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Monday, June 22, 2009

FOTA's "New Formula" eyes 17-race calendar

Rumours that plans for FOTA's breakaway championship are moving forwards abounded on Sunday.

In the paddock of the Silverstone circuit, even a possible name for the series emerged - 'New Formula' - as well as a potential 17-race 2010 calendar.

Former F1 venues including Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Jerez, Imola, Montreal, Indianapolis, Silverstone, Magny Cours and Adelaide were listed on the theoretical calendar, published by the German news agency SID.

Current tracks were also mentioned: Monaco, Silverstone, Monza, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Suzuka, while potential new venues are Jerez, Portimao, the Lausitzring, Surfer's Paradise (Australia) and even the Finnish capital Helsinki.

But while some suggest that F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is moving towards the rebel team's plans, he told Britain's Daily Star newspaper on Sunday that he fears for the breakaway.

Despite earlier sympathising with the teams' dislike of the proposed budget cap, he now believes unfettered spending "could be the curse of our sport".

"It could ruin it. It would be a disaster and they'd destroy the sport," he said.

"I would hate to see any kind of takeover happen because it would be badly managed. They can't even run their own teams. They can't agree on anything. If the teams owned it they would destroy it," Ecclestone, 78, added.

He also scoffed at the leaked FOTA calendar, wondering how the body can compete with the structure operated by his businesses.

"We organise the venues which don't cost the teams a penny," said Ecclestone. "I reckon Ferrari and McLaren need us more than we need them.

"All they have to do is pitch up at a track with their sponsors' names all over their cars in exchange for millions of quid and race in front of a worldwide television audience -- which I have set up and keep going.

"The bottom line is they can't afford to set up a rival championship," he added.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fota Vs Fia – the Dispute Explained

What prompted this crisis?

Max Mosley, president of the FIA, had been asking the formula one teams for suggestions on how to cut budgets, some of which exceeded £250m per annum. When the teams failed to respond to Mosley's satisfaction, the FIA announced a voluntary £40m budget cap for 2010 with greater technical freedom for those teams accepting the restriction, effectively creating a two-tier championship. The Formula One Teams Association (Fota), which was formed last September, said it could not accept the proposal. As part of a compromise, the FIA said it would drop the two-tier idea, though the teams still resisted. When entries opened for the 2010 championship, Williams and Force India were thrown out of Fota when they accepted the FIA's conditions and entered. The remaining eight teams made a block entry on the understanding that certain conditions were met. Mosley refused but further discussions appeared to be heading for another compromise. Negotiations failed and the teams were given until tonight to accept his terms. In the meantime, the FIA had received entries for several new teams. After a four-hour meeting yesterday, the eight Fota teams said they would form a separate championship.

How serious are the Fota teams?

Very serious. They object to Mosley's methods of governance just as much as the immediate £40m budget cap which the large teams say would be impossible to apply in a short space of time.

How difficult would it be to set up a rival championship?

Extremely difficult, but not impossible. A massive infrastructure is needed. The equivalent of Bernie Ecclestone, the FIA's commercial rights holder, would be needed to establish television contracts and revenue streams as well as negotiating with prospective venues.

Would there be sufficient circuits?

Yes. Tracks such as Silverstone, Montreal, Indianapolis and Magny-Cours, currently unable to meet Ecclestone's demands, would be only too pleased to stage races, particularly if big names such as Ferrari and leading drivers were on the entry list.

Would the tracks be granted the necessary license by the FIA?

Yes, provided they met the necessary safety standards. Similarly, the FIA, as the governing body of all motor sport, would be obliged to license the Fota championship if all the regular conditions were met.

How would the existing championship fare?

Badly. Williams, Force India and a number of small, unknown teams would not attract sufficient interest.

Would the existing television companies be contractually obliged to cover the championship?

Good question. It depends on the terms of their contract with Ecclestone and, more important, what he is supposed to deliver to them in terms of entries.

The FIA say that Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, whether they like it or not, are contractually bound to be part of their championship until 2012.

Ferrari dispute this, claiming that the FIA broke the terms of the agreement by unilaterally establishing the 2010 rules. The FIA does not agree. A lengthy legal battle would ensue.

Is a split a good thing?

Definitely not. Splits rarely work in any sport and motor racing is no exception. A split in Indycar completely destroyed top-level single-seater racing in North America. Both sides in formula one realize this and it will be the one thing driving the need to find a solution.

So, will this be solved?

Ecclestone could be the peacemaker. The betting is we will be watching world championship racing in 2010, much as we're seeing it now. In the meantime, this unnecessary stand-off is doing nothing for the image of formula one.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Future Of F1 In Doubt, Apocalypse Inevitable?

The simmering feud between the major Formula 1 teams and the sport’s sanctioning body has erupted into a full-blown civil war, with eight of the 10 teams announcing they are leaving at the end of the season to launch their own race series.

The Formula One Teams Association has been at odds with the Federation Internationale d’Automobile over a proposal by FIA President Max Mosley to adopt a budget cap. Mosley has long been obsessed with reining in the stratospheric cost of racing, but the big teams - led by Ferrari - strenuously opposed his plan to limit spending to 100 million Euros next year and 45 million Euros a year thereafter.

Proving he’s one of the dumbest guys to come down the pike, Mosley thought he could stare down the teams. On the eve of the British Grand Prix, the teams poked him in the eye.

The teams had provisionally agreed to compete next season and were willing to work with Mosely to meet his cost-cutting goal, but said, in effect, “Ditch any talk of the cap and and we’ll be on the grid for sure. Until then, we’re signing up conditionally.”

Mosley and F1 capo di tutti capi Bernie Eccelstone essentially told the teams, “Sign up unconditionally and then we’ll talk.” The FIA gave the teams until today to sign on the dotted line.

Instead, they voted to bolt.

“The wishes of the majority of the teams are ignored,” FOTA said in a statement. “These teams therefore have no alternative other than to commence the preparation for a new championship which reflects the values of its participants and partners.”

The FIA isn’t backing down. It says today’s the deadline for signing up to compete next season, and it fully intends to enforce it. What’s more, it plans to sue FOTA.

“The actions of FOTA as a whole, and Ferrari in particular, amount to serious violations of law including willful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari’s legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law,” the FIA said in a statement. “The FIA will be issuing legal proceedings without delay. Preparations for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship continue but publication of the final 2010 entry list will be put on hold while the FIA asserts its legal rights.”

That final entry list could be mighty short. The teams heading for the exit are Ferrari, McLaren Mercedes, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Renault, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Brawn GP. The teams aren’t likely to back down - especially since Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo leads FOTA. Mosely’s hardball approach is doomed to failure.

“That’s not negotiating at all,” David Hobbs, a SpeedTV commentator and multiple racing champion, said recently. “That’s what’s been passing for diplomacy on the world stage these past few years. It’s like saying to those guys, ‘OK Iran, get rid of your nuclear program, and then we’ll talk about whether you should have it.’ That’s not diplomacy at all. Who’s going to agree to that?”

Hey Max and Bernie — when an elder sportsman of your sport compares your diplomatic skills to those of the Bush Administration, you’re doing it wrong.

It might just cost Mosley his job. The FIA World Council meets Wednesday, and his future as president could be up for discussion.

“I think the trouble is that Max has gone too far with this and the teams have suddenly said ‘I’m sorry, we can’t take it any more’,” Jackie Stewart, the three-time world champ and a longtime critic of Mosley, told Reuters today. “It may well be that Max Mosley has to go.

“I think a lot of people are kind of fed up with the dictatorial attitude,” Stewart added. “He has a great position of power but big trees do blow over.”

It isn’t just the teams and pundits coming down hard on the FIA. Some other heavy-hitters are siding with FOTA. The organizers of the Monaco Grand Prix — the premier event of the season — reportedly won’t stage a race next year if Ferrari isn’t on the grid. Eccelstone, who seems to exist only to squeeze every last cent out of F1’s global popularity, didn’t have much to say about the sport’s future.

“No idea. Speak to Max,” he told reporters at Silverstone, site of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, according to Reuters. Looks like Eccelstone is backing away slowly and leaving Mosley to fend for himself.

As of now, the teams officially signed up for next year are Williams and Force India alongside newcomers Team US F1, Campos Grand Prix and Manor Grand Prix. The upstarts have never competed at this level before and God only knows how far along they are in development of their cars. What’s more, everyone will be running Cosworth engines - even Williams and Force India, because they currently get their engines from Toyota and Mercedes, respectively.

So unless Mosley comes to his senses, what we’re left with is essentially a spec series featuring a bunch of teams that generate zero excitement and almost certainly won’t be racing in Monaco.

Heck of a job, Maxie!

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