If the punishment for the seven teams who boycotted the United States Grand Prix is deemed unreasonable, F1 could be on the road to an unavoidable split.
The FIA will trial the Michelin teams on Wednesday June 29th, and the outcome will be pivotal for the future of Formula One. Already Paul Stoddart, a strong supporter of the ‘Group of Nine’ (despite not even being a Michelin customer) is insisting that a harsh penalty for Michelin could cause further race boycotts.
Thus the ongoing row between the FIA and the ‘Group of Nine’ is moving into an endgame. The nine are unlikely to consider any future involvement in Formula One as long as FIA President Max Mosley, whom they regard as irresonsible and dictatorial, steps down.
Mosley, whose love of power far outweighs any duty or responsibility he feels towards motor sport or fans of motor sport, is likely to jealously guard that power even if it means driving out up to nine of the current ten teams.
What would happen next, then, for Formula One?
A similar situation happened exactly ten years ago, when the American CART series split into the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League. CART had cultivated a reputation for excellent racing and was the equal of any single-seater motor sport bar Formula One.
Now, Champ Car pales in comparison even to F1 and the IRL has given up on its ‘all oval races’ mantra to include some road racing, but still neither series has even half the status or credibility of what went before. Could the same happen to F1?
Yes, it certainly could.
On the face of it, the FIA’s recent proposed draft regulations for 2008 agree entirely with the manufacturers’ stated aim of reducing costs in Formula One. But it is very difficult to take the FIA seriously on this matter.
First, Mosley’s recent regulation changes have done nothing to seriously address rising costs. The development of two-race engines for 2005 and the simultaneous development of multi-race V8 engines for 2006 has in fact had the opposite effect.
And, crucially, the outrageous expense of testing – which Mosley himself has derided in the past – has not been addressed at all by the FIA, even when the nine put a credible proposal to reduce testing forward last October.
This is why the nine no longer take Mosley seriously. He may promise one thing on one day, but wake up the following morning with a completely different set of priorities.
There are three often conflicting interests at work in Formula One. The needs of safety, the need of putting on exciting, fair racing, and the need to reduce costs. There has been no serious, sustainable progress on either front for too long.
In a private company, or in a democracy, such failures would not be tolerated as long as they have been in Formula One. Multi-billion dollar organisation such as Toyota do not pour money into a sport to see their investment jeopardised by the frivolous indulgences of one man.
If Mosley does not step aside soon, there may be no F1 to speak of much longer.