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. Hamletxi said on 13th May 2009, 7:28

    First off the only thing Max is worried about is F1′s profit margins. The sponsorship contracts for RBS, ING, and Allianze are up. The world economy will recover soon, then Max cant make up this idea the F1 might collapse. So why not fight with Ferrari. Max and the FIA cronies are super rich they cant cry poverty. Max wants to control F1 for his own profit. In America baseball has no buget caps. The New York Yankees have almost a 500 million USD budget. Majar League Baseball rules state that any team that wants to spend that much are required to pay a luxury tax. The money is split among the low budget teams. Why cant this work in F1?

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 13th May 2009, 8:37

      Hamletxi, can you explain how the luxury tax works and who enforces it?

  2. Rob R. said on 13th May 2009, 8:04

    “fans should be campaigning for an outbreak of common sense in the upper echelons of the sport.”

    We’ve been doing that for years.

  3. Chris Y said on 13th May 2009, 8:10

    The Stig for FIA president!

  4. James Bolton said on 13th May 2009, 8:20

    I’m of the opinion that Ferrari is F1 and F1 is Ferrari. The two go hand in hand and the FIA must remember that Ferrari can replace F1 and start their own series. But the FIA can’t replace Ferrari.

    The FIA has to be very careful not to remove the very fabric of F1. The British, German and French Grands Prix are all in danger of being lost from the calender. They can’t push Ferrari out as well. They will be left with something that just isn’t Formula 1.

  5. DGR-F1 said on 13th May 2009, 8:29

    I think the Manufacturers are not thinking properly about this at all. Sure, they can moan about the ‘two tier’ system, and not being able to work with the budget. Well, fine, thats one way to solve the problem…
    But Max has shown his hand, and how weak it is. There is the get-out clause of NOT sticking to the budget. All the Manufacturers – and it needs to be ALL of them for this to work – must declare that they will use option B (ie not staying in the budget) for next year, but carry on designing and redesigning cars as they always used to, ignoring any limitations imposed by the FIA.
    Is Max strong enough to penalise nearly every team on the grid at the first race in 2010? I don’t think so. If he did, his reputation would plummet so fast he wouldn’t know what to do. He would be seen to be the guy who killed F1, instead of putting the blame on the Teams as he is now.
    However, FOTA needs to show that it can work together and against Max and the FIA for this to succeed.
    The one good thing about this is that Bernie is running round in circles between FIA and FOTA because he can see that without the Manufacturers, his end is nigh….

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th May 2009, 19:44

      All the Manufacturers – and it needs to be ALL of them for this to work – must declare that they will use option B (ie not staying in the budget) for next year, but carry on designing and redesigning cars as they always used to, ignoring any limitations imposed by the FIA.
      Is Max strong enough to penalise nearly every team on the grid at the first race in 2010? I don’t think so.

      Passive resistance in F1? I like it…

  6. Dr Jones said on 13th May 2009, 9:30

    Imagine on the starting grid next year in F1:
    Brawn
    Williams
    Force India
    Lotus
    USGPE
    Prodrive
    Penske

    On the other side of the fence:
    Ferrari
    McLaren
    Renault
    Toyota
    BMW
    Red Bull
    Torro Rosso
    Honda(?)

    Which race will you gonna watch?

    I don’t know but a breakway series may be iminent

    F1 can’t survive without Ferrari
    Ferrari can survive without F1
    F1 can survive without Max…

    • Definitely worth stating twice ;)

      And you can add to that that the manufacturer cars will be faster and more technologically advanced making the FIA championship look like the retrograde sport it is.

    • Kayleigh said on 13th May 2009, 10:51

      I think if the rest left surely Williams and co would follow them, I can’t imagine Frank & Patrick wanting to be apart of a second rate series?

      Altho I imagine VJ would be quite happy, especially if Brawn and Williams left – would mean he will get those race wins by 2011!!

    • Internet said on 13th May 2009, 17:07

      Imagine on the starting grid next year in F1:
      Brawn
      Williams
      Force India
      Lotus
      USGPE
      Prodrive
      Penske

      On the other side of the fence:
      Ferrari
      McLaren
      Renault
      Toyota
      BMW
      Red Bull
      Torro Rosso
      Honda(?)

      Which race will you gonna watch?

      I don’t know but a breakway series may be iminent

      F1 can’t survive without Ferrari
      Ferrari can survive without F1
      F1 can survive without Max…

      The first group has Lotus, Williams, Pro Drive, Penske. All of them with rich racing history at various levels.

      The second group has Ferrari, McLaren and Renault.

      I can assure you the racing will certainely be better and less politicised in the first group.

    • BMW not rich in motor racing heritage then?

  7. Oliver said on 13th May 2009, 9:56

    The fact remains that Max just continues to haul insults at the teams. The gripe Ferrari has it that, the meeting in which Max announced the budget cap, was meant to be a disciplinary hearing, and out of the blue Max just announced it, while still negotiating with FOTA.

    It is not Max or Bernie that have made F1 successful, its the teams that have sacrificed everything to entertain us.
    When the FIA changes the regulations, its the teams that have to spend the resources to build the cars, do the research on safety, and still be competitive to put up a good show.
    The teams didn’t always spend so much or had so much money, even with a budget cap there is no guarantee they’ll still raise that money. The FIA or FOM doesn’t find the money for them. The teams must raise their own capital.

    Suddenly the teams are getting stronger, and have realised that they are being taken for a ride. Bernie and Max are trying to break them up, because they want absolute control of the sport, they don’t want the players having a say.

    The teams have never been opposed to reducing costs, but what Max is doing is like telling a man to cut off his limbs to lose weight.

    No doubt, it should be a bit easier for teams to get into F1, but they must have to earn their place there. They have to work their way up and not be given free passage. All the teams that want to come in, just want an effortless path to success.

    I believe any cap should just be on materials and equipments, staff salaries, drivers salaries, marketing and any other thing should not be restricted.

  8. PJA said on 13th May 2009, 10:21

    While I am no fan of Ferrari they are the most popular team in F1 and them leaving would have a big impact on the sport. I think Formula 1 would survive in some form if all the current teams left and Mosley just promoted all the GP2 teams to F1 and turned it into a spec series. It would be Formula 1 only in name and a split would do no one any favours, but it would manage to survive.

    I think both sides are filled with egos, hidden agendas and are taking a bargaining position of starting with unrealistic demands so they have plenty of room for manoeuvre.

    If the FIA were serious about a budget cap they should be working closely with FOTA to achieve this, not just imposing a limit which is too low too soon but has more favourable regulations to try to force teams to opt for the budget cap.

    I have read that FOTA are in favour of a budget cap in principle but the sticking points are the level and what to include in it.

    I have my doubts if a budget cap could work in F1 because of the complications involved such as the potential to hide costs, working out realistic market values for some items and the different costs in different countries.

    However if a budget cap is ever introduced it should start high and then gradually reduce each year to the target level and then be reviewed each year, and it should never mean a two tier F1.

    If a split did take place and I had to choose only one to follow my decision would be based on the teams and drivers in each series. My favourite teams are Williams and McLaren, if they were not in the same series then I would have to look at the drivers in each series.

    In reality if it were possible I would follow both series, but one of the major factors in determining how successful each would be, is accessibility. Personally I only have terrestrial TV and would not get Sky, so for a potential rival series to be a success I think it would have to be shown live on a free to air channel.

  9. Kayleigh said on 13th May 2009, 10:49

    Does the FIA cover all racing series in Europe? Because what would happen to all the other stuff, like medical centres, marshalls, the circuit organisers etc if F1 wasn’t under the FIA umbrella?

    I’m not for a split for all the reasons Keith put in his article, but feasibly could it actually happen? I’m not so sure.

    You couldn’t have Ron Dennis/Jean Todt heading up the new government as they are too closely associated to teams. I think needs to be some new blood but I’m not sure who/where. FOTA couldn’t regulate it totally as they’d have no time for the actual racing!

    If the tracks aren’t under FIA control then that would ok, loose a few that are Bernie owned, but who would miss Hungaroring?!

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 13th May 2009, 15:58

      As far as I know, the FIA only controls race-series that are affiliated to it. It does not therefore control A1GP for example. The support facilities that are only for Formula 1 Grand Prix races, like the Syd Watkins and the medical staff are only available at sanctioned GP meetings. Other facilities like the marshalls etc are provided by the track and national organising body.
      Bit of a complicated weave, but if A1GP can organise an intercontinetal race series on comparable track with cars running at 90% of Formula 1 speeds, so could a new Manufacturer-based race series.
      Again as far as I know, the only track that Bernie owns is Paul Ricard which is no longer used as an international track. Does anyone know if he owns any others.

  10. Chalky said on 13th May 2009, 11:20

    If F1 didn’t evolve and change rules to meet the requirements of the current time, then we would still see front engine cars driving round the race circuits.

    If Ferrari left, I’d be sad about it, but I’d still watch F1. True fans will stay. Casual fans will disappear.
    Maybe the international brand will be damaged and we’ll have to resort to racing on these European race circuits again as the Asian \ Middle East circuits lose fans.

    The only thing that got me close to giving up F1 was all the post race steward nonsense over the last year. I just want to see racing, non-spec racing at it’s best. You do not need any specific team for that.

    If Ferrari did give up F1, I wonder if they’d throw their weight into LeMans instead. Factory LMP1 Ferrari to take on Audi \ Peugeot. That would really be something to see.

  11. Jamie Frankel said on 13th May 2009, 11:25

    Something I don’t understand. 3 teams had the double diffuser, meaning 7 didn’t. Calculating the total spent, how has that saved money when the double diffuser is going to be banned for next year anyway. Had the FIA said the double diffuser was illegal, William, Torro Rosso and Brawn, would have built one like the rest and they couldve used/developed it next year too. So instead of 3 teams developing a new one, they have made 17 teams develop a new one (7 – DD, 10 – 2010 Diffuser). Sounds like a brilliant way of saving money!!!

  12. Jamie Frankel said on 13th May 2009, 11:25

    I didn’t mean Torro Rosso (from above post), I meant Toyota

  13. CJD said on 13th May 2009, 11:31

    Governance must change. Hopefully Ferrari will be supported by Renault, BMW, Red Bull (both teams) Toyota and McLaren. The smaller teams dare not risk revenge.

    There are many excellent tracks not under contract to Bernie and there are other racing promoters and organisers to handle the nitty gritty. Bernie uses the ex Brabham mechanics and thanks to Max there will be many other capable men available.

    Cost reduction across F1 as a whole would have been better achieved by cutting Bernie’s profits though testing bans have reduced his overheads in medicare infrastructure and marshalling and increased profits even more. If Max has his way would Bernie continue to share 50% of revenue with teams or would he argue for 15%

    Every recent change has cost teams a huge amount. New regulations next year will cost even more. Is this the FIA method of reucing costs?

  14. K (@k) said on 13th May 2009, 11:42

    Keith why, as your title states, is this just a fight with Ferrari? You article actually states that it isn’t:

    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.

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

    And I am one of them but I would include privateer teams not just manufacturers.

    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.

    Wasn’t the “once strong Indy Car championship” also formed out of a split in 1978?

    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.

    Isn’t that a fairly pessimistic assumption? Surely there is the possibility that a split could be successful, that it could restore the racing principles of bygone eras, that the teams could make more money and the fans could have a series that is not only more entertaining but actually respects them. I’m not saying it would 100% be successful but then I’m not saying it will be a 100% failure, I don’t know how it would turn out.

    The FIA doesn’t care about the fans or the teams they have proved that with their actions, it’s undeniable. I filled out the FIA survey and when they fail to respect the results they disrespect me and all the other fans who not only took the time to do the survey but who take the time out of their lives to watch a race, but really their disrespect goes way beyond just that.

    Brundle: Bernie 25 of the 58 world championships have gone down to the wire at the last race how does that happen that’s pretty impressive?

    Ecclestone: It’s not easy it gets more difficult every year…

    Eddie Jordan: I honestly think that if Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t see confusion or any aggravation that he thinks, ‘I’ve got to create some.’

    The FIA is full of cronies the evidence can be seen in the fact that Moseley is still president or that the race stewards routinely make bizarre and nonsensical decisions. My personal choice for a new president would be Tony Purnell but I wouldn’t and don’t trust an organization with the record of cronyism and corruption that the FIA has. I wouldn’t trust an organization that just represents the interest of big car manufacturers either, any sport needs an independent governing body that ultimately looks at the bigger picture beyond individual interests.

    To me the question is are you happy for Formula One to continue the way it’s going or do you think it needs to change? I think it needs to change and the most viable way would appear to be a break-away.

    • Well that was an overly long post but I’d just like to add that all of this has the hall marks of a Bernie & Max smoke screen, ask for a mile in one place and take a kilometer in another. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of this fails to come to fruition but some other radical change gets pushed through instead.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th May 2009, 20:05

      Lots of very strong and thought-provoking points there!

      Keith why, as your title states, is this just a fight with Ferrari? You article actually states that it isn’t

      I see Ferrari as the leaders in this – yes, to an extent Montezemolo is representing FOTA, but his legal argument is ground in the agreement Ferrari and the FIA made in 2005.

      Wasn’t the “once strong Indy Car championship” also formed out of a split in 1978?

      This leads us into the question of how far the IndyCar split in the 1990s was a consequence of the imperfect unification between USAC and CART in the late ’70s (not my area of expertise!). But I think my basic point stands – unity good, splits bad.

      Isn’t that a fairly pessimistic assumption? Surely there is the possibility that a split could be successful, that it could restore the racing principles of bygone eras, that the teams could make more money and the fans could have a series that is not only more entertaining but actually respects them. I’m not saying it would 100% be successful but then I’m not saying it will be a 100% failure, I don’t know how it would turn out.

      I think that’s an extremely optimistic assumption!

      F1 is not just about the teams, it’s about the tracks and the formula as well. Would the regulations be close enough, would there be enough decent circuits, would enough of the big-name teams be involved? And, critically, what would the breakaway championship be called? It almost certainly wouldn’t be “F1″.

      All these changes would rob the new series of continuity with the past. We would have two rival championships competing for the right to be recognised as the ‘true’ F1. And this is where the point about the IndyCar split comes in.

      Realistically, there would not be a clean break. It would be very messy. The loss of fans and sponsors’ revenues would be measured in tens of millions.

    • This leads us into the question of how far the IndyCar split in the 1990s was a consequence of the imperfect unification between USAC and CART in the late ’70s (not my area of expertise!).

      My reading of it is that CART split from USAC but I’m not gonna pretend my knowledge goes any further than here

      I think that’s an extremely optimistic assumption!

      lol If you’re idea of an optimistic assumption is a tragedy then I gotta hear your pessimistic version.

      Would the regulations be close enough, would there be enough decent circuits, would enough of the big-name teams be involved? And, critically, what would the breakaway championship be called?.

      I love that your critical point is the name. Funnily enough didn’t Ecclestone copyright the name F1GP and a few other names around ’05? Some joker ;) came up with the name Formula X which I imagine would appeal to Redbull with all their interest in “Xtreme” sport. I quite like F-Zero, or to avoid legal confusion with the computer game F-0. Moto GP isn’t exactly an improvement on Super Bikes is it. I mean come on Super Bikes says it all they’re super and they’re bikes lol.

      Big name teams? Why don’t we say the seven named in your article. What about if they could produce customer cars? How many privateers would be interested then?

      Regulations? It’s not about tight regulations its about the right regulations and I’d trust the F1 TWG to make them over the FIA.

      Circuits? Silverstone, Imola, Magny Cours, Indianapolis, Circuit Gile de Villeneuve, Jerez, Fuji, A1 Ring. There are a lot of other good and viable circuits all over the world as you know and when the current contracts with F1 run out the new series could take at places like Monza, Monaco and Spa.

      All these changes would rob the new series of continuity with the past.

      Read that statement again and think back over the last decade in Formula One, how much continuity is there in F1 2009?

      The loss of fans and sponsors’ revenues would be measured in tens of millions.

      That all depends on the media campaign and coverage, the regulations and the racing. Immediately race hosts could pay less and charge less to fans.

  15. HounslowBusGarage said on 13th May 2009, 12:02

    K, where did you get this from?

    Brundle: Bernie 25 of the 58 world championships have gone down to the wire at the last race how does that happen that’s pretty impressive?

    Ecclestone: It’s not easy it gets more difficult every year…

    Out of context, it reads as thoug Bernie is admitting to manipulating the Championship to get it decided at the last race. Can you explain the ‘right’ context?

    • IIRC that qas from Brundle’s grid walk in Brazil last year and yes it does sound like Bernie is idmitting to manipulating the Championship to get it decided at the last race… And putting it in context doesn’t make it sound any less so… Of course that was what Bernie intended and was just an example of his dry sense of humour.

      At least I think he was joking…

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