The Minardi name is set to bow out after 21 years and, by this season’s end, 340 Grands Prix. The new owners are Red Bull, who will add a second Grand Prix team to their portfolio, and potentially cause another dramatic shift in F1’s political landscape.
Since the conclusion of hostilities following the Indianapolis farce the political battle between the FIA and the manufacturers has lain dormant. But at Spa there have been signs that matters are coming to a head once more.
Max Mosley held a press conference to press home yet again his ‘reduce engine power and slash downforce’ message, which seems increasingly designed not so much to improve Formula One, but as a means to aggravate the manufacturers by jeopardising their capacity to spend and win.
Then came the rumours that Paul Stoddart’s Minardi team had found a buyer, and – as with Jaguar last year – it would be Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz. This is potentially significant for the finely-balanced political stalemate between the FIA – with Ferrari, Red Bull (original) and Jordan on board – and the manufacturers, with whom Stoddart has been aligned.
Tony Dodgins at Autosport-Atlas.com (PUT IN LINK subscription required) has speculatively suggested that this opens the door for Mosley to force the 2008 Concorde agreement upon the remaining manufacturer teams. In a situation where teams can purchase chassis from one another and the $48,000,000 entry bond is removed, any current GP2 team boss would fancy his chance of taking on Mercedes and Renault.
Crucially, Mosley has not yet made any announcement on how any teams still using V10 engine next year must restrict their power while the rest introduce the controversial V8s, which the manufacturers never wanted and have spent a fortune developing. If Mosley wishes to mortally embarrass the manufacturers – and Indianapolis suggests that he does – he has an immediate means of doing so.
This paints a depressing picture for most Formula One fans, who are tired of the bullshit and want to enjoy the racing.
To take a simple view, Mosley is scrambling to regain some political advantage following Indianapolis, which the manufacturers held him responsible for, and has fallen back on his greatest ally, Bernie Ecclestone, to wield the Concorde Agreement to force the teams into line.
A Formula One with no entry bond, small teams able to buy chassis from bigger teams, and downforce limits that can be policed, would be a remarkable improvement on current Formula One – with one essential proviso: the series would have to increase its cap on the maximum number of teams from 12 to at least 15. Otherwise the sport will quickly become even more homogenised than it is today, and lose its identity among a growing number of international single-seater series.
Formula One’s political crisis has become a battle for the very future of the sport.