As revealed on Friday, Ferrari today are attempting to prosecute the FIA in the French courts for, they claim, breaking the terms of their now-infamous 2005 agreement.
The outcome of the trial could be crucial for the future of the sport, but most likely it will prove just another chapter in the latest F1 row – which has now transformed from a dispute over the rules into a conflict that asks fundamental questions about how F1 is run and governed.
The technical veto
The causes of the trial are remarkable enough to begin with. Last week Ferrari admitted to having had a ‘technical veto’ on the F1 rules since 1998 – seven years after Max Mosley was elected president of the FIA.
That the sport’s governing body was willing to grant such an unfair concession to one team is shocking even to the most cynical of fans, as it lends credence to allegations that the FIA has skewed the rules in Ferrari’s favour. By 1998 the team had gone 15 years without a championship. Since then they’ve won 14 out of 20.
Surely this revelation is just as likely to dissuade manufacturers from staying in or joining F1 as the recession is? If the playing field isn’t level there’s no point competing at any price.
Ten days to the deadline
Putting that matter aside, the somewhat ironic implication of Ferrari’s ‘technical veto’ is that they believe it can now be deployed to safeguard the interests of (several of) the teams. That is, to rebuff the FIA’s unilateral imposition of the two-tier budget cap rules.
Meanwhile Mosley is counting down the days until the teams have to submit their applications to compete in 2010. The deadline in May 29th, leaving ten days to go.
He has already issued the threat that, if Ferrari win their case today, the FIA will appeal. If the French courts cannot hear that appeal before the 29th, it could leave next year’s technical rules in disarray.
Ecclestone eager for solution
It’s not hard to read an increasing sense of desperation in Bernie Ecclestone’s words as the manufacturers and Mosley stare each other down. If he cannot avoid the FIA driving the manufacturers away his task of maintaining a sufficient level of income from F1 (to service the gigantic loan taken out by CVC to finance their purchase of it) will suddenly become extremely difficult.
Ecclestone is now adamant that the two-tier aspect of the rules will not go ahead. He told the BBC and the Daily Mail:
I think the most important thing that upset everybody, they didn’t like, was this two-tier technical system, so I think it has been agreed that we shouldn’t have that. We should have just one set of regulations.
Of course, it is not up to Ecclestone to decide F1’s regulations – that’s the FIA’s job. With fresh negotiations between all three parties scheduled for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, the most compelling thing Ecclestone can do to improve the chances of the teams overcoming their opposition to budget capping is to offer them more money.
Now, how likely do you think that is?