F1 heads meet again as deadline looms

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Toyota's change of management could be the death knell for its F1 team
Toyota's change of management could be the death knell for its F1 team

Today sees yet another meeting on the future of F1 as the teams and the FIA scramble to reach an accord before the FIA’s Friday deadline.

Williams’ decision to submit an entry for next year’s championship appears to signal a split in the F1 teams’ association. But are some teams preparing to take the opposite route and quit the sport entirely?

As the deadline draws closer there have been suggestions that some teams may choose to quit the sport entirely if they don’t get their way. Which ones are most likely to?

BMW

BMW’s dissatisfaction with another FIA-run series, the World Touring Car Championship, has driven them to breaking point. BMW had won four consecutive titles in the series with Andy Priaulx, but believe FIA rules changes have left them unable to compete.

Mario Theissen said:

The decisions taken were not communicated cleanly – that means competitors did not know what the situation was, and under which circumstances and conditions the other competitors were racing. This only became clear when there was a protest.

This was in reference to BMW being unaware what boost pressure rivals Seat were allowed to use. But it’s not difficult to see BMW’s grievances about differing technical regulations mirrored in the FIA’s controversial proposed two-tier system.

Simply put, BMW’s exasperation with the FIA’s governance may not be confined to the WTCC. Having compromised their 2008 F1 programme to develop their 2009 machine, but finding it uncompetitive partly thanks to the FIA’s handling of the diffuser rules, it’s not hard to imagine how they might be frustrated by the FIA.

It has spoken of competing in another touring car championship. Defecting to the DTM would put it up against its two major domestic rivals, Audi and Mercedes, which could serve as an alternative not just to the WTCC – but F1 as well.

Toyota

Toyota’s future in F1 was in doubt before the season began, especially so after the withdrawal of arch-rival Honda in December.

Over the winter team boss John Howett set the team a target of winning a race this year, coming off the back of seven seasons that yielded just eight podium finishes:

We have to win, I think that?s clear. This organisation really only exists to win so we have to realise that we need to really make a change and deliver some outstanding performance this year.

Toyota might have already delivered on that had it not been for the odd strategy in Bahrain. But since that race the team have bombed, finishing qualifying at Monaco with the two slowest times.

Next month Akio Toyoda, grandson of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda, will take over as chief executive of the company from Katsuaki Watanabe. Drastic changes are expected: in February the company projected a $3.5bn (??2.2bn/??2.5bn) loss for the last financial year – earlier this month it confirmed a figure of $4.4bn (??2.8bn/??3.1bn).

What chances, then, the future of what has been F1’s biggest-spending team for several years, which under Howett is arguing for the right to spend more than ??40m per season?

Perhaps Williams’ decision to sign up to the 2010 rules gives us an inkling of what the future holds for Toyota’s F1 team. Williams’ Toyota engine contract is up for renewal this year. If Toyota are indeed on their way out of the sport, Williams will need a new engine deal, and the FIA’s customer Cosworth engines could be just the ticket.

Renault

Given their slump in form post-2006, and inability to capitalise on the new regulations to re-discover their form this year, it’s hardly a surprise that Fernando Alonso is being touted as a Ferrari driver in 2010.

Renault has received a ??6bn (??5.5bn) bail out from Nicolas Sarkozy’s government – would it be politically wise to spend a chunk of that money on running an F1 team?

It has also lost primary sponsor ING, the Dutch bank which was also forced to turn to its government for help.

Read more: ING quits F1 ?ǣ will Renault follow?

Ferrari

Have made a lot of threats about leaving F1, but where would their marketing presence be without it?

Would they get anything like the same kind of exotic appeal racing a diesel at Le Mans, or running an effective one-make series in the form of A1 Grand Prix?

In the wider economy some analysts are optimistically talking about ‘green shoots’ of recovery. But as has often been well observed in the past, motor sport tends to feel the full brunt of a recession long after it hits the headlines. The shockwaves travel through sponsors and manufacturers and eventually hit the teams in the form of slashed budgets.

Is that going to happen now? Can the teams, Mosley and Ecclestone reach a new deal that keeps the remaining manufacturers in the sport while enticing new teams in to replace those that will depart?

Which F1 teams do you think will still be competing in 2010? Cast your vote and have your say below:

Update: Sorry about the broken poll before – this has now been fixed!

Which teams will still be in F1 next year?

  • Ferrari (68%)
  • McLaren (83%)
  • BMW (39%)
  • Renault (44%)
  • Toyota (24%)
  • Williams (90%)
  • Red Bull (76%)
  • Toro Rosso (61%)
  • Brawn GP (93%)
  • Force India (83%)

Total Voters: 250

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