James Allen on FOTA's power play - Feature - F1 | ITV Sport
Friday, 29 May 2009 23:43
So, the nine FOTA teams have all signed up to the 2010 world championship after all. Or have they?
The teams’ alliance made it clear in the statement it issued on Friday afternoon that its commitment to Formula 1 is conditional on the FIA accepting its terms – an outcome which cannot be taken for granted.
After examining the statement in detail and consulting FOTA sources, itv.com/f1 columnist James Allen expects a lot more water to pass under the bridge before this saga is over…
Formula 1 is feeling a little bit in limbo this evening.
As I write this the deadline for entering the 2010 world championship closes in a few minutes and we have seen some new teams tentatively placing their entry, we’ve seen Williams boldly asserting their right to move forward as an F1 team on their own, and we’ve seen the nine remaining teams put in a collective entry with more strings attached than a cats’ cradle.
For all the chatter this week about the teams moving closer to the FIA’s position, agreeing a ‘glide path’ of reducing costs ultimately to end up with the Â£40 million budget cap FIA president Max Mosley wanted all along, it turns out that they had something else in mind altogether.
In fact it turns out that they are thinking along very much the same lines as they were thinking in March when they hosted their FOTA press conference in Geneva.
They want to make cost savings but they want to do so their way and on their terms.
It will be fascinating to see the FIA’s reaction to this strong position by the teams.
What they are proposing is a long way from what the FIA has already signed off on.
What the teams outlined today is a rejection of the whole notion of budget caps.
It is a rejection of the two-tier rules system and it is a statement of intent; if the conditions for entry are not right, then there will be no entry by nine of the teams.
F1 would be a shadow of what it is today with Williams, Prodrive, Campos, Lola and USF1 as the only confirmed entries.
Ferrari are not really any closer to having a long-term future as an F1 team tonight than they were when they threatened to pull out a fortnight ago.
Also for all the much-trumpeted help the established teams were planning to give the new teams as an olive branch, there is no explicit mention of that in this document.
FOTA has said that its teams are prepared to sign up until the end of 2012 but has put at the heart of its proposal today two key elements: the Concorde Agreement to be signed by all parties by June 12 and 2009 rules to apply next year.
The first is important because the Concorde Agreement contains certain protocols for framing the rules of the sport, things like the approval of the F1 commission, which have not been observed in the framing of the 2010 rules so far.
By signing up to a redrafted Concorde Agreement, the teams believe that stability would be returned to the sport.
The second key condition for the teams to enter is that the rules next year are the same as 2009 rules but that the teams will voluntarily agree to spend no more than a fixed amount of money in the next three years.
They haven’t published a figure but it is in the region of Â£100 million next year and will move downwards over the next few years, but always on a self-regulatory basis.
I’m told by team sources that this will work because of the degree of transparency between teams which exists today, but I have lived through many phases of F1 history and remember all too well the suspicion which arises when one team does well and the others all think that it has an unfair advantage.
Another problem here is that Williams and the new teams have all signed up to operate under the budget-capped 2010 rules, with higher-revving engines and more technical freedoms than cars running under 2009 rules.
In a hypothetical world – if this situation were allowed to run its course – Williams would run away with the 2010 world championship, but of course it will not be allowed to develop that way as the FOTA teams will not operate under dual rule circumstances.
Having said that, if you read their statement carefully, it says that the FOTA teams sign up on the basis that “all FOTA teams will be allowed to compete on an identical regulatory basis”, which at the moment does not include Williams, as they have been chucked out of FOTA for the moment.
One would imagine that they will be readmitted at such time as everyone is signed up and operating to the same set of rules, but it’s far from clear when that might be.
The FIA will have to pick its next step carefully.
FOTA has made a ‘conditional’ entry but has done so before the deadline.
If the FIA refuses to be dictated to in this manner it will publish a list of entries without the nine teams, but this would be damaging in credibility terms for the sport and heaven only knows what some of the sponsors and TV networks would make of that.
June 12 is the next big deadline. Lots of talking will take place between now and then