Ferrari and BMW?s clash over KERS could signal a threat to FOTA unity

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

BMW are believed to be far ahead in their KERS development
BMW are believed to be far ahead in their KERS development

The first fault line has opened in what so far has been the impressively solid unity of the Formula 1 Teams? Association.

Speaking at Ferrari?s annual press skiing event, Stefano Domenicali complained that BMW had vetoed the efforts of the other teams to postpone the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) for 2009 due to the costs involved.

Two months before the start of a new season is not a time to go changing technical rules which have been known for two years. Although Domenicali insists his concern is cost-cutting, Ferrari?s KERS has had a difficult gestation while BMW look set to hit the ground running. Is this about politics or the competition?

Either way FOTA has so far worked hard to preserve the unity of the teams and resisted Max Mosley?s attempt to bring in greater standardisation. Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone may seize on this apparent opportunity to divide the teams.

Counting the votes

Inevitably with F1 politics you have to wonder whether someone?s being liberal with the truth. When was this vote of the team bosses taken on KERS?

Was it at the Heathrow meeting last week? Or was it while Honda?s team was still active? If so, it?s hard to imagine that the Japanese team that had staked a huge gamble on 2009 voting against a technology it had invested so much development into.

Perhaps there were two votes against deferring KERS, but with Honda out of the picture (a situation that may be dependent on Ferrari?s willingness to supply them with engines) only BMW are left now. And Domenicali is applying a little pressure.

A little bit of history repeating

It?s easy to point at Ferrari and mock the hypocrisy of their complaints about BMW?s ??selfishness?.

Were not the teams trying to settle on testing restrictions four years ago? And didn?t a certain Italian team, notwithstanding that it had won every championship for the last five years, refuse to agree to them?

That was in the Jean Todt era, of course. Domenicali?s team now has its name on a deal which sees in-season testing banned, limiting the usefulness of its Fiorano test track and other nearby Italian circuits.

But singling out either team misses the bigger point. Which is that organisations like FOTA are always going to find their members torn between obligations: the pursuit of individual victory versus the need to preserve the greater good ?ǣin this case, protecting F1?s long-term survival by slashing costs.

In choosing to pursue victory by political means, perhaps Todt?s real successor is not Domenicali but Mario Theissen.

If Domenicali is making a fresh stand against wasteful spending, declaring it at an expensive media event the likes of which other teams have been cancelling was poor timing. Perhaps this is just the Ferrari boss letting off a little steam after the F60?s launch was hampered by KERS teething problems. After all, we do not know how united the other teams are behind Ferrari

More on FOTA and KERS

BMW steering wheel with KERS button (click to enlarge)
BMW steering wheel with KERS button (click to enlarge)

Images (C) BMW ag