTA camp this long so as to be able to see the whole picture and have put their name to every letter and statement, but Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz has always been close to Mosley and despite protestations from the Red Bull team, I wonder whether they will sign up on Friday, as racing is all those two teams exist for.

The end is nigh…as those men with sandwich boards are wont to say and it looks like it’s heading for the worst outcome.

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