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

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  1. Rabi said on 14th May 2009, 2:14

    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.

  2. wasiF1 said on 14th May 2009, 3:44

    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.

  3. Gary Radonich said on 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.

  4. CJD said on 14th May 2009, 13:02

    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.

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 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?

  5. theRoswellite said on 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.

  6. Martin said on 16th May 2009, 12:07

    1) clearly the people running the current organizational structure of the sport have to go, or the current organizational structure itself needs to go – all this crap tends to prevent growth by accretion of casual fans, thus revenues stagnate…
    2) hasn’t the “harm” of single-team dominance already been “corrected”, with 2 Renault championships, followed by 2 REALLY wild and exciting years, including poor Ferrari reliability throughout that time, and now Brawn, Toyota, Red Bull and poorly-performing McLarens/Ferraris??
    3) recent years, including the current season, should be precursors of a new Golden Age in F1, for true fans, for marketing, in just about EVERY way – what happened??

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