The FIA owe Prodrive an apology

Prodrive logoTomorrow it will be 19 months since the FIA confirmed that Prodrive would be the 12th team in Formula 1 in 2008.

Last week David Richards confirmed what many people had suspected for a long time: that Prodrive will not be racing in F1 next year.

Prodrive’s absence next year is because the FIA have failed to gain agreement on whether ‘customer’ chassis will be allowed in 2008.

The question of customer chassis is a hotly debated topic that splits F1 fans on a fundamental point: whether teams should be allowed to buy chassis and go racing, or whether they must design and build their own.

Let’s set that matter to one side for a moment – what really interests me is that the FIA have admitted a team into the championship that now finds itself unable to compete on the terms originally agreed.

Whether or not you feel customer chassis should be legal in Formula 1, Richards has indicated that he was fully expecting to be able to use them next year. He had budgeted and planned accordingly, and was not expecting to require as much money or manpower as a fully-fledged constructor.

I suspect that the same approach was in the minds of the majority of the other 21 teams that applied for the 12th space in Formula 1, including top junior team Carlin Motorsport. Other entries backed by Paul Stoddart (former Minardi boss) and Craig Pollock (Jacques Villeneuve’s manager) were mooted.

Legalising customer chassis in F1 is a controversial matter that several teams opposed to, and legal action from Williams has meant that the matter has gone into arbitration. The delay has held up the signing of new commercial terms for the sport (the Concorde Agreement).

As Prodrive said in a statement:

This legal challenge and continuing delays to the new Concorde Agreement represent a fundamental change in circumstances, therefore we must now realistically rule out the possibility of Prodrive being on the grid in 2008.

It is, however, still our ambition to compete in Formula One and we are hopeful that a new Concorde Agreement between the FIA, FOA and the teams will provide clarity as to the terms on which this might be possible.

It seems that Max Mosley underestimated the vehemence with which teams such as Williams opposed the introduction of customer cars. The cash-strapped teams was one of the first to reach agreement with Bernie Ecclestone on new commercial terms, and yet Frank Williams’ willingness to accept the introduction of customer chassis has been badly misjudged by Ecclestone and, of course, Max Mosley.

If Mosley thought Williams was going to keel over and let Prodrive give them a thrashing with off-the-peg McLaren chassis in 2008 he was clearly mistaken. On the face of it, Mosley has wasted a year and a half of Richards’ time and owes him an apology.

But he doesn’t do contrite, does he?

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21 comments on The FIA owe Prodrive an apology

  1. nellyweb said on 27th November 2007, 11:45

    Frankly I hope that DR never gets into F1 with a customer car. Perhaps if Bernie and Max made it a little less expensive to join the club then teams could use that money to build their own car.

  2. Robert Mckay said on 27th November 2007, 11:45

    Totally agree. Ignoring the pros and cons of customer chassis, it’s ridiculous that the FIA encouraged teams to enter on the basis of rules they wanted to implement but hadn’t actually done so. Egg on the face for Max, but you’d never know that – it’s just Prodrive that are the ones left looking stupid.

    It’s especially ridiculous that STR and Super Aguri by and large do what Prodrive wanted to do, but with a bit more subterfuge. Prodrive wanted to do it honestly, and they’re the ones left out in the cold.

  3. If anything, Prodrive owe the FIA an apology. Podrive made a commitment to enter F1.

    Their agreement with the FIA was not on th condition that customer chassis would be allowed (which, thankfully, they have not been), but was a wholehearted commitment to enter F1 next year.

    Prodrive have failed to honour this commitment and hopefully will be fined/otherwise punished for a breach of contract.

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th November 2007, 14:19

    If Prodrive had told the FIA they could enter a team in 2008 regardless of whether customer cars were made legal, and then failed to deliver on that promise, I don’t think Max Mosley would leave us in any doubt about where the blame lies.

  5. Rohan you’re wrong… they entered with the conditions that customer cars would be legal and lower budgets possible..
    I hope they can enter.. although I understand Williams, it could ruin his team as he said

  6. I find it qiute funny that a customers car is disallowed in one aspect yet nearly all teams use other suppliers engines – older versions of course so that the original teams have more of an edge – and didnt some team start with old arrows? chassis then develop there own??
    couldn’t Prodrive been allowed to do similar to that after all the back runners are there virtually as mobile hazards too the top teams
    and berie would have had his money or has that already been paid? – if so do Prodrive get a refund?

  7. I don’t think Prodrive had to pay anything. The last team to pay the entry bond was Super Aguri. Prodrive as far as I know were to enter under new rules that no longer had the bond…

    One thing that I find unfair towards Prodrive is Toro Rosso and Super Aguri. These 2 cases have to be sorted out and these 2 teams have to start building their cars. If there is to be no other agreement, Super Aguri can always revert to their 2002 Arrows and Toro Rosso to 2005 Minardi and build on that. But they should not be allowed to run Honda and Red Bull cars any more or they should be be given fixed deadline to sort themselves out. Those who can’t build their chassis, should race in GP2…

  8. Vertigo said on 27th November 2007, 17:01

    Prodrive should have designed a back up car just in case or tweaked old chassis that no-one wanted (like Super Aguri did with Arrows chassis). Couldn’t they use old Prost cars or were they just built out of blue rust?
    They will have had to pay a bond to get into F1 – every new team have to pay a £48m entry fee if you start from scratch – teams like Red Bull don’t have to as they took over an existing team (Jaguar).
    It is unfair that Prodrive have been put out of F1 because of unforseen circumstances, but the Toro Rosso/Super Aguri rubbish should have taught Prodrive that customer cars didn’t have any life left in them.

  9. This is a big confusing mess, but everyone knows that.

    We will get to hear a single soundbite containing either or both of the words “sorry” or “regret” from the FIA only after all the arbitration is done.

    I still think the question needs to be answered regarding how much you must alter a car before it can be considered a different product, because Toro, Aguri, and Prodrive alike can be completely exonerated simply by mounting odd or different engines into chassis, or just doing something incredibly bold with the wings and suspension.

    I feel badly for Prodrive, I think they may have to wait until a whole new Concorde Agreement is finalized before they can consider becoming a team, and may yet lose their ambitions.

  10. Robert McKay said on 27th November 2007, 19:51

    “Prodrive should have designed a back up car just in case or tweaked old chassis that no-one wanted (like Super Aguri did with Arrows chassis).”

    Why? The whole point was to use a customer car to save money. Prodrive’s only mistake was to trust Max Mosely.

    “They will have had to pay a bond to get into F1 – every new team have to pay a £48m entry fee if you start from scratch – teams like Red Bull don’t have to as they took over an existing team (Jaguar).”

    Did they? Max’s grand plan was to drop the huge entry bond, for the very reason that it was prohibitive to new teams entering. Though clearly what Max says and does are two different things. Certainly, the intention was to drop the bond, so I’m not absolutely sure they did pay that. I think, if they did, Prodrive would be making more noise about it, unless they were given it straight back.

    “It is unfair that Prodrive have been put out of F1 because of unforseen circumstances, but the Toro Rosso/Super Aguri rubbish should have taught Prodrive that customer cars didn’t have any life left in them.”

    Agree with the first statement. Not the second. STR showed by the tail end of the year that they could at least be competitive. Super Aguri showed Honda up for most of the year and got some decent results. Prodrive wanted to run an even more competitive chassis! Whatever, STR and Aguri are competing, and Prodrive are not.

    Like I say, STR/Aguri pretend they’re not running customer chassis, and are allowed to do so. Prodrive want to do so honestly, and aren’t. Go figure.

  11. Vertigo said on 27th November 2007, 20:05

    I didn’t mean that Toro Rosso and Super Aguri were rubbish, I meant that the constant arguing and threats of lawsuits from Spyker and Williams should have warned Prodrive that the customer car idea was dead in the water.

  12. It’s incredible that the FIA hasn’t sorted this out after a whole season…because it’s been a problem since the start (or even before) of the season! Very sad, but I guess they feared it would cause some problems and maybe a loss of 2 teams. I like the id of more competitive cars…but I can see ppl like Frank Williams who try and try with the money they got, to create their own cars and be competitive, while a new team comes in and upstages them with a car they didn’t build, but just bought of a shelf.
    I do believe a customer team needs to develop their own car and updates.. maybe only allow to buy 1 or 2 year old chassis… and 2 championship rankings maybe, altough it won’t help, as ppl only see wich cars are in front.
    Oh well… difficult :)

  13. The thing is FIA can’t sort out this mess, because changes to Concorde Agreement must be approved by all the teams. FIA simply promised something the could not guarantee… And that is the root of all the problems.

    I agree with Vertigo here, that if Prodrive really wanted to enter F1 from 2008, they should have had some sort of plan B, exactly as Aguri had plan B when he was not allowed to race old Honda cars right from beginning. They should have had the plan B, because the problems with the whole customer cars idea have been obvious for very long time.

    Richards however can still go and join forces with Aguri Suzuki… That is still an open route to F1 for next year. Oh, wait, that would be customer car again :-)

  14. heres my take on customer cars: allow the sale of chassis of previous years, like aguri running the ra106 instead of ra107 this year.

    this would allow small teams to get a start by buying obsolete, but still fast chassis, but still give an advantage to constructors who build their own chassis, as their chassis will be newer and more highly developed than the customer chassis.

  15. Robert Mckay said on 28th November 2007, 9:39

    “I didn’t mean that Toro Rosso and Super Aguri were rubbish, I meant that the constant arguing and threats of lawsuits from Spyker and Williams should have warned Prodrive that the customer car idea was dead in the water.”

    Ah, apologies, my misunderstanding. Yes, that’s correct. But to an extent these only manifested themselves quite late in the process, and anyway the argument about Toro Rosso and Super Aguri tended to centre on the fact that they were doing it before the rules had been modified, and not neccessarily simply on the principle of customer cars, although that was obviously a part of it.

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