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. Cooperman said on 28th November 2007, 17:23

    The FIA make an apology? But that would suggest that they were wrong and, as we all know, the FIA being wrong is against the rules anyway.

  2. bernie's nemesis said on 29th November 2007, 2:32

    How can a sports governing body be so incredibly incompetent continually, and everybody excepts it.

    An agreement is an agreement. Could you imagine Max or Bernie being as complacent if somebody broke their word to them.
    This oversite has probably cost a couple of mill in wasted development and diverted a few dozen peoples careers in directions they would have not chosen to take.
    Some how I can not see such a diversion sitting so easily with tweedle dee and tweedle dum.

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th November 2007, 11:51

    David Richards gave an indication that the reason Prodrive aren’t able to race next year is because customer cars won’t be allowed:

    Clearly the premise on which we put our entry in, those circumstances have changed dramatically now and everybody acknowledges that situation.

    If we cannot enter on that basis then so be it, but we need to know what a new Concorde Agreement will say.

    If, for instance, it determines you need to be a constructor then we need to understand what the definition of a constructor is: how many common components are going to be allowed in the future because what resource will we need to achieve that?

    Autosport.com – Prodrive not giving up on F1 ambitions (external)

  4. Number 38 said on 29th November 2007, 15:15

    There’s nothing wrong with ‘customer cars’ and what would F1 look like without them? The problem starts with the overly ambigous FIA regs. On the surface we seem to be ranting about the term ‘constructor’ but what if ProDrive drew up the design but then had it manufactured in McLaren facility, but McLaren’s facility is over-worked so they have the wings manufactured by Honda’s F1 works.You can see the criss-cross of terms ‘manufacturer’and ‘constructor’ and why not require the team to manufacture their own brake and fuel systems (often commercially purchased these days) or to carry the arguement to absudity…..manufacture their own engines. The problem STARTS in the FIA regs and until MadMax gets the book sorted………..I’m in favor of run ANYTHING, we need the entries. Of course the teams aren’t helping with Williams and Spyker bickering about STR and Super Aguri. What’s the point ?

  5. The point is that the presence or absence of customer cars has a considerable influence on what terms teams can compete on. Customer cars may make it cheaper for teams to be in F1, but only if they cede to their vendor team. This means that eventually only two or three teams will effectively be in F1 – they will simply have a large number of cars each.

    Banning customer cars avoids this, but also increases the price to the point where it severely limits who can get in. It’s almost a catch-22 and that’s why there’s such an argument over the whole thing. However, if the FIA had been capable of making its mind up and enforcing a clear verdict on customer cars, a lot of this mess could have been avoided.

  6. Obster said on 30th November 2007, 20:51

    I like igor’s idea-only last year’s cars are allowed. With the pace of F1 development they would not be a serious threat to anyone.
    What is this I am hearing about a coming agreement that customer cars will be allowed for 2008, but banned for good in ’09 and beyond?

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