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

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

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

  1. It looks like Domenicali has bitten off more than he can chew – why didn’t he leave it to Luca? If Ferrari need more time to develop KERS then it looks like they will have to run with the standard engines for the time being, which won’t impress the tifosi or the italian media….

  2. Adrian said on 15th January 2009, 8:51

    Williams bought a stake in a specialist KERS company. I’d be astounded if they’re not prepared with a fully working KERS.

    Ferrari have sour grapes cos they don’t know whether they’ll be able to win as much this year. You wait, as soon as they start winning they’ll shut up about KERS…

    And, I thought KERS was road-relevant, lots of cars being launched in the not-to-distant future seem to have regerative braking.

  3. Red toys duly thrown from the cot because they didn’t get their way…

  4. What if, regardless of KERS Ferrari anticipate they don’t have a competitive machine? and this way it would be easier to put it down to a KERSless car than to a car that is just not competitive in general terms?
    I know it’s too early to say such things, but it’s a thought

  5. bernification said on 15th January 2009, 19:46

    I agree with Pink Peril, Domenicali, as the chairman of FOTA and a representative for Ferrari, should not be making these kinds of complaints about BMW. It’s like a judge declaring what verdict he expects the jury to come up with before a case, or the chairman of a sporting organisation telling everyone one team is more important than the rest…. Oh, wait a minute. We’ve been hear before.

    Sour grapes from the red team. They had the same time to prepare as everyone else, tough luck if they can’t deal with it. They have a history of complaining about others innovations when they get beaten, even if the technology was passed by the FIA.

    I can’t believe that only BMW didn’t want a veto. Toyota, surely must want this technology, it would validate their Prius.
    And Williams must hope that they’ve taken the right path with their system. It has to be worth a punt for them, as it cannot possibly perform worse than last years car!

    Hope BMW run rings round them.

  6. bernification said on 15th January 2009, 19:56

    Oh, BTW, guaranteed that within 5 years, with this development, every car will have KERS!

  7. bernification said on 15th January 2009, 20:00

    Just realised, Montezzemolo (or whatever) is the Chairman isn’t he! D’oh, my bad, went out last night with my girlfriend, so I’m nursing a sore head from too much wine!

  8. Wesley said on 15th January 2009, 22:14

    Well then Keith….it is the off season,post those ice skating home movies and we will all have a laugh!

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