The FIA must not let its row with Ferrari become a split that would destroy F1

Ferrari are threatening to leave F1 in 2010 - and so are many other teams

Ferrari are threatening to leave F1 in 2010 - and so are many other teams

The Ferrari board confirmed today it will pull its team out of F1 if the FIA does not back down on its controversial plans for the 2010 rules.

Toyota and Red Bull/Toro Rosso have already voiced the same objections and several F1 news sites are indicating that Mercedes, Renault and BMW are prepared to do the same.

Once again, F1 is threatened by the prospect of a split. Might it ever come to that ?ǣ or is this just the sports? governing body and the teams playing hard ball?

The FIA’s plan to introduce advantageous technical rules for budget capped teams is at the heart of the matter.

Ferrari’s statement makes reference to its displeasure at how the FIA has handled the regulations talks, which seems a thinly-veiled criticism of Max Mosley’s governance with the FIA president elections five months away.

The importance of Ferrari

It is hard to believe Mosley would seriously be happy with driving Ferrari away.

At the same meeting where the budget cap was announced the FIA confirmed it would ban in-race refuelling from 2010. The teams had lobbied hard for this because of the cost of transporting 20 refuelling rigs around the world.

Mosley stood his ground at first, insisting that refuelling was a vital part of ??The Show?. If he can?t see that, for a large number of fans, Ferrari are a much more important part of ??The Show?, then he shouldn?t be running F1.

One man who does understand how important Ferrari are is Bernie Ecclestone. He?s been conspicuously trying to build bridges between the teams and the FIA since last week when Mosley uttered those infamous ?ǣ and patently incorrect – words that F1 would not suffer without Ferrari.

Similarly, Ecclestone understands the importance of keeping the major car manufacturers in F1. Not only do they bring a substantial amount of money into Formula 1, but there are suggestions some of his deals with broadcasting companies are contingent upon teams like Ferrari appearing at the races.

Can budget capping work?

The FIA’s Tony Purnell has admitted that ??30m (the original proposed budget limit) is the minimum they calculate an F1 team can be run for. A sensible solution to get to that limit would involve the teams gradually cutting their expenditure from one year to the next.

Instead Mosley has chosen the route of maximum antagonism – demanding teams slash their budgets by 90% overnight to hit a ??40m limit (excluding marketing fees and driver salaries).

But all that pre-supposes that budget capping is feasible to begin with.

The FIA cannot demand that all F1 teams adhere to a budget cap as it cannot legally assume the right to inspect their finances. That’s why it has adopted the ‘two-tier’ solution – offering teams that voluntarily choose the budget cap massive performance advantages.

But the teams were never going to accept such an obvious manipulation of the rules without a fight.

The danger of a split

Some fans have suggested they would like to see a FOTA-led split in F1, with the car manufacturers forming their own series.

They ignore the lessons of history at their peril. Such a split destroyed the open-wheel racing scene in America. The once strong Indy Car championship has been relegated to the status of a minor national championship in America since its 1995 division.

A split in F1 would not only be a tragedy for the sport, but the whole of motor racing. There are no other major international motor racing championships that are a fraction as popular. The fans, the teams, the FIA, the money men – we would all be losers in this scenario.

Instead of petitioning for a split (which rather smacks of turkeys voting for Christmas) fans should be campaigning for an outbreak of common sense in the upper echelons of the sport.

The only sensible way to resolve this is for Luca di Montezemolo, as head of FOTA, to hammer out an agreement with Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone. I do not believe that Ecclestone and Mosley are any more likely to let Ferrari go now than they were four years ago, when they handed over $100m to keep them in the sport until 2012 (Where was Mosley’s “we don’t need Ferrari” sentiment then?)

FOTA need to get their act together and find a candidate for the October FIA election who will work with them, not against them. It is time F1 were governed responsibly without every little disagreement making international headlines and destroying the sport’s credibility.

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143 comments on The FIA must not let its row with Ferrari become a split that would destroy F1

  1. mfDB said on 12th May 2009, 23:07

    I agree with your post above Kieth, but that is assuming that everything would carry on unchanged. I don’t think Ferrari would just walk away from what made their company and sit back while F1 carried on as normal. I think that the changes to the sports fundamental principle if Ferrari (and the others) leave and some silly 2-tier system is implemented would be why us dedicated fans might start to lose interest. Just like you said, this is why I lost interest in Indy Cars (I’m in the States).
    Also, I personally like to see the big names and the small names in F1. A series full of small names would not be F1.

    • mfDB said on 12th May 2009, 23:17

      @Jason, did you read Vettels comments about how perfectly Massa drove in front of him? I don’t think Massa and Kimi are the issue at Ferrari.

  2. Dane said on 12th May 2009, 23:49

    This is just playing hard ball negotiations. Offering their worst to spook the competition.

  3. MartLee said on 13th May 2009, 0:17

    The comparison with IndyCar is interesting, but some would point out Indy isn’t a patch on the global business that F1 is, what with top teams investing £300m a year and a global audience of 580 million unique viewers.

    OK, so they are both leading open-wheeled series but perhaps some caution is needed comparing the two.

    If there’s a series including the current names (teams and drivers), racing cars which look the same at most of the current circuits, who cares what it’s called?

    We’ll still be as fanatical about it, casual fans will note that it’s not called F1 but they just want entertainment before the Eastenders omnibus, and Keith will have to register!

    But what if there’s still an FIA Formula 1? Would you bother to watch USGPE, Lola and a few of the GP2 teams who’ve made the step up? Even though it’s technically the ‘real’ F1? Didn’t think so.

    We’d watch Ferrari, McLaren, BMW et al in the new series.

    Shame it won’t happen though.

    • Jess said on 13th May 2009, 2:59

      You may be right but the damage to the F1 vs “f1a” could be on par with IRL vs ChampCar Fans. The fight and then maybee a come together again. IRL is in to it second unified status and is still a shadow of what it once was. I for one dont want to see this. I want to see F1 continue and prosper.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th May 2009, 19:38

      some would point out Indy isn’t a patch on the global business that F1 is, what with top teams investing £300m a year and a global audience of 580 million unique viewers.

      And today that comparison would be correct – but wind the clock back 16 years to when IndyCar was still unified, it had Mansell, Fittipaldi and (Mario) Andretti, and F1 was nicking ideas off it (safety cars, refuelling, even considering oval races) and things looked very different.

  4. Rich said on 13th May 2009, 0:44

    Ferrari is acting like a big Prima Dona.
    Or… have they already figured out they cant win this year so they will start designing their 2011 car now and then after taking off a year they will dominate, ala Brawn?

    Either way, I say to them don’t let the doorknob hit ya in the ass!

  5. Wesley said on 13th May 2009, 0:44

    Ferrari can’t leave….where will Alonso go!!…Maybe he can move to the new USGP team and give me something to cheer about.

  6. marvin guillen said on 13th May 2009, 1:15

    Max Mosley get your ***king *ss out of the FIA.
    I`m paying cable to watch F1 and soccer. I going to miss
    my favorite team if they go.

  7. Brian said on 13th May 2009, 1:27

    A formula 1 team can budget themselves. They won’t spend more than they can afford to. Formula 1 is supposed to be the best of the best. If you can’t afford to be there then you shouldn’t be there. Its that simple.
    A team will not spend more than they can afford. Let them adjust themselves to the economy instead of imposing things upon them.
    Rule changes and fairness is one thing, but FIA should stay out of each teams operations.

    • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 13th May 2009, 1:36

      Brian, the main issue is that some can afford more than others. In this case, Ferrari can afford lots more than any new team entering F1. That’s why it makes sense that a budget cap option be looked at.

      The issue here isn’t the actual regulation per se; the issue is how that regulation was created. It’s about who has the power when creating these regs – and that’s a heck of a lot more complicated to resolve.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th May 2009, 19:41

      A formula 1 team can budget themselves. They won’t spend more than they can afford to.

      Of course they can – but if they can’t afford enough to be competitive, they will leave.

  8. Broer Sammy said on 13th May 2009, 1:51

    FIA seems create two tier F1 and finally there will be 2 F1 Team should split. F1 Primer team with no limit budget and easy regulation and F1-B with budget limit and tight regulation. They should not race together. So the fans happy 2 F1 races – every week race.

  9. Snoopy said on 13th May 2009, 1:52

    Its not about Ferrari leaving…last news says that only williams and force india are following Mosley. Even Beawn is going with FOTA. Mercedes is trying push Force India to stay togetjer with other teams with FOTa so what would be left in 2010 F1 serious….Williams.

    If teams go and make their own serious world is full of race track who would be happy to let new series racing there…include Monaco. Monaco is only race track in F1 calende3r which dont have contract with Bernie.

    So we dont need talk about F1 without Ferrari, we need talk about F1 without most of teams lol.

    maybe thats what Mosley want. He wants power more than anything else. He really dont care who is driving as long as they are under his thymb. All teams out and new small private teams in and Mosley would be happy man.

    Teams have time till end of this month to sign in to next season. Bernie, Mosley and FOTA will have meating soon.

    Maybe soon we will have new F1 series where is all teams exlude williams and then we have other where is Williams and a lot of small private teams…

    Next week will be intresting.

  10. manatcna said on 13th May 2009, 1:57

    BMW, Toyota, Red Bull/Toro Rosso have all said if the rules don’t change they will not be taking part in F1 next year. it’s not just Ferrari.

    And I believe Mercedes are “considering their future” in F1.

    Also I believe it wouldn’t take much for Renault to say bye bye.

    All because of one individual.

  11. The Limit said on 13th May 2009, 2:35

    The more troublesome fans amongst us might dare to suggest that F1 suffered as a sport when Ferrari were at their most dominant years ago.
    Its a valid point, considering the championship as a spectacle, especially in 2002 and 2004, was about as interesting as a long weekend at Bognor Regis in February.
    On a serious note, this latest postering is a means for the teams to be heard. No single team in motorsports carries as much weight as Ferrari, no team is more high profile, and no team are Ecclestone and Mosley as scared to lose.
    The other teams, in many ways, are expendable to the powers at be. As we saw with Honda, things progress and change quickly, but Ferrari are different. They have been the pacesetters, record breakers for so long, the sport would be pointless without them.
    All the other teams want to race, and beat Ferrari. Every driver, in his heart of hearts, wants to race a Ferrari and at some stage, drive one.
    What we have here is a sport in transition. It has to or it will die on its feet. It is only natural for the big powers of Ferrari and McLaren to want to keep the advantage they have had over the years, to not give up their power and prestige. They are fearfull that teams such as Brawn Gp and Red Bull may not just be 2009’s championship runners, but the pacesetters for the next ten years.
    In many ways, the Ferrari of the future. The only way they can respond, is to threaten to walk away in defiance.

  12. Alex Bkk said on 13th May 2009, 2:59

    Hmmmm…Ferrari didn’t win a WCC from 1965-1974(10 years), again there were no WCC wins between 1984-1998(15 years). Since the constructor’s award was started in 1958 Ferrari have won it 15 times in 50 years. I guess my point is…Ferrari are winners because they have always found a way to stay in F1.

    Keith made the excellent observation regarding the Indy car split. Tony George in his infinite wisdom pretty much destroyed open wheel racing in the US and turned the Indy 500 into a spec racer series. I haven’t watched it since the split. I feel that Max is on a similar path as George.

    F1 is unique in the world, and Ferrari is a big part of it’s history. If Max thinks fans turn on their TV’s to see Force India…well…

    Oh, just on CNN…Ferrari threatens to pull out of F1 over budget caps that would umm…level the playing field…leave a smaller carbon foot print etc…

    I think I just vomited a little in my mouth…

  13. Martin said on 13th May 2009, 4:12

    I think that for this sad attempt at drama to be settled properly and to get F1 back where it belongs, Both Bernie and Max have to go. The more they try to make the show better thru changing of rules the worse things are. They should have gotten rid of Max last year but didnt. Ever since his little escapade he has felt invincable, which is evident with all the new rules he is trying to jam down the teams throat.. I have followed F1 for over 40yrs and the last season was a joke. The racing this year is better but all the bickering is taking away from the show. Bernie and Max both want to rule with an iron hand, but we need to remember that without the teams, we dont have a show. F1 needs to be expensive, cutting edge, high technology and with very few limits.
    I love how the old washed up has beens pundits are now taking sides with either Bernie or Max. Niki Lauda is now saying that the spending cap is the best thing he has ever heard. What does he know other than drive well in his time, nothing else he has done has been successful.
    I havent watched open wheel racing in the US since the forming of Indycar. Back when Cart broke away from USAC to form a very good alternative to F1. Technology ruled and the drivers where great. Now the cars are the same chassis with the same moters and the difference is who figures out the setup the best. The drivers are not top tier.
    If FOTA does break away and form a new series, I believe it will be successful if it returns to the old ways of F1, Only race at the old venues, forget all these far east and mideast races and go back to the pure parts of the sport that supporrted them before Bernie took over the marketing. Let the tracks make money and let the teams split the TV revenue. Quit charging a track so much to hold the race that the city that is near it has to underwrite it. The great tracks that have been anchors of the series are loosing out to Bernie Greed. Canada is out , France is out, next is Britain, and it is only getting worse. If we dont reign in these characters and their silly ideas, we might as well forget about a true top level racing series.

  14. Alex P said on 13th May 2009, 6:25

    Max is trying something he can not control. these large teams are not going top let Max’s cronies come in and waltz through their books to check what they spend. i dont think he can legal do it.
    As for teams reducing thier budgets that will happen on its own, when the sponcers start spending less the teams will adjust their bugets accordingly

  15. John H said on 13th May 2009, 6:56

    Can we not have a tax system instead of a budget cap? That way teams such as Ferrari spend as much as they like, but it becomes exponentially more difficult to do so.

    Money taxed from the large teams goes to help new teams that wish to set up afresh in F1.

    Just an idea, because to me a 40m budget cap takes the capitalist element out of the sport that drives innovation forward. F1 then becomes a small self-sustaining economy, and not a regime with Max the dictator.

    It would probably never work! : )

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th May 2009, 19:42

      Can we not have a tax system instead of a budget cap? That way teams such as Ferrari spend as much as they like, but it becomes exponentially more difficult to do so.

      I like original ideas!

      Unfortunately I think this one would fall foul of anti-competition laws. :-(

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