Save F1 or stick with Mosley: the World Motor Sports Council?s choice (Updated)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Today's World Motor Sports Council meeting is critical to F1's future
Today's World Motor Sports Council meeting is critical to F1's future

Today?s World Motor Sports Council meeting was originally set to ratify the FIA?s planned entry list for 2010.

But the failure of President Max Mosley to supply a list, and the declaration by eight of F1?s ten teams that they will form their own breakaway championship unless he steps aside, leaves the WMSC with a straight choice:

Cast Mosley aside – or provoke a split that could destroy Formula 1.

Update: Mosley claims the threat of a split has been avoided and he will not stand for re-election. More in the comments.

A credible threat?

It has been suggested by some that FOTA?s threat to form a breakaway championship is merely a bargaining tool with no serious weight behind it.

It would not be the first time such threats had been made and come to naught. Only four years ago the teams warned they would form their own Grand Prix World Championship but ultimately backed down. In 1980 the Formula One Constructors? Association (led by Bernie Ecclestone and aided by Max Mosley) made a similar claim which also proved false.

FOTA is wisely presenting its breakaway championship as a last resort because it is the outcome no-one really wants. They have not event gone so far as to give it a name. Indeed, it was Mosley who first suggested they should break away, handing useful ammunition to FOTA who can now claim the whole thing was his idea, further undermining his position.

But does this mean we should doubt the seriousness of their threat? Some believe that, having announced their rival championship in June, FOTA cannot get it ready for the start of next year.

There has been speculation that Ferrari’s involvement in A1 Grand Prix (to which it supplies cars) means FOTA could adopt the infrastructure of the struggling series to get its championship up and running. This time last year the next A1 Grand Prix schedule had already been announced, but the 2009/10 calendar has not yet been published.

Nor should we discount the possibility of the teams decamping en masse to a rival championship – for example the Le Mans Series which, bolstered with a few rounds from its counterpart American series, could serve as an alternative. It would offer the technical freedom the teams crave, with petrol and diesel engines already competing side-by-side and hybrid engines due to be introduced soon.

The failure of ‘divide and rule’

Mosley’s hope that FOTA’s breakaway threat isn’t serious at least appears more realistic than the prospects of FOTA’s eight teams being divided. Writing in Autosport (sub. req.), Dieter Rencken suggests the total value of the bond entered into by the alliance is worth ??1bn (??858m / $1.4bn), a powerful indication of their commitment not only to each other, but also to competing in international motor sport.

Bernie Ecclestone has said he is “not going to let things disintegrate over what is, in the end, basically nothing.” He hasn’t indicated which side of the divide he is going to come down on, but it would be a first for Ecclestone if he didn’t pick the one that is going to make him the most money. So ask yourself, are the sponsors and the cash-rich Asian governments going to pour their cash into the championship with Force India and Campos or the one with Ferrari and McLaren?

Today the World Motor Sports Council must ask how the FIA president has managed to take eight teams including some of F1’s most historic names, who are prepared to commit to competing in Formula 1 in the future, and alienate them from the sport entirely. With Luca di Montezemolo representing Ferrari and FOTA to put forwards their case, it is likely to be an explosive event.

The alternative Mosley offers is a world championship bereft not only of its major competitors, but increasing numbers of the new teams that submitted entries for 2010, which are now backing away because the sport is in such a mess.

FOTA is not seeking a break from F1 or even a break from the FIA – it wants Max Mosley replaced by someone they can trust. If the WMSC does not take a clear step towards making that a reality, then with every passing day the dire prospect of a split in Formula 1 will become even more likely.

More on the FIA-FOTA row