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Who's on top in F1 struggle today?
Posted By:   |  10 Jun 2009   |  12:44 pm GMT  |  56 comments

Two days to go until the entries are announced for the 2010 F1 world championship and the situation is finely balanced.

The FIA has said that there is ‘no question’ of the Concorde Agreement being signed by Friday and Max Mosley has urged the FOTA teams to make their entries unconditional (there are strings attached currently) in order to change the system from within.

The idea would be that once they had all signed up to be budget capped next year, they could then agree a new set of rules which was more in line with FOTA’s suggestions. But it has proved notoriously difficult to get unanimous agreement in the past.

His letter to the teams said, “It is of course up to you, but the simplest way to ensure that all entrants run under the same rules would be if everyone entered under the cost-cap rules as published and then all entrants cooperated to agree modifications to those rules which would make the proposition workable for all parties.”

The plan would then entail FIA looking at FOTA’s proposals for next year. This looks to me like Mosley’s way of saying, “We can give you want, but I need a win from this.”

And that is probably what it boils down to now. I think the teams might be happy for Mosley to be seen to have won, as long as they get the key elements they want, which is not to have a budget cap and to re-instate the rule making procedures laid out in the Concorde Agreement.

Meanwhile the teams have been letting it be known that they have examined the option of an alternative series. Carmelo Expeleta, the Bernie of Moto GP was in the F1 paddock recently and there are rumours that his organisation, Dorna, has been approached about helping the FOTA teams fast-track a 2010 world championship. I’m not sure that there is any truth in that.

Some of the recent F1 venues no longer on the calendar have been sounded out about hosting events.

I’m not sure anyone has the stomach for a split. It would destroy a good business and neither side would win ultimately, because the public would get confused and lose interest as they did with boxing and with CART/IRL in the USA.

I don’t think either side is feeling totally confident about their position.

Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali said on Sunday that “The 12th could be a day when you could see some interesting things or it could be a day when you have to consider what is F1 and what is the future of racing. At the moment we are damaging this sport.”

FOTA responded to Mosley’s letter, but no details of what they said have emerged. It was suggested that a deal was imminent, but team sources I have spoken to today say that is not the case.

The FOTA team principals met today in London. Afterwards Domenicali commented on the theory that the FIA will publish an entry list on Friday with Ferrari’s name on it, because they consider Ferrari to have a legally binding contract, “Ferrari’s position has not changed,” he said. ”

Back on 29 May, we put in a conditional entry with the other teams that make up FOTA. Along with this entry, we put forward to the FIA a package of proposals which included among other elements, a significant reduction in costs. As always, we will do all we can to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties. If this is not possible, then the FIA will not be able to include Ferrari in the list of teams entered for the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.”

Meanwhile Bernie Ecclestone has issue a threat to sue FOTA in the event of a breakaway, should they attempt to take away any of his contracted properties, like broadcasters or circuits. Speaking to Bob McKenzie in the Express he said, “Apart from my contracts with teams, if somebody went to any of our contracted people, companies, television contractors, we would view it very seriously.

“That would be inducement to breach contracts and I don’t do that myself, so I won’t stand back and let it happen. Any action could run to hundreds of millions of pounds, who knows how much?”

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1

What I find interesting, despite all the smoke and mirrors, is that Max has clearly tried to influence the new “teams” to take on classic names from the past, in a childish and transparent attempt to make the teams think it can and will go on without them. The fact that some of these “teams” have basically stolen the names, in several cases without permission as it transpires, shows just how unhinged and desperate [mod] Max really is.

2

I read Bernie’s threat and couldn’t see his point…

Surely, if all the 8 FOTA teams left the FIA F1 championship (and went ton to create their own series as Max suggested) then Bernie would be the one being sued big time – by these same TV companies, tracks and sponsors he claims can’t be approached.

Do you think all these countries and GP promoters that are currently paying top dollar to host an F1 race would be happy to see that event being run in 2010 with unknown teams like Litespeed, Epsilon and USGPE instead of Ferrari, BMW and Brawn?!? They would go mad at the prospect.

Same goes for all the sponsors and TV companies around the globe currently contracted to F1 (BBC, Rai, RTL, Globo etc…) – they would also sue Bernie for failing to deliver the world class event they paid millions for.

If anyone is sweating on tomorrows deadline it’s Bernie – he is the one very close to losing everything he worked for all these years.

3

I’m just thinking out loud here (along with Francisco it seems)…

What is to stop the teams submitting an entry to next years F1 championship (as apparently they are legally contracted to do in some cases) but not spending any real money on it (rookie drivers etc) whilst then putting together an additional championship (say with Dorna) to which their main drivers etc go and they can build cars to whatever set of rules they have agreed. they could be really cheeky and put a standard car together… cost would be very low.

This would prevent Bernie/the FIA suing anybody, because although it would be a complete joke, they would have met the terms of their contracts. Without knowing any of the details, I’m guessing Bernie’s contracts with the race circuits are not exclusive, likewise the TV contracts – other racing series can be broadcast. Perhaps one makes the circuits part of the whole thing so all parties can share in the income…

TV rights – for existing right holders- make them a very good offer indeed. And make the series in HD (trust me the viewers will migrate in droves). You can then do some neat things with the online rights for viewing (take a look at MLB TV for an example) and allow sharing of highlight clips etc on the interweb thingy (will please all hardcore fans who like to yell at each other about racing incidents).

What’s the downside? The only track I can see that you couldn’t run on at another time of year is Monaco. That would be a shame. But I’m sure other enlightened cities would be keen to have a street race (Perhaps London?).

Just a thought

4

Yes Rich good point but the manufacturers own all the engines.Somehow F1 2010 with all the cars on the grid with cosworth engines isn’t that appealing, still there will be plenty of DNF’s as they were never that reliable.

5

According to the Daily Express, Ecclestone claims Red Bull and STR have signed up for F1 in 2010. If that really is the case FOTA now look like losing the battle. Renault are already making quitting noises, blaming the FIA of course, but in reality the Renault main board knows perfectly well that the current obscene level of spending on F1 will be unsustainable in future and has to be slashed mightily. Likewise I still believe that Ferrari’s poodle, Toyota, for all the big talk, is likely to pull out to cut its losses, having failed in its F1 venture. As ever the name of the game will be for the car manufacturers to deny that they cannot afford to spend hundreds of millions per annum on F1 and blame Mosley, yet at the same time they are closing factories worldwide and losing money hand over fist in the market place, which gives the lie to their excuses.

No lesser person than Damon Hill has come out publicly to remind the sport that a split will be hugely damaging, just as it was in the US. It certainly will. A breakaway has no long term future because Formula One will always be there, with its decades of tradition behind it. Merely a name, yes, but that name is everything, especially in the media. Certainly a budget capped F1 will be diminished in the short run, but given a year or two, it will renew itself as the new teams come up to speed. A FOTA breakaway is always likely to be restricted to a very small (and diminishing) number of entrants by the cost of competing with Ferrari, and if they do slash costs they just might as well have remained in F1.

Give it a couple of years and a breakaway is likely to fizzle out and Ferrari will return to the fold with their tail between their legs. But then, they probably are legally bound to F1 anyway, regardless of their protestations to the contrary. Ferrari’s legal advice has been shown repeatedly to be unsound in the past, and I see no reason to think that will change in the future.

6

I don’t think this break is going to happen, no matter how much you guys hate Max.
The sheer logistics of starting some sort of breakaway series would be extremely daunting, and no way would it happen in time for 2010. And expensive as heck!
I dont see the manufacturers ponying up *another couple of hundred million on top of their existing expenses to pay for it all, either.
Remember these are *manufacturers. They exist solely to make profits for the ppl that own them by selling cars. They’ll quit the minute they dont sell enough cars, just like Honda.
The small, independant teams are in it for the racing. Thats all they do and they’re not likely to quit for non-racing reasons.

7

It isn’t only F1 being greedy, the same thing is happening in the FOOTBALL WORLD, that’s why Setanta TV.is in such a financial mess. paying too much for to be able buy contracts.
it is going to decimate some of the lower league teams, who will now, not get paid. where is it going to end, a lot of the premiership teams will have to lower the price of season tickets or the terraces will be as empty as some F1 venues.
at the end of the day, the FANS do matter, without them there’s no atmosphere, whatever the sport.!

ps. probably with the exception of ANGLING.

8

Is this the last act of a desprate man by threatening to sue everyone.He know’s there gone, FOTA aren’t going to back down and nor should they.No track principle,tv exec,company ceo is going to stump up tens of million’s of dollars for william’s ,force india & whocares racing when they can get all the big names for less than the paying now.Bernie will be a long time dead before this goes through the court’s.One guy taking on the legal council of FIAT,RENAULT,TOYOTA,MERCEDES,BMW,please we would still be waiting 50 years from now for a decision.On top of that he would be being sued by everyone else.Both of them should fall on there swords and get out of the way.

9

As many here have already stated, Max’s proposal doesn’t make sense because there won’t be unanimous agreement between the no-cap teams and the capped teams. Max is delusional if he thinks FOTA will fall for that.

[mod]

10

All this talk of a split destroying the sport, or confusing the fans, or repeating the errors of IRL/CART is a load of old rubbish. F1 fans are pretty sophisticated really – I think if we’re about to follow the array of fuel loads, pit stops, lap times, tyre degradations and track positions at any given moment during a race we ought to just about manage to get our heads round which teams have left to race in a different series.

And drawing instant parallels with what happened to American racing a generation ago is just lazy. There are numerous differences between F1 today and CART of yesteryear, plus FOTA now have the added benefit of a case scenario to learn what mistakes to avoid.

I love the thought of a split, because I despise the way the teams are constantly being shafted by a so-called regulator. The £100m McLaren fine seemed wholly abitrary given Toyota’s previous lack of penalty for a similar (worse?) transgression, and when one as esteemed as Martin Brundle begins suggesting an alleged witch hunt one must question exactly what part of the regulator’s remit includes such overbearing interference?

A body such as the FIA should NEVER stoop to wars of personality; that’s fine for inter-team rivalry, indeed it adds to the overall competition, but sadly all the FIA ever seem to do lately in their F1 dealings is be antagonistic and resort to rivalries with various opponents. The thing is though, the roll call of people Max has battled with have all risked everything to enter the sport and operate or acquire teams. Maxwell – what have you ever sacrificed for your role as FIA President?

I love the idea of a FOTA / MotoGP merger, and I’m even remotely a motorcycle fan. But to bond with a sport that already has the infrastructure, the contracts, the venues etc, and imbue it with the star F1 drivers and top teams; well that’s just bloody genius isn’t it?

It wouldn’t be easy of course, nothing worthwhile ever is.

But I hope to hell FOTA do it, cos the fans will follow the drivers. Seriously, with Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Massa, Raikkonen, Webber, Vettel etc driving in GP1 or whatever they call it next year, along with the Prancing Horse – the fans WILL follow.

11

It’s great to see such strong support for F1 based on it’s history and innovation. I believe this is where FOTA are coming from. No one sees the writing on the wall better than they do, but having arbitrary rules imposed year after year does nothing to improve racing or reduce costs. The teams are saying “Enough!” I fear they may still lose out against the Ego in Paris nonetheless.

Either way, even it destroys F1 as we know it, I want nothing more than to see FOTA stick to their guns and never cave to Max, no matter what. His reign of error must come to an end.

12

I don’t think fans would be confused at all!
I would be quite happy to see a FOTA Series and F1 continue, the more racing the merrier for me! It would be interesting to see different rules for racing of similar cars.

Mosley should be long gone.

13

When big bucks and pure sport collide, sport is always the loser. The underlying reason for this whole fiasco is simply that F1 got drunk on ‘ loadsa money’ when there was almost literally money to burn…..and now the inevitable hard times have come.

They’ve come with such force and overwhelming power that some people in F1 ( Ecclestone’s bosses, CVC ) still don’t get it. They actually think the F1 goose is gonna continue laying golden eggs.

When will they realise…the goose is dead.

And one after another the national governments of most of the historic and original circuits will call time on paying out the staggering fees Ecclestone/CVC still think they can charge. Because most of these historic circuits are in democratic countries their electorates simply won’t vote for politicians who’ll spend their taxes on frivolous things like motor sport.

And all F1 will be left with is fabulously grand circuits in the deserts of the world with fifty locals and a camel to watch the racing.

What a wonderful prospect !

Stick to your guns FOTA and wipe Ecclestone and CVC off the map ! Forever !

14

Ezpeleta (not Expeleta) is a very able person with the know-how and experience to make it happen. This is very BAD NEWS for Bernie. He has to see this as a real threat. I have heard 3 cars per manufacturer awaiting for potential additional brands joining later.

Meantime, to comply with F1 contracts, Ferrari et al. could run with B cars bringing down F1 to the ground in no time. What about Formula X series for a name?

15

The CART/IRL mantra over the F1 split is comical at best. “Destroying a good business”? The only business the current sham of a sport is, is the business of servicing CVC’s debt and exploitation of all the teams, the tracks and the fans.

The FOTA series would take the biggest teams in the sport and all the best drivers with them and Monaco. It would gut “F1”, in name only as it would be then, and FOM would be bankrupted in 2 seasons maximum. It is a devastatingly efficient plan of action. There would nothing of appeal in F1 for anyone.

CART/IRL only remained a constant because IRL got Indy. Well FOTA would take everything. F1 would have nothing and Williams, you can bet would be scrambling to rush to the new series.

The public aren’t stupid. They’ll follow Grand Prix racing with FOTA. They’ll follow their teams and they’ll follow their drivers. FOTA in turn would bring down ticket prices – because they care for the public since they pay the bills in the end, they would allow circuits to turn profits, they would allow media to bring Grand Prix racing into the broadband and High Definition age.

It is what the teams have always deserved, complete ownership of the series with all the benefits that would entail. An organisation which realises that the sport is far more than the mechanics of interest coverage ratios and free cash flow, one man’s greed and another one’s power trip. An organisation accountable to their parent companies who are accountable in the end to the fans. Since it is the fans and the public at large who are ultimately the reason why manufacturers are involved in the sport.

I sincerely hope the breakaway happens. The FIA Formula 1 championship is a scam and enough is enough. I saw my own team backstab the others in 2004 when they had the opportunity to end the insanity. That has come back to haunt them. Now Ferrari are belligerent and angry. Hopefully their allies stay the course.

16

James

Why didn’t Force India get suspended by FOTA for signing like Williams (Unconditiona Contract)?

17

It seems extraordinary to me that in a time of economic crisis there are supposedly a number of new teams queing up for places on the grid next season. I am curious to know how “real” some of theses teams are. Are they just a bargaining tool to apply pressure to FOTA? Are they, as Frank Williams seemed to suggest, “B” teams for the big teams to share costs/double their available capped budget? Or are they just speculators submitting an application in the hope that the value of an entry will be high if some of the existing teams fall by the wayside by having their entry declared invalid? Or do I just need to get out more? Somehow I suspect that a great many people are being played in all this, and unfortunately i’m starting to feel that one of them is me.

18

First of all, congratulations James!!! Your blog is a “must” and a real and good source of news and opinion. Go ahead!!

Concerning the war FIA / FOTA, I truly believe Max Mosley is a real danger for F1. His last letter inviting FOTA teams to enter into next championship so they can negotiate and change the system from within must be a joke (a Max Mosley’s joke, of course). Let me explain.

1. For years we have been hearing Mosley saying that if the teams could not agree on the rules, the FIA had no other remedy that dictate them.

2. He pushes changes to the rules in order to improve overtaking and reduce costs, which bring us the introduction of KERS and the confusion on whether the DD diffuser (Renault and Red Bull allege they were not allowed to develop their DD diffusers). As a result, millions have been wasted in KERS, which has not proved useful over a entire race (ask Brawn, Red Bull, Toyota or Williams whether they miss KERS at all), and nowadays millions are being spent on adapting designs to a new DD diffuser which was not taken into account when the cars were initially designed (ask Newey). Btw, overtaking has not much improved either.

3. FOTA teams unify and act as a single voice.

4. As a reaction, instead of playing the “referee” role, the FIA introduces a new set of rules for year 2010, including a two-tier system -contradicting what Mosley had publicly said all these years (“If teams could agree on something…”)- allegedly to avoid that any existing team withdraws as was the case with Honda.

5. All teams unanimously ask FIA to withdraw changes meant for year 2010. Instead, FIA goes ahead.

6. FOTA teams lodge a conditional entry and Mosley throws more fuel to the fire and says that if FOTA teams want to write the rules they just can create a new series. Note: Mosley does not want that a existing team withdraws in the future because it finds F1 too expensive, but it doesn’t bother to him that all existing teams (at least eight of them) leave as a consequence of his own rules.

7. Now Mosley invites FOTA teams to file unconditional entries, so they can afterwards re-write the rules.

Why on earth would Mosley accept changes unanimously agreed by all teams when he has not done so these last months? James, do you really think he is serious on this?? He has lost all credibility. I’m sure he will not go a step down, he just wants FOTA teams to surrender to him, it’s a question of psychology.

I wish we had a good F1 series next year, with Ferrari, McLaren, Renault et al. But if a breakaway series is born is Mosley the one to blame for this (btw, be sure I’ll follow big guns), you cannot treat teams that invest money and get the circus play the show as slaves, which is what he is doing.

A different person governing the FIA and a new set of rules and the introduction of cost-cutting measures negotiated with all teams would already be a fact. I wish Mosley and Ecclestone leave F1 asap for the sport’s sake.

Sorry I wrote such a long message, hope you don’t get headache when reading it.

19

If Max would accept FOTA’s proposals, there would be no problem. Costs would be cut, new teams would be helped and F1 would be even stronger than it is now.

So why can’t he do that????

20

I hope they don’t split- at risk of being unpopular I actually quite like the idea of the budget cap! But I’m commenting to point out that a split wouldnt necessarily be bad for everyone, you mentioned boxing – but what about rugby? that split and both parts have gone on to be very successful! union possibly more so than league but either way it can be done!

21

On the surface it seems Max may have clocked that FOTA aren’t being half-assed this time – which is encouraging. Provided he can learn just a touch of humility I think he has excellent qualities for leadership in terms of vision and political skill – it sounds ironic, but if he can demonstrate a suitable back-down on this issue I think he’ll actually improve his chances of re-election.

I hope this will all fizz out – but if it does not I hope FOTA can keep it together and drive home their alternative route through their own vision of an alternative FOTA series.

The argument that this will damage everyone doesn’t wash with me – I think it will only damage the series that ultimately fails to provide the best in terms of drivers, historical links, circuits, entertainment and value for money. On current form, I feel the “FIA F1 World Championship” would have a lot of catching up to do.

Rich

22

To me this sounds like Mosley is telling the public “See, I am open to change the rules as long as teams compete”, while trying to force the teams to commit to playing by the rules they do not accept. If FOTA commits (unconditionally) to race next year, there is no way budget cap goes away, because the new teams (which have an equal voice when deciding about the rules), rely on it.

Besides, wasn’t it Max’s idea in the first place for the FOTA teams to enter applications with conditions? What was the point of that, if he wants them to enter without conditions before rules could even in principle be changed?

23

There are three aspects to the FOTA vs FIA thing. It’s really dissappointing how most media have missed the point. Friday’s Press Conference in Turkey with Flav, Howett and Dominecalli layed it out well, but didn’t get mentioned much. Where as something completely stupid and ficticious like the Turkey boycott got alot of media play.

1 – Cap.
2 – Governance.
3 – Revenues.

‘3’ is a big one but it’s been spoken about the least. ‘1’ is what has been spoken about the most. It’s nice to see ‘2’ mentioned in the blog entree above. The teams want the Formula One Commision to return, and for Max to have less power making decisions (and no choosing to use or ignore certain rules when he pleases). For example he insisted the teams enter before the deadline, but has now insisted they re-enter conditionally, however the deadline has already passed.

For ‘3’.. Here is Carlos Ghosn’s (CEO of Renault) thoughts..

“We are the ones doing the show, who bring in the technology, who bring in the engines, who hire the drivers. And if we do the show, the revenues of Formula One must come back to us.”

“Today we pay to be in Formula One; that is not normal,” “Intermediaries have made enough money with this. We want to take back control of Formula One.”

Currently the teams get 50% of revenues and the administration gets 50%, compared to other leagues/franchises where the administration gets 5-10%. The 50% goes to paying off the CVC debt (which is apparently now 2 billion) after Bernie sold the rights of F1 to CVC for 100 years and made a fortune. Which is the reason the circuit and TV fees are so high. Max wants to reduce costs, and a budget cap would make things cheaper for the teams (and easier to make profit) but would Bernie reduce the price of circuit entree fees and ticket prices? If not, it seems in the future virtually all races will be payed for by Arab oil money, and the Euro tracks will be gone.

A breakaway series would solve alot of these problems for the teams, but also would be quite damaging for the sport in the short term. They could charge alot less for circuits and TV though, and still make more profit out of it. There is also a question mark on how the teams would be able to manage themselves (to a certain degree a Max figure is needed).

24
Brenda (Nytewynd)

If the teams give into Max’s idea of an unconditional signup for the next season with the idea of trying to make changes from within, then they are fools and deserve whatever Max does to them. He has already stated, many times, especially in his response to them (as has been stated again in this article) that ‘all’ entrants have to agree on the rule changes FOTA is wanting. That means unanimous decision. Max knows that means he would have a dramatic win and weaken/damage FOTA. Most of the teams wanting into F1 right now only came out of the woodwork when Max announced the budget cap and 2-tier series. Why would they vote with FOTA to go back to the 2009 rules and work on things from there? Hence, FOTA would be stuck with an F1 they didn’t want and the new teams/Max/Bernie would have the last laugh.

I don’t want to see F1 ruined, but Max and Bernie have been ruining it for years and I guess Max didn’t feel it was being destroyed fast enough. I can also guess, with Bernie now opening his mouth, that his attempts to sway Max behind the scene haven’t worked, so now he’s going to threaten the teams if they decide to break from F1. We have two old men running scared and knowing they’ve lost it. I don’t think F1 can continue with those two in charge. The damage done to it over the last few years is overwhelming and it has become more and more of a joke. It has become all about politics and very little about racing. Where is the passing and the close championship fight the fans have been wanting.

Max and Bernie don’t care about the fans or the teams or the racing. They care about themselves. It’s time FOTA told them they won’t take it anymore. Good thing I am not part of FOTA because one of my conditions on signing would have been for Max and Bernie to get out of F1.

25

James,
I personally think that if FOTA left the FIA sanctioned format and started it’s own series, Tha it might be a huge improvement. There is the possiblity of F1 cars returning to some of the classic tracks, fnas being able to afford attending a race in their own country and still being to afford to eat the following week, and stability of rules and regulations for the foreseeable future. Then when CVC is out, Bernie retired, and Mosely taken down a couple of pegs, then they might return to the FIA. However I don’t think the FIA is a necessary ingredient to F!, as they seem to comprise so many members that barely drive donkey carts and have little or no automotive industry or any industrial base that warrants the influence that they weild in the FIA.
I’m not against them being members, but I think the FIA needs to rewrite it’s charter , and rethink who votes in matters of consequense, relative to racing.
I’ve been a fan of F! since the early 60’s and think things now in F1 seem to only go from bad to worse. A breakaway series, even if it lasted only a couple of years wouldn’t necessarily e the end of f1 as we know it. Maybe the fota teams should look into buying out CVC and Bernie. Then they could pick the countries, tracks and times of day to race.
Living in the US is dificult enough when watching F1 is involved, But in my mind, Bernies selling dates to countries that are only looking for international noteriety, and government sponsored events, is what’s killing F1, along with the FIA’s quest for power beyond their prescribed portfolio.
I’ve read where the FIA is acting in a manner dissallowed by European union law and would think that that is something that should be persued in the courts as well.
Barry

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