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

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

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.

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

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  1. schumi the greatest
    13th May 2009, 13:00

    ive just thought now, any maybe im miles off the mark here but i would appreciate if somone could explain this to me anyway.

    The teams are effectivley companies…their intrest is racing f1 cars and competing to win but in essence they are a business. Surley the manafacturer teams (ferrari,toyota,renault,bmw, to some extent mclaren) are run like a business? i mean they dont just get handed $400million a year from toyota’s bank account do they?? their budget comes from sponsorship, expected tv revenue etc etc?/ ok some capital was probably raised through the manafacturers themselves when they entered like when bmw bough sauber or honday bought bar.

    what im getting at sureley the manafacturer teams are just companies within the group of companies owned by the manafacturer and are therfore responsible for their expenditure and to balance the books.

    probabaly confusedm everyone, i cant quite explain my thoughts! but i would appreciate if someone could explain this 1 to me!

    1. Yes, for the most part I think you are right, the F1 teams are usually just part of the Group of Companies owned by various Manufacturers. Thats certainly true for McLaren, which isn’t completely owned by Daimler AG (yet).
      But I think the BMW and Toyota F1 teams are part of their Motorsports divisions, so in FIA’s eyes, they have an open cheque-book from the parent company for R&D etc. And of course Ferrari, although nominally a separate company, can still call on money or resources from the FIAT empire, and maybe even the Italian state.
      Renault is already heavily subsidised by the French government, so some of that may be going to their Motorsport and F1 divisions. How would the FIA stop that from happening in the future?
      I can understand the need for smaller teams and smaller budgets, but why hasn’t this been made into a long-term goal, spread over a number of years, to encourage the Manufacturers to stay and have time to re-arrange their F1 teams?
      Maybe there will be a compromise made in the next couple of weeks before the deadline, but it really makes you wonder just what Max and the FIA think they are going to get from a grid full of angry teams next year…..

    2. Car manufacturers view motor racing in general as marketing and/or a place to develop new technologies.

      Their F1 team won’t generate any profit directly and will need millions in funds each year to compete but they will justify this as advertising or research and development in their accounts, and when you think how much the budgets for those can be for a big manufacturer the sums they spend on F1 don’t look so out of place.

    3. I agree largely with what DGR-F1 has said but I’d add to that:

      From what I understand Ferrari is one of the only profit making divisions in Fiat, possibly the only one, and as such covers a lot of Fiats losses as well as funding the F1 team. Fundamentally Ferrari sell cars to go racing where as other manufacturers go racing to sell cars, so said the great man himself.

      Renault reputedly already run their team on a very low budget.

      BMW who spend more than most but about half as much as the biggest spenders consider F1 to be a cost effective exercise in brand awareness and development so a large part of the F1 cost is probably soaked up by the main company and or the sports division budget.

      Toyota just through money at the damn thing.

    4. Oh I meant throw not through!!!

  2. It’s all very well saying a team could run on £30m but would it be competitive? Max and the FIA are just playing their usual hardball game to reach a what must be an all round tough difficult compromise.

    I think valid points and concerns have been raised and voiced but I just can’t help always feeling a little irritated at Ferrari’s constant stereotypical whinning. Yes, they have unrivaled and tremendous history in F1 but they get far to big a share of the F1 pie which in my view is grossly unfair. This imbalance needs to be repaired and they should make strong gestures in this regard.

    If Ferrari left F1, I’d be sad but frankly life would go on. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say that in fact, there is an ever increasing part of me that is curious to see how it would indeed pan out if they did indeed leave. Perhaps we’d get that breakaway series that often gets threatened about so often…

    1. It’s all very well saying a team could run on £30m but would it be competitive?

      With the massive performance advantages the FIA are offering, they would be more than competitive, they would be seconds per laps quicker than the uncapped teams.

  3. For starters I think the Formula 1 can just as easily continue without Ferrari as they could without Lotus or Brabham or any succesfull team in the past.

    Secondly I think the budgetcap is necessary for the Formula 1 to continue. Honda already left because they couldn’t afford it anymore and other car manufacturers are likely to follow if they continue to lose money with their core business.

    What is Formula 1 with only 5 teams? Nothing!

    I rather see a Formula 1 with 13 teams and a reasonable budgetcap and a lot of teams capable of winning instead of a Formula 1 without a budgetcap and only two or three teams capable of winning (in the long run) because they have the largest budgets. Look at the past. Since 1998 only Ferrari, McLaren and Renault where able to win a title (and an occasional other team winning a race). I agree budget is not the only factor (see Toyota, Honda), but it is one of the most important factors to get (and stay) on top.

    I am definitely against a two tier system, as are most teams. But most teams are not against a reasonable budgetcap, which is reduced in a couple of years until the proposed 40 million pound.

  4. Mouse Nightshirt
    13th May 2009, 15:19

    Interesting to see the difference of opinion between commenters here and commenters on James Allen’s blog.

    Ferrari will not go through on their threat and although £40m seems like too big a cut, I agree with the principle. Just ditch this two-tiered idea.

  5. Max Mosley is just posturing in order to distract teams from the issue of revenue (where Bernie pockets 50% of the profits).

    I mean how else can someone come up with such antagonistic rules that all the participants don’t agree with?

  6. Just ditch this two-tiered idea.

    Agreed. Let’s not return to 1987 and the Jim Clark Cup and Colin Champman Trophy, as that’s what it will end up being.

  7. HounslowBusGarage
    13th May 2009, 17:05

    Similar hardball statement from Renault threatening to leave F1.

  8. Will F1 survive without the red team? Sure, but no matter what, it will be a “new F1”. Would the sponsor dump all the money in a “new F1” without knowing if it will work without Ferrari,Red Bull, Renault, maybe another 2 teams…mh! I don’t think so. Would the “new F1” survive with few sponsors for the first 2 years while things settles?..Mh! another difficult question…
    I pity Brawn, Williams when after busting their buts during winter, will be 1st and 2nd in the “new F1” championship, after beating Force India and a couple of new teams. Were would be the glory, the prestige to be at the top in a championship of mediocrity?
    Let’s hope common sense will prevail…or next year we all be blogging about fishing…

  9. What is driving the cost of F1? Precision. The teams are forever chasing the ultimate precision when designing these cars. The regulations as they are currently, requires rocket science to build design and build these cars. Rocket science as we know doesn’t come cheap.
    Even the lap time stopwatch has 3 decimal places. What that means simply is that, the smallest microsecond really does matter when chasing performance in a car.

    If the rules allowed for simpler cars to be built, no too much complexity, apart from in areas necessary, you would not need a budget cap to create a very competitive car. For instance, Mclaren spent $20million to develop that silver paint scheme, but it doesn’t add to the performance of the car, rather, it just massages their ego. Another team might use the regular paints and save probably $19.999million.

    The same goes for the cars, if the cars are simpler without too many aerodynamic tweaks and complicated electronics and sensors, one you wont need all that much staffing to monitor the telemetry from a driver’s shoelace. Neither will you spend so much tweaking the aerodynamics or replacing expensive sensors.
    As a matter of fact, the money saved by the richer teams can be better put to use, installing diamond studded steering wheels and solid gold driver mirrors.

  10. Shahriar Ahsan
    13th May 2009, 18:17

    F1 without Ferrari…


  11. So wot if Ferrari leaves? Show em whos the boss FIA!

    Ferrari, Its hurts to a underdogg no?…. Face it, embrace it! nd not play drama cus of it

  12. HounslowBusGarage
    13th May 2009, 20:48

    @ K.
    Thanks for the YouTube link. I think (hope) you’re right and Bernie is joking. But a few seconds later he answers in response to who he wants to win the Championship
    “I think y’know, whoever gets the most points should win the Championship.”
    Shame he didn’t remember saying that before coming up with the stupid medal idea.

    1. Shame he didn’t remember saying that before coming up with the stupid medal idea

      Haha too true.

      To be honest I’m not convinced Bernie is joking but then neither am I convinced he’s being serious, I think it’s questionable and to an outsider there’s no obvious answer. I thought this at the time. But I do think it’s interesting that Brundle makes a point of asking him and prior to that says “lets have a word with Bernie there’s something I wanna have a quick chat with him about” it’s clearly premeditated and it’s something Brundle has questioned before in his commentary. I think Bernie doesn’t care who wins the championship he cares when it’s won.

  13. Id like to bring into question the urgency of cost cutting. The teams are the ones who decide to spend and they do it because the companies that own them calculate that it helps them make money. Formula one looks to be doing great to me. Look at all the new tracks, the level of competition, its as good as it gets.
    The teams have a limit to what they will spend. When they need to cut costs they will. Toyota, Ferrari, Mclaren, Red Bull, Mercedes are some of most profitable companies in the world even in a bad economy. If anyone knows about costs its them. Toyota is known for effeciency. Give them 10 years of consistant regulations and youll will see them make it more and more cost effective.
    As for getting more teams involved why not have F1 itself have common facilities lower budgets teams can use. A wind tunnel, supercomputer for CFD, car simulators and rolling roads. That would save loads of money.
    The other questionable assumption is that there arent enough teams. Yes 26 cars would be nice but i cant see it being better than having the championship decided by one point the last two years.

  14. Okay, so if the cap is introduced next year, F1 will lose Ferrari and a few other big teams. If the cap is not introduced then it makes things harder for smaller independant teams to survive. To be honest, I would rather lose Force India than I would Ferrari. F1 is supposed to be the best of the best.
    I blame a lot of this on Bernie and Mosely. If Ferrari leaves and they take a few other teams with them, they will likely form their own championship and to be honest I would support them. Bernie and Mosely have too much power. It should be the teams saying what they can and cannot afford to do. It should be the teams that decide what they have to do in order to save money. Each team is a business and business have to independantly develop strategies to survive a economic crisis. Let FIA control the rules and regulations, and let the teams dictate their own business expenses. I want to see the best team win. If a team can find a way to beat Ferrari(Brawn this year) with less money, then they deserve to win.

  15. I’m no fan of the Cristiano Ronaldos of Formula 1 – a bunch of scarlet clad pretty boys who go off on a strop whenever they aren’t winning things easily, but even I have to admit that F1 would not be the same without them. But something does need to be done about the sport, which has been spending far too much money for far too long. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what can be done to allow independent teams to compete at a relatively even level. If the costs keep spiralling, manufacturers will have to do a Super Aguri/Honda and quit, leaving us with the pinnacle of motor sport looking like the 2005 US Grand Prix. But I’m not sure a budget cap is viable either.

  16. I’ve seen so many arguments about what will happen if the likes of Ferrari and FOTA will leave and how F1 will still survive. I don’t understand those sentiments.

    The bottom line is that most fans of F1 hardcore or not are either supporting the team or the driver. So if FOTA decide to take their teams to their own series then it’s not only the team but the drivers as well who will be going with them.

    Who the hell would want to then watch F1 with drivers who aren’t the best in the world zipping tracks in same spec machinery? Don’t we already have that in GP2, A1GP, IRL and all the other open wheel series?

    If FOTA splits then you can be sure all the TV rights and attention will go to that series while Bernie will have to deal with a CVC breakdown and Max trying to explain how he lost the crown jewel of motorsport.

  17. F1 is all about Teams & Drivers.
    So we can let them go
    Spectator don’t need Max & Bernie
    Let Tolt Jackie cum in there place.

  18. Gary Radonich
    14th May 2009, 4:34

    I think that the best solution would be for FOTA to purchase the A1 Grand Prix series and do their own World Cup of Motor Racing. There are aready contracts in place with circuts and more could be added. I am sure that there could even be a couple of races in the USA. I would give Tony George back his race at Indy in exchange for the rights to the Long Beach Grand Prix. With some creative thinking and alot of work I could imagine sixteen races next year, and at circuts where people would attend the races.

    1. Tony George doesnt want it. Thats why the one year deal for 2006 was not extended

  19. One thing is sure, you do not bluff Max or Bernie. Their revenge would make the MacLaren fine seem like a gentle kiss. You have to be more than half way out of the door before even hinting that you might leave. There is so much money going through the FOG that leaving would appear an easy option.

    Remember the “Three Tenors” Football World Cup in Italy when FIAT freed Di Montezemolo to organise the event superbly. There are real business men and great organisers in F1 not amateurs as is Max or small time wheeler dealers either. For instance, what if anything has Max created that matches Ron Dennis life work, or BMW or Toyota or Daimler. The list is endless.

    These organisations are wise enough to create a wholly owned quasi-independant promoter with racing as the prime interest knowing that profits and viewers would follow if governance is honest. If too much bother in the past, Max has ensured nothing but bother if they do not do so.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      14th May 2009, 21:09

      Their revenge would make the MacLaren fine seem like a gentle kiss

      Nice phrase.
      Do you think therefore that FOTA has already drawn up an alternative racing solution?

  20. theRoswellite
    14th May 2009, 16:17

    This certainly is a very serious problem, as one can only take the manufacturers at their word.

    Don’t think that it is impossible for F1 to self-destruct in the manner of US Open-Wheel racing. That series was at a high point in fan support and sponsor involvement and it all went south when the actors involved over estimated their relative importance. It is certainly possible…only requiring an unhealthy degree of hubris, and at least two of our participants seem well endowed in this area.

    The goal is having a sport that is run in a reasonable and democratic manner; that is the key issue, and the subject which must be addressed, if disagreements such as this are not to resurface on a continual basis.

    One can only hope that in the end vested self-interest will carry the day, and a reasonable compromise will result.

    Please, Keith and Martin, keep us on track.

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