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FOTA prepares new series, will Dennis get involved?
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FOTA prepares new series, will Dennis get involved?
Posted By:   |  22 Jun 2009   |  8:07 am GMT  |  81 comments

The noises coming out of the FOTA teams on Sunday evening were quite resolute. They are not swayed by the latest suggestions from Max Mosley of fresh dialogue and are pressing ahead with preparations for a breakaway series. Currently Flavio Briatore is making the running on this, given his strong reputation as a wheeler dealer, he is being positioned as the ‘new Bernie’ in the FOTA set up.

He has been in touch with several recent F1 circuits, sounding them out, preparing the ground. Several circuits are under the control of the teams anyway, like Fuji (Toyota) and Mugello (Ferrari).

“We will have it ready in the next few weeks. We have been planning for several weeks already. We want a Formula 1 championship organised by FOTA, ” said Briatore.

Briatore is a credible figure in this role. He and FOTA will appoint agents to start discussions with TV companies. I would imagine they will insist on free to air TV, rather than pay companies, like Sky, but we will see. It’s going to be tough in this climate. In the UK, neither ITV, Channel 4 nor Channel 5 would have much money to offer for a breakaway series, especially as most TV execs would know from experience that divided sports championships usually don’t work. Common sense tells you that everyone would prefer to retain a Formula 1 world championship with all the strong teams in it. FOTA’s point is that if they have to do their own series, the teams are clear that they will do it,

“The decision has been made by FOTA, ” said Ross Brawn. “FOTA now has to press ahead with its ideas and plans. We can’t wait until January and decide which way it is going to go. As each day passes, and each week passes then the options for reconciliation will reduce.”

The teams are suggesting that by the end of July most of the pieces will be in place so any compromise will need to be sorted out before then.

FOTA has been involved in plenty of working groups to frame technical regulations in recent months so they should not take long to draft a set of regulations, which embrace the vision they have for lower cost, but high technology racing.

“Meetings [to frame the technical regulations] start next week and we will arrive at a technical specification that we think offers the best racing and is cost effective, ” said Brawn. “Things start next week and we will start to put some more detail to the proposal.”

We are in a phoney war period now. There will be claims and rumours swirling around as each side looks to exploit the other’s weak points. Rumours of Mosley dropping the legal action against FOTA came out of an interview he did on Sky Italia yesterday. (Ferrari is certainly not dropping its arbitration against the FIA in Lausanne, which started last Monday).

Picture 34
One name which I have not heard mentioned recently in connection with all of this is Ron Dennis. He was removed from McLaren’s racing operation following the stewards’ incident at Melbourne and is now driving everyone crazy at McLaren cars. But as a 15 % shareholder of McLaren F1 team and a man who put in a lot of ground work on both the GPMA (manufacturer’s threatened breakaway in 2004) and FOTA, he will be monitoring this situation carefully and will be itching to get involved.

One senior figure at Ferrari said to me recently that he regretted that Dennis was not around any more as he contributed a lot to the cause. That tells you how much times have changed.

His involvement would enflame the situation as far as Mosley is concerned, so he may well be laying low, monitoring the situation until such time as intervention is appropriate. If a solution is found with FIA and FOM then it may never happen. But as a major shareholder in the team he will be involved in board meetings to discuss McLaren’s role in FOTA anyway and providing a guiding hand behind the scenes. Martin Whitmarsh has led McLaren well through this process, but it will not have escaped anyone’s attention that the race team is failing at the moment and he needs to concentrate on that.

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1

Bring back Ron?

I thought we were trying to get rid of miserable control freaks with opaque communication skills from F1!

Please tell me you’re all joking.

2

I can’t see Ron being a FOTA big wig in the long term.

It’s all very well people (with red cars) saying they “miss him” now, but imagine the new series is up and running. As soon as a spat appears (and it will) there will immediatly be accusations of MacLaren bias. Inevitable I’m afraid.

He might turn up a bit in tehy short tetm to annoy Max though 😉 As a part-owner of a FOTA team, he is bound to be involved.

Neil.

PS Same argument tells you why J Todd would never have replaced Max at the FIA.

3

Hi James,

I notice a few questions being raised regarding how FOTA’s championship would work – tyre suppliers, TV etc. But if the teams are running their own show, who is going to settle the disputes – like if one team found a computer disc will specs of another teams car. I can’t really see Ron or Flavio being very impartial.

cheers

4

What a difference a year makes !

I too would like to see Ron Dennis involved in the new series – in what role, I don’t know but he’s a great businessman and a racer and that’s exactly what they need.

Whatever the outcome of the current dispute, the FIA are going to have to take FOTA seriously and it will be FOTA calling the shots.

Announcing Ron in a senior role within FOTA rather than McLaren would certainly convince me that there would be no going back.

By the way, another Ron Dennis anecdote :

At the second ever Festival of Speed I was walking across a near deserted paddock at lunchtime and came across Ron standing looking at a Mercedes W154.

I already had a programme autographed by Jackie Stewart and John Surtees and asked Ron to sign on the same page.

I commented that his name would be on the same page as two World Champions and he immediately fired back

” I don’t mind slumming it.”

Tells you a lot about Ron, doesn’t it !

5

Sometimes you just have to tear the house down and build another. With all the adhoc changes and drastic modifications F1 has become the “strange old house down the street”.
I hope FOTA builds anew taking on board all the mistakes from the past and reinvents an F1 we all would be proud to follow.

6

James, thank you very much for the update regarding Ron. I never quite figured out if he was completely removed from the team or still had that invisible hand that provides guidance. It will be bittersweet revenge if he gets involved in the McLaren F1 team while Mosley is (hopefully) ousted. Many have asked during this ongoing crisis “where is Ron and what’s his take on what is going on”, yet until this piece I never came across any news.

7

James, Out of intrest, was there any discussion in the f1 paddock at Silverstone about what happened in America with CART & IRL?

I remember that you were around the CART series back before the split working for ESPN in the pits so you should know better than a lot around F1 just how big CART was in the early 90’s. You should therefore also know better than most in F1 just how much damage that split did to Open Wheel Racing in America. I’ve been a longtiem fan of Indycar racing & went through that split & am saddened at how much damage that did to Indycar racing.

I am praying that some solution is found & a Breakaway is avoided because I am terrified that should a split go ahead F1 Type Racing (F1 & FOTA series), that I’ve loved since I was 6 years old will go the way of Indycar racing & be largely irrelevant in 10 years time.

I happen to support most of what FOTA want from the FIA, I however am totally against a breakaway series because I don’t want to see what happened in America repeated.

8

Yes indeed I agree with Rusty… the time for change has come…. the time for change is now… give me a venue for the UK and French race next year and I’ll be first in line to buy a ticket!

This time last year I was returning from the very last French GP… it was a no-frills, low key venue yes… but it was lovely, very accessable as the French government built a motorway right into the car-park of it. In the drivers parade Louis Hamilton drove a 100 year old 1908 Mecerdes-Benz that won the French GP in 1908 – an amazing sight to behold! 🙂 Yet all that rich heritage held no mass to Bernie E when he cancelled the race this year!

The only reason there isn’t a French GP this year is because Bernie E didnt like the fact the race was in the countryside away from the glitz and bright lights of Paris…. he wants Mangy-Cour replaced with a posh street race in Paris.

What gives him the right to dictate what circuits are included – how dare he pick and choose circuits based on his team of accountants Profit/Loss Spreadsheets!!!

Surely circuits rich in racing heritage should take precidence over P&L reports!

Please FOTA follow your believe in passionate racing heritage.. and revive the soul of British & European Motor Racing – bin the dopey soul-less circuits like the Chinese and Bahrain races.. and take the dust-cover Magny-Cour and other such tracks!

9

I think your comment, James, about Ron Dennis’ involvement potentially inflaming the situation with Mosley is dead on. I suspect a great deal of Dennis’ guiding hand behind the scenes which is being kept out of the spotlight by letting McLaren’s public face (Whitmarsh) do all the talking.

Rightly so too. As much as I admire Ron Dennis for what he has achieved, and the way he has achieved it, he can certainly be…let’s say abrasive from time to time.

The only other point that I wanted to comment on in your post was that I don’t think what McLaren do with this years car is of any consequence whatsoever. I think McLaren should look, and probably are looking, further down the road than this season.

This one’s over they should let it go quietly into the night. There are much bigger fish to fry at the moment…, to happily mix metaphors.

10

I have posted on this subject on other forums but I must say that I now believe this is all smoke and mirrors.

Watch Martin Brundle ask Flav about the FOTA championship. Classic body language read. As Flav is saying it will definitely happen he’s shaking his head in an unconcious acknowledgement his thoughts and words are diametrically opposed. Given he is in business with Bernie at QPR how real is this fight?

11

I was wondering if you knew anything about the BBC story that the teams had agreed to sign documents stating they will stay in F1 untill 2012 but when the paperwork arrived, Max had changed the date to 2014?

Peter (the other one)

12

I totally agree with the Ferrarri official that Ron Dennis would be an invaluable asset to FOTA at this stage. But, as you mention james, I think it’s best to wait a little before Dennis rolls up his shirtsleeves and puts this championship together.

13

Could not agree more with Rusty0256. There is so much wrong with the FIA / FOA concept which will only be permanented if there is a compromise with FIA at this stage.
The time has come to put the fans whishes in the first place and make Grand Prix racing as exiting an interesting as it can be. ie great looking cars, great tracks and this should be the best tracks on each continent. Would F1 have failed in the USA had they raced on Laguna Seca and Elkhart Lake?

14

I almost totally agree with Rusty. If things could have worked out prior to the split, That would have been best, possibly.
I however couldn’t stand all the aero apprtinances of the last few years. SorryRusty, but that’s where we differ, but I also like sailplanes.
But now that Fota have got our hopes up, I only hope they succeed on both levels.
Most F1 fans don’t own Ferraris, Porsches, or any of the other cars we’d like to have. We just go to work every day, and hope we can make ends meet. I hope that one of the primary objectives of FOTA is to make attending , and watching the races something that we working stiffs can afford to do once a year so that we can feel part of the sport rather than just hearing about it through TV and the print media. I’d like to see them utilize YOUTUBE extensively, rather than FOM’s constantly forcing the removal of clips that give us the opportunity to form our own opinions instead of having to be told what happened.
I remember going to many Cam-Am races out here in California, seeing the best drivers in the world, and at the time, the most exciting cars.(Witness all the drivers and manufacturers from F1 that participated. The killing blow was Porsches entering the turbo.) That killed the series. Hopefully Fota will set up regulations that will preclude a similar occurrance in their new series.
James, I sit with baited breath for each of your comments on this site, and only wish that you wrote 24/7. You seem to have the best grasp of what’s going on of any of the media. I hope you’ll leave this last comment in my post.
Thanks again,
Barry

15

I’m not sure i agree with the previous poster Rusty. I’d prefer to see them work out a deal, albeit one where the power of the FIA is reduced and the revenues distributed more evenly. Bernie’s 50% is a scandal. If the teams got a bigger slice of the cake there would be less need for such draconian cost-cutting inititives. Added to that is the number of races moving to E. European and Middle East backwaters because some ego-driven government or royal is willing to pay through the nose for an F1 race to satisfy their own ego – never mind that there is no fan-base in the country and the manufacturers are missing out on important markets such as N.America.

And that’s before we even get to Max and his dictatorial hold over the sport and press…

Come to think of it maybe a breakaway is the only option. Such a shame that Max’s meglomania and Bernie’s greed have brought us to this…

16

If only Mosely would go, but of course, he surely won’t. The allegations he faced last year should have been enough to crush anyone but Mosely is stubborn [mod]

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – I for one admire FOTA for standing up to him

17

Just a thought: Bernie and Flavio are supposed to be good friends. As a result I’d assumed until this weekend that he’d be one of the moderates in FOTA, not one of the “loonies”. Flavio was even asked about this by Martin Brundle on the Silverstone grid, to which he replied something like “[Bernie and I] are good friends, but on this matter we disagree”.

So, could it possibly be that Flavio is manufacturing the threat of a breakaway series under Bernie’s instructions, in order to convince CVC to sell up cheaply and get out of the sport? Could it even be that the rest of the teams are conniving in this?

Like I said, just a thought.

18

Just a short point regarding TV rights, because I get the feeling it’s overlooked a a lot – it’s not been mentioned much on the Autosport forums, either.

I would think that the TV situation is different per country, but in some countries TV stations simply don’t have a choice if the FOTA series happens, from my point of view:

Germany:
RTL simply cannot ignore the FOTA series if it has Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari (which is huge in Germany due to Schumacher), and Vettel (plus Rosberg, Heidfeld, Glock, and Sutil.)

Great Britain:
I know that everyone says ITV, etc., can’t afford it and the BBC is supposedly contracted to FOM. But the FOTA series will probably have two British world champions (Hamilton, Button) and all the big British teams. I can’t see it not being on free TV.

Italy:
Duh.

Spain:
Alonso in FOTA.

France:
Renault in FOTA.

You get the drift; the countries that must have FOTA on free TV form quite a sizable power.

19

sorry correction:
in many languages racing drivers are not called drivers but pilots

that is what i was trying to say

20

Well said Rusty.
Personally I believe, in part, that the spirit of Max’s proposals is correct (bring back ingenuity/innovation, take away manic refinement achieved through excessive use of money) but not the method.

I hope the drivers can be given some say too. I would hope they would show at least some of the courage (maybe craziness too) of those who came before them, and demand the return of the great corners, great circuits, the great crowds and yes, maybe a bit more danger as well.

If I was a racing driver I would want to race on the old legendary circuits, test myself against the greats of the past on the same tarmac they raced on. F1 today is sanitized to an excessive degree.

This is probably a taboo subject, but can we say that F1 felt different when driver’s lives were on the line. Not for nothing in many racers were (and still are) referred to as “pilots” not drivers. Precisely because there was a “twenty-minuter” aspect in their lives. And you never forgot it each time they went past.

Now I would never go back to the deadly machines of yesteryear. But at the very least we could use our very safe modern F1s on some more demanding circuits, restored to their former “viciousness”.

And we need to recruit some “pilots”. Rossi, Lorenzo, Stoner, indeed most of the guys in MotoGP, now they are pilots. I watch them and literally jump out of the seat. Our current F1 “chauffeurs” make me doze off.

21

The amount of flip flopping going on, or at lease reported, by Bernie and Max leaves me wondering if they are capable of dealing with this issue at all.

Bernie has gone from Silverstone being dead, which he certainly gave the impression as being his desire all these years, to now it will be back in 2010 if Donington is not ready.

Max has gone from who cares about Ferrari, to threatening litigation, to calling FOTA loonies, to dropping litigation. And

Bernie has been quoted again over the weekend as saying that he provides the venues, the teams provide the cars and drivers and he gives the teams the money. How out of touch can someone be when its the fans watching or coming to the gates that pay the money.

FOTA, at least publicly has acted more professionally and appears more consistent in what they want. I applaud them for sticking to their gun and calling Max and Bernie’s bluff. Although I really don’t want to see a separate series’.

22

Hey James, I’ve just read this http://www.as.com/motor/articulo/ezpeleta-descarta-encabezar-campeonato-paralelo/dasmot/20090622dasdasmot_4/Tes about Carmelo Ezpeleta from DORNA (MotoGP owners) refusing to manage a possible F1 breakaway series and calling it “a nonsense, perjudicial for both sides”. If you find it interesting I can translate a bit more.

bye

23

and add to that the fact that if they do it, maybe they would get a lot more money from the constructors championship, that means i could even get a profitable sport..

24

The thousands of positive blog entries on F-1 and related news websites encouraging FOTA to continue on the path they appear to have chosen, a full breakaway from Bernie & the FIA, is creating an enormous sense of expectation.

As a whole, the fans passionately want this breakaway to proceed and succeed. These of course are two distinct ‘wants’ that need to be looked at carefully.

1) The hope that FOTA are genuine in their goal to start a fresh new series and for it not to be just a bargaining tool to bring Max and Bernie to heel and give them what they had previously wanted. If FOTA / FOM / FIA suddenly negotiates a settlement, even one that addresses FOTA’s basic aims, it will be viewed by the fans with great cynicism. A settlement might be accompanied by Max’s ‘retirement’ and some sort of level playing field for those participating but we will still be stuck with Bernie and his baggage (CVC, high ticket prices, GP’s at circuits nobody loves).

2) The hope that the breakaway is a success; and a success in the way the majority of the fans would want. This means, the best cars, teams and drivers. It means new teams, supported by affordable manufacturer engines and technical support. We look forward to the return of fan-friendly, traditional circuits, consistent understandable rules that evolve rather than chop and change, lower ticket prices with profits that stay in the sport (rather than filling the accounts of faceless, investment corporations). We want a Championship that we can be passionate about, rather than be (as we have been for too long) cynical and resigned about.

This is why I believe that FOTA must proceed with the breakaway. They have now gone too far to turn back and any half-baked attempt at reconciliation will leave, fans feeling empty and even more disenchanted.

The ultimate irony is that in the past 10 or so years the dollar value of F-1 has risen to astronomical sums, but at the same time we, the fans, have suffered a gradual devaluation of what F-1 means to us. The cynical politics, the willful regulation changes, the loss of great circuits (and the hatred we feel for their replacements), the vast sums of money siphoned out of the sport, ridiculous ticket prices, cars that look identical bar their colour, the list goes on.

The FOTA proposition may, and probably will not be perfect but it gives us a greater hope than we have felt for many, many years. It is inspiring and it represents the aspirations of the true motor racing enthusiasts, racers and fans alike.

The time has come for change.

25

James,

have you seen the provisional calendar for a FOTA 2010 world championship leaked to an Eastern European journalist (!?) in today’s Guardian? It makes very interesting reading but how much credit can we attach to it?
There are 16 races which is the correct number. Any more than that and the season becomes too long.Monte Carlo, Monza, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Suzuka are included. How does that work if they have contracts with FOM?
Some interesting inclusions such as Mexico (was that circuit recently butchered for indycars/champcars, though?), Portimao, Imola, Montreal, Indy, Silverstone (and reading a quote from Damon Hill today it looks like the BRDC are keeping their options open regarding which circuit Silverstone will support next year. I have also read that Simon Gillet may be involved in the promotion of the British GP at Silverstone now!) and Adelaide. A very interesting new addition would be Helsinki. I presume that would be the street circuit that was used for DTM Thunder recently. You can’t say that Finland don’t deserve a GP after the success of Finnish drivers plus good support Finns give at races in general.
Concerning additions include Buenos Aires, Jerez and Lausitzring. Are these tracks suitable for F1? If memory serves me correctly B.A. and Jerez never had a straight worthy of the name. Would Lausitzring be similar to Indy, an oval combined with an infield, never a natural circuit? Indy gets away with it because of the history.
Interesting to see that races with limited atmosphere or local interest are not included:- Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Turkey, etc. Disaster if there’s no Spa plus no mention of a French GP.
With FOTA’s power could they influence next year’s calendar even if they come under the wing of FIA again?

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