Max Mosley has told the world that instead of reaching a compromise with the nine FOTA teams, he thinks they should leave F1:
I say to them: If you want to draw up your own rules, then you can organise your own championship. But we have the Formula 1 championship. We draw up the rules for that. We have been doing that for 60 years and we will continue doing so.
It is difficult to believe that the president of the FIA could seriously be advocating a situation where the governing body’s most successful and popular championship is split into two.
Mario Theissen claims it was Mosley’s suggestion that FOTA place a ‘conditional’ entry to the 2010 championship, which they did last week.
But by agitating for a split Mosley has played into FOTA’s hands. Their argument that the governance of Formula 1 needs reforming has never looked more credible than when Mosley admitted he would rather see F1 split in two than accept that he might not get everything he wants from this debate.
Unlike Mosley, FOTA have been at pains to avoid threatening a split.
Various F1 correspondents have explored the possibilities of them creating a rival championship – many pointing to the Ferrari-backed A1 Grand Prix series as a starting point.
But FOTA has frequently stated its desire to keep its teams in F1 and reach an accommodation with the FIA and F1 owners CVC (represented by Bernie Ecclestone).
It is Mosley who has spurned compromise and failed to reach a consensus with the teams.
Some may be tempted to argue that FOTA are holding Mosley to ransom by refusing to accept his demands. I disagree.
Mosley has stated in the past that he has demanded budget capping because the present teams have refused to commit to Formula 1:
Despite my repeated requests, not a single manufacturer has given us a legally-binding undertaking that it will continue in Formula 1
Max Mosley, in a letter to Luca di Montezemolo, April 2009
The manufacturers and supporting teams are now proposing a deal to keep them in the sport until 2012. So why is Mosley talking about a split instead of sealing the deal?
How a split would destroy F1
Pause for a moment to appreciate the full gravity of what Mosley is suggesting by urging the teams to split from F1.
It would mean F1 casting FOTA’s nine teams aside. These have, in their present guises, contested 2,040 Grands Prix, winning 414 races and 55 drivers and constructors’ championships. They are a vital component of the sport, woven deep into the fabric of its history.
We would have two series – one calling itself F1, the other containing all bar one of the teams that contested the previous F1 championship.
Drivers and circuits would be caught in the middle. One series might have Spa and Silverstone, Hamilton and Raikkonen. The other Monza and Suzuka, Alonso and Kubica. And both championships would be incomparably weaker propositions.
What of the fans? Some would follow F1. Some would follow the new championship. And many – perhaps most – would stop watching. The longer it took the two series to re-unify, the worse it would get.
And the same goes for the sponsors which every year pump billions into F1’s coffers.
This is not conjecture. Exactly the same thing happened with the Indy Car championship. It finally re-united last year after 14 years divided – now a pale shadow of its former glory in every respect.
The teams must stay
The FIA President is proposing a development which would rent the world’s biggest motor racing championship in two. It would do huge damage to international motor racing, perhaps irrevocably ruining it.
Max Mosley is not unaccustomed to criticism. But his failure to come to terms with the teams is a new low. He must not be allowed to drive them out of the sport.
Given a choice between keeping the nine teams, and keeping the FIA president, I’d pick the teams.