Is the FIA to blame for teams leaving?

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Ferrari believe FIA politics caused Toyota to quit
Ferrari believe FIA politics caused Toyota to quit

As the F1 world waits to learn whether Renault will join Toyota in quitting the sport, the finger-pointing for the manufacturers’ exodus has already begun.

The FIA reacted to Toyota’s decision by claiming it could have been avoided if Max Mosley’s budget cap had been introduced.

Meanwhile Ferrari blamed “those who managed Formula 1 over the past few years” – Max Mosley & co. in other words – for driving major car manufacturers out of the sport. So who’s right?

Defeated FIA president candidate Ari Vatanen chimed in with Ferrari when he gave this interview to CNN following Toyota’s departure:

The FIA’s view is that Mosley saw it all coming and tried to stop it with his budget cap regulations.

In all probablity, neither version of events is entirely accurate. Mosley was correct when he pointed out the manufacturers’ allegiance to F1 would prove to be fickle. But that didn’t stop him cosying up to them in the first place.

Plenty of opportunities to cut costs were missed and several teams that might have been kept going were driven out of the sport. In 2005 all the teams bar Ferrari were united on the need to cut testing, but Mosley did nothing.

That reminds us how quick Ferrari have been to turn on the FIA now the two do not have compatible aims. Rather like their harsh criticism of Williams earlier this year, there’s something decidedly odd about Ferrari’s now-infamous “Agatha Christie” press release:

It could be seen as a parody of ??Ten Little Indians,?? the detective novel by Agatha Christie, first published in England back in 1939, but the reality is much more serious. Formula 1 continues to lose major players: in the past twelve months, Honda, BMW, Bridgestone and, only this morning, Toyota, have announced they are leaving the sport. […]

The reality is that this gradual defection from the F1 fold has more to do with a war waged against the major car manufacturers by those who managed Formula 1 over the past few years, than the result of any economic crisis.

In Christie?s work of fiction, the guilty party was only uncovered when all the other characters died, one after the other. Do we want to wait for this to happen or do we want to pen a different ending to the book on Formula 1?

Back when Ferrari and the FIA enjoyed a more harmonious relationship, the man in charge of the Scuderia was Jean Todt. But don’t expect the two to start getting along again just because he’s now president of the FIA.

Ferrari and the FIA are still dead set against each other and more battles could lie ahead.

Who do you think is to blame for the manufacturers quitting F1? Was the economic downturn always going to drive Honda, BMW and Toyota away? Have your say in the comments.

F1 teams quitting

72 comments on “Is the FIA to blame for teams leaving?”

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  1. Haven’t we all forgotten to invite a certain someone to this party? More than anyone else, hasn’t it been Bernie Ecclestone who has guided F1 into its descent from motorsport into a bloated, over-priced, artificial, and passionless ‘sunday showcase’? For everything that we can throw at Max Mosely, he did try to lower the costs – too drastically, and too despotically, but it was the right idea.

    And the astronomical finances go hand in hand with the technology. I keep saying it, this sport is a victim of its own advances. We’ll see if the refuelling ban will bring back some genuine racing, but as impressive and fascinating as all the technology in those cars is in theory, in practice it translates not into racing cars but into very fast, very sleek, and very fragile lap-time machines. They’re made to go fast, but not to race. No one seems to agree, but if I were making the rules I would tear much of those electronics out of there, and impose materials that withstand light impact better. And I would limit communications between team and driver. I don’t think that racing drivers should have to be told lap in and lap out exactly how they’re doing, to go faster, to go slower… just freakin’ drive man! Racing needs to be put back into the hands of drivers. With all the imperfections that that implies. Anyhoo that’s what I would do if I were in charge. (That’s my periodic and totally unrealistic anti-technology rant)

    I’m convinced that if the sport were just plain more about racing, and just plain more affordable the current crises that ail it would not be around. And as for partitioning blame between the teams and the FIA – well, you need political will for compromises on both sides, and that certainly wasn’t happening when Max Mosely was there, let’s hope that Jean Todt will turn out to steer things in the right direction.

    1. Your analysis is very good. It isnt just Max and the FIA but Bernie and company that have lead to the downfall.
      Someone previous said that BMW and Toyota as well as Honda came into the sport and talk of innovating but couldnt develop a winning car. So after a few years they pack it in. we have seen this of Honda before and for Toyota to do it was no surprise either. When BMW did it I was surprised as I thought they were a company that would prove they could then withdraw to be just an engine supplier. But in reality they are taking the Honda planet green path and have gone home to lick there wounds.
      The removal of refeuling is going to add a new twist to the sport as tey can still come in and perform a tire change but no feul, I like this as it will really seperate the racers from the wanna be’s.
      Todt has his work cut out for him and I hope he gets it right, but I dont hold alot of hope. If Max is allowed to have any influence on the way it is run then the sport is on its way to irrelevence.
      If Todt can get the situation under control and break this rediculous contract with FOM and get racing back to the tracks that made it great then we have a chance for a great new beginning.

  2. Prisoner Monkeys
    6th November 2009, 23:53

    The FIA is not to blame – it’s the manufacturers themselves. I find it pretty telling that teams like Williams have been in the sport for thirty years, while teams like BMW have only lasted three. It’s because Williams is a racing team, and wholly concerned with race. BMW were more interested in developing KERS.

    1. To be fair, before BMW’s four years as an independent team they did spend six years as en engine supplier… to Williams.

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        7th November 2009, 2:43

        I don’t think tht really counts – Williams were independent. BMW Sauber were an independent team that had been purchased by and reconfigured as a works outfit. Thi whole thing forms the basis of that guest article I sent you … but at 2,000 words, it might be a little long.

    2. Wrong, the FIA is to blame. The constant changing of the rules and the constant attacking certain teams is what lead this to happen. Look at all the time and energy that was spent going after first Mclaren, then Renault. Why would any mfg stay in this enviroment of constant headhunting of any team that dared to oppose any position that the FIA had. The situation you bring out is that a team like Williams is run by 2 or 3 people and they answer to themselves. The want to race and that is what they do. McLaren is the same to a lesser extent. Ferrari is a Mfg who has stayed with it for the entire modern era of the sport thru the good and the bad. BMW, Honda and Toyota are different. The difference is that the BOD of all these teams that quit are part of the time for the racing and then they arent.
      None of the teams were interested in kers until it was forced upon them and when the FIA said it would look at dropping it teams like BMW said no way as they had spent millions developing it.(I would have took the same approach).
      Now the mfg’s arent saints by any stretch but they all want to race in a stable enviroment and that isnt happening right now with the FIA>

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        7th November 2009, 5:13

        Manufacturers do not exist for the purpose of racing cars. They exist to sell cars. They are the ones responsible for driving costs up. They are the ones who are more interested in brand recognition and marketing opportunities than racing. If the breakaway series had gone ahead, the manufacturers would have run it right into the ground. The President and Vice-President of FOTA represent manufacturers. The meetings they held were conducted on manufacturer territory – they met at Enstone during the British Grand Prix, but the headquarters of Red Bull and Force India are both closer.

        Worse, the manufacturers cause trouble. The sport’s biggest embarrassments and controversies – the Singapore incident, the espionage affair – can be laid at the feet of manufacturer or manufacturer-backed teams. Even Ferrari aren’t absolved; I don’t think there’s been a more polarising team in the sport, what with all the perceived bias towards them. Formula One needs racing teams, not people who are more interested in developing some new toys for their line of road cars. If they want that, go to Le Mans.

        We need less manufacturers, and more racing teams. If it were down to me, I’d sell Toyota to someone like Aguri Suzuki. Renault would be in the hands of Henri Pescarolo or ART Grand Prix. And Toro Rosso – not strictly a manufacturer, but a glorified GP2 team – would be returned to Minardi. Formula One should first and foremost be about racing. Keep the manufacturers on as engine suppliers or whatever, but we don’t need entire teams who have to wait for ther budget to be approved by a boardroom half a world away – and populated by anonymous business-types who have never been to a race in their life – before they can start developing the next season’s car.

        1. Most manufacturers participate in some form of motorsport for historical as well as commercial reasons. The truth is that manufacturers are an integral part of motorsport as a whole including F1, and thus it has always been. Renault have a huge role in FIA licensed events from GP2, to World Series, to Formula Renault. BMW participate in WTCC, DTM, Formula BMW. Honda compete in IRL and Moto GP, Toyota in Nascar. You can’t question their racing pedigree or their commitment to motorsport, Ferrari least of all. How many other teams have gone 21 years without winning a championship and remained in the sport? Answer this and then you start to understand Ferrari’s commitment.

          The reason BMW left was because they were not interested in developing the basic out-dated KERS that the FIA prescribed. They like others thought that F1 should be the technological pinnacle of motorsport not a glorified GP2. Yes Toyota were fundamentally unsuccessful but the same is not true of the others. In their short time on the grid BMW had done reasonably well with some good race performances and strong championship placings. Honda had won a race and finished second in the constructors and may well have won a championship had they stayed in the sport. Renault won four championships.

          Maybe if the FIA and FOG gave the teams a greater share of the massive profits it might help them to cut costs. But I don’t think say Toyota were really that interested in cutting costs, they were more interested in participating in a championship that was regarded as a technological pinnacle, one that had a positive image and a world wide appeal, this can no-longer be said of F1. You can’t blame the manufacturers for scandals caused by corrupt individuals. Skulduggery is rife in F1 just look at the current situation with Force India or the FIA presidential elections. You can’t say it’s confined to manufacturers.

          Currently teams barely design their own cars the rules are so prescriptive and constrictive. Take the manufacturers out of F1 (there are only two left) and you end up with what amounts to little more than GP2 if that. If that was the case I would go and watch the Le Mans series.

  3. The real answer is complicated and the easiest thing is to point finger and say that is the one and only cause. The nature of big manufacturers is to pull out when things get tough, it has happend before and the sport survived it quite all right. One phase of F1 is over, another is starting…

  4. Glad Ari didn’t get the gig he’s totally not on the same skill level as the other players. He just make himself look foolish and like a sore loser, probably should get a strategist or PR person.

  5. While the economy plays a part in this, you have to place blame with the FIA. Costs are coming down in the next 3 years, and as mentioned before, advertising budgets are much larger than motorsport budgets. With the scandals and poor governance, the manufacturers don’t want to bother wasting time. The key, though, is that Honda, BMW, and Toyota all say they are not cutting the motorsport programs in other formula–just F1. Why, when F1 has the most exposure, technology, and recognition? It can only be about the governance.

    1. They pay $400 million to play in F1 and not even $40 million for every other form of motorsport.

  6. I dont understand, people are endlessly bashing manufactures here, saying how much you prefer independent teams etc. why so grim when they finally leave? If FIA caused them to leave, kudos to them right?

  7. Its a bit of both. But I assume that the economic crisis is more at blame than FIA.

    Agreed, Advertising budget is ten times that of the Formula 1 teams. But, advertising brings in certain amount of returns. Whereas a Formula 1 team brings in nothing (Number of wins by BMW, Toyota, Honda = 2 over 11 years of competing together), thus undoing the advertising group’s efforts.

    FIA is also to blame. If only FIA had ensured a race in USA, Canada and France – big markets for manufacturers – these teams might have stayed.
    Money spent in F1 is only the tangible loss, the intangible loss caused to the brand by not winning is significantly higher.

  8. F1 and car manufacturers have to react to the major forces in play that is effecting the world. In particular, peak oil and climate change. The world is looking for answers to these questions and the car manufacturers and F1 was doing “business as usual”. I thought it was interesting the link to former F1 designer, Gordon Murray and his new electric car. He was looking not only at ecological and economical transportation but also how the manufacturing process was carbon responsive. Racing should be a testing bed for new technologies so the companies can promote their leading edge approaches.

  9. wong chin kong
    7th November 2009, 2:59

    Why blame the FIA? The FIA did not force the team to participate the F1 at gun point. It is just that the teams are unable to survive the gruelling conditions in what is in F1 today. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going.

  10. I’m afraid to say that most of the reasons for teams quitting is teams theirselves. FIA may probably have done something wrong in the past, but most of the proposals to cut costs were issued by FIA, and refused by teams. I con’t remember a single proposal made by the teams.
    Ferrari has been probably the hardest there: they are opposing to test ban, and during the long Shumacher era they were contrary to all initiatives. I think FIA was too soft there, and accepted Ferrari dominance without any attempt to make formula 1 more spectacular by competition perspective.
    At the end I would say there are two ways to promote Formula 1: one is trying to make it as more uncertain as possible, with easy technical rules, cost limitation, high number of teams involved; the other is make it a “brand” with high cost, big constructors involved only, marketing aspects at the top. FIA and teams had chosen this second option and teams are paying the price.
    Regarding scandals and justice trials…well, it’s not FIA that started cheating, or stealing drawings.

  11. You’d have to be incredibly myopic to pin the blame on anything inside F1 for the current exodus. The enormous recession in the car industry has forced the manufacturer’s hand.

    “It’s the economy, stupid.”

  12. The FIA are not only to blame for the manufactures leaving the sport, they are also to blame for the entrance of the manufactures and therefore also to blame for the cost explosion. In the early 1990s the ultimate manufactures’ championship, the Group C, was killed of to get all the manufactures to enter Formula 1. Bernie Ecclestone made big profits and now Formula 1 is left behind.

  13. For one I’m sad to see the major manufacturers bow out but I think it has been inevitable. Collapsing global sales PLUS a gloomy forecast has placed Toyota, BMW and Renault under greater scrutiny at a board level. If Toyota and BMW had achieved greater success however I think they could have bought more time, but looking at it as investment (especially in Toyota’s case) the withdrawal makes sense. F1’s image has taken a complete battering which hasn’t helped and I can’t see how the racing
    has improved in recent years under Mosley;s reign. Cut costs? Stop changing the rules. Did we need expensive KERS technology??

  14. The losing three had no right to absorbing an existing team. Until their powerplant can demonstrate consistent wins no brand should be allowed to buy in. The remaining three are the only ones who have shown consistent competitiveness. For fiscal protection, that should be a new rule. Ultimately, Bernie needs to get stuffed. How can one man have a lifetime lease of this series? Setting up another Formula is totally viable in this climate. By lowering the circus fee to the venue, we’d see the heritage tracks return and make a profit. As a result, the Brands would line up to participate and demonstrate. Perhaps a stock block formula would encourage the showroom competition. Every brand has at least 3.5 liters of something sitting around. If a ringmaster has no circus what does he then become?

  15. Would like to point out that while Ferrari are a manufacturer in a strict legal sense they are a racing team as they always have been. They operate as an autonomous division of the Fiat group and currently produce more cars now than ever in their history. That figure is 3500 cars per year, what Toyota produce in less than an hour and BMW before lunch every day. Manufacturers wanted to use F1 to sell cars and you need success to do that. Ferrari will always sell cars the same way Bentley do, when did they last win a proper race in a real Bentley? They are still seen as one of the great sporting marques.

    1. Bentley won the 2003 Le Mans.

      I never understood how companies like Toyota and Honda sell cars though F1. Who buys a car because the brand is in F1?

      Mercedes and BMW have some spin offs from their F1 program into their road cars to sort of make it look relevant, but even then I doubt it really helps them sell cars.

      I’d say that Honda and Renault had more marketing success with selling engines to McLaren and Williams in the 90’s than they did having their own team.

    2. They operate as an autonomous division of the Fiat group and currently produce more cars now than ever in their history. That figure is 3500 cars per year, what Toyota produce in less than an hour and BMW before lunch every day.

      ‘Exclusivity’ is the name of the game for the likes of Bentley and Ferrari. Limit the supply, have long waiting lists, charge extortion prices and then regardless of what happens out on the track the money will come flooding in.

      I bet Toyota and the likes wished they could do just the same.

  16. I never understood how companies like Toyota and Honda sell cars though F1. Who buys a car because the brand is in F1?

    They use the technology they develop in F1 in their road cars.
    If your company is connected with the high cutting edge technology of F1 even buyers of a Honda civic will feel they’re getting so F1 technology in their car.

  17. Bentley won the 2003 Le Mans.

    Was that a proper Bentley?

    1. Was it not an Audi in disguise?

  18. Ferrari are probably feeling a little bit lonely right now, and may feel that once again that the ‘garagiste’ are taking over the asylum.

    Toyota said themselves that the reason for departing was due to the economic downturn. If it had to do with anything that happened in the sport recently, then ,like Ferrari, I’m sure that Toyota would have been big enough to come out and tell it as it is, or at least as they think it is.

    I wonder just how much longer Mercedes and Renault will stick around before it becomes obvious to them that F1 ‘Isn’t where it’s at’ if you want to sell lots of road cars.

    1. Besides their financial problems, Toyota already stated before the start of 2009 that they would pull the plug if there wasn’t a win.

  19. can we blame Ferrari for winning too many championship in the past decade? haha

  20. They are both to blame. The FIA for conceding a veto to Ferrari, and Ferrari for using that veto to purely suite its own needs only are just one of too many reasons.

    The past few years have had me reflecting considerably what I think of as the moral and ethical demise of Ferrari who have shown themselves to be unprofessional, greedy and petulant etc. They may have a tremendous F1 history and following but I believe manufacturers are not and should not be the rulers of F1. Brawn, Red Bull, Force India prove my point exactly.

    I have lost all respect faith and trust in Ferrari and have great difficulty believing the legitimacy of all their accolades past present and future. The veto and desperately uneven distribution of F1 money, not to mention some woefully unprofessional press releases are again just three of many reasons why. I’m gob smacked that more are not verbal about Ferrari’s disgusting antics. Seems money can buy everything. Shame on you. And to think I used to be an ardent blinded or blinkered Ferrari fan (yes, shame on me too), who like many current fans just refuse to see and smell what’s right in front of their noses…

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