2011 FOTA Fans Forum Monza

Teams need FOTA with “crisis around the corner”

2014 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

F1 teams will come to regret the absence of the Formula One Teams’ Association, which was disbanded at the end of last month, according to its former secretary general.

Oliver Weingarten told Isportconnecttv in an interview: “I think there is a genuine need for the teams to work together in this environment because they are very easily picked off and communicating collectively is in their benefit.”

“There is no doubt a crisis around the corner whether it is on a commercial side, whether it’s on the track or whether it’s in the governance area.”

FOTA continued for two seasons following the departure of two top teams in December 2011. “I had a significantly reduced budget which had been forecast due to the resignation of Ferrari, Red Bull and the sister team to Red Bull [Toro Rosso] and the engine customer from Ferrari [Sauber],” said Weingarten. “But the positives were until March 2014 we managed to continue with FOTA.”

2011 FOTA Fans Forum MonzaWeingarten was three months into his tenure as FOTA secretary general when the departures happened. “When I joined they were in the middle of heated debate and discussion about cost control.”

“And I think there was a lot of procrastination on behalf of my former chairman [Martin Whitmarsh] that may have antagonised some of the other members. I couldn’t do anything about that – as I say I joined, that was all going on and that very quickly came to a head – and thereafter the teams resigned and went off and did their commercial bilaterals with the commercial rights holder.”

“There’s no point in denying that Red Bull and Ferrari leaving FOTA didn’t significantly impact upon it,” he added. “And people in the paddock may have perceived that FOTA wasn’t as relevant as it was when it was originally set up.”

“But actually FOTA continued to conduct a number of activities not just on behalf of its members but on behalf of all the teams including those who had recently resigned.

“Whether that was auditing the Resource Restriction Agreement submissions, conducting a carbon emissions sustainability report across Formula One, doing fan forums and events, and a large amount of fan engagement in which teams who resigned still participated, and even the circuits agreements for all the teams to go testing was conducted by FOTA. And actually more recently the Pirelli agreement addendum and tyre blanket branding was done by FOTA once again.”

Weingarten said it was “an achievement in itself” to sustain FOTA for a further two years after Red Bull and Ferrari left.

“People in the paddock used to say to me ‘I’m surprised you’re still around’. But actually I had a former chairman, Martin Whitmarsh, who used to be at McLaren, who was a very strong ally of FOTA. And he managed to persuade a lot of the teams, along with myself, that actually there were good reasons for the team to work together.

“They needed a forum around which they could coalesce, in which they could discuss issues without the commercial rights holder or the FIA being present. And also if FOTA wasn’t around – and there’s a big question mark now – who will do the fan engagement? Who will be the single point of contact to deal with the promoters to help them in respect of sales of their tickets or getting show cars to promote their grands prix? Who will look, on behalf of the teams, at the costs being imposed upon them annually across the world at each grand prix?

“So I think the teams recognised that there’s definitely a role for FOTA and that’s why the remaining teams stayed in it.”

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