Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Mosley exit may save Formula One

FIA President Max Mosley
FIA President Max Mosley

You can ponder whether Formula One is on the brink of disaster or the threshold of a brave new world in the wake of the split between the FIA and the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) who intend to start their own breakaway series in 2010, but only two questions really matter.

Did Max Mosley ever expect them to call his bluff? And could this be the end of the sport's great dictator?

Mosley has never been one to accede to the wishes of others. Evangelical in his fervour, he has long insisted on a budget cap. For many years the teams resisted, but the global recession prompted commonsense.

Even Ferrari, once a major spender, acknowledge that lavishness is as much a part of history as front-engined race cars.

They have fallen into line with Mosley's thinking, just as he has come to accept their counter-argument against an immediate cap of $45m for 2010 and agreed upon a compromise of $100m next year, followed by $45m in 2011. Money was thus no longer the issue.

The teams, however, still had a problem with Mosley's arrogant governance and his proposals for forensic accounting that would expose sensitive financial areas of their business to his pecuniary policemen. They wanted a return to the defunct Formula One Commission as a democratic means of determining rule changes and for Mosley to stop forcing through changes at the drop of a hat.

There were more meetings between them in Monaco than luxury yachts in the harbour, as the closing date for entries for the 2010 world championship loomed on May 29.

Mosley created the impression that as many as 15 new teams were lined up waiting to take the place of Ferrari, McLaren, Brawn, Toyota, Renault, BMW Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, after Williams and Force India had jumped ship, citing legal obligations, and signed up with the FIA.

Pushed into a corner, the FOTA teams entered as requested, albeit with these conditions:

1) The Concorde Agreement is signed by all parties before June 12 2009, after which the FOTA teams will commit to competing in Formula One until 2012.

2) The basis of the 2010 regulations has to be the current 2009 regulations, amended in accordance with proposals that FOTA has submitted to the FIA.

When the FIA revealed the 2010 entry list on June 12, all 10 existing teams were in, together with newcomers US F1, Campos and Manor, but Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso were incensed to find their entries had been marked as unconditional as the FIA cited legal obligations the teams subsequently denied.

Perhaps indicating his first signs of uncertainty, Mosley gave them until June 18 to remove the conditions of entry, or face the risk of other newcomers such as Prodrive and Lola taking their places.

FOTA's response was to announce their intention to start their own series.

Following a meeting late into the night on Thursday, they declined to alter their original conditional entries and said they felt they had no alternative but to commence preparation for a new championship.

“The major drivers, stars, brands, sponsors, promoters and companies historically associated with the highest level of motorsport will all feature in this new series,” they promised.

The FIA recorded their disappointment and said they could not permit a financial arms race nor allow FOTA to dictate the rules. Subsequently, they announced their intention to take legal proceedings against FOTA, “and Ferrari in particular,” “for a grave violation of competition law.”

How will it all end? If Mosley stands down when the FIA World Motor Sports Council meets next week, it is likely the renegade teams will come back, providing an acceptable successor is appointed and their conditions are met everything will carry on as normal.

Two things are certain. Ferrari is one of two brands that really matter. Monaco is the other. Prince Albert has indicated that he will follow Ferrari, as will everyone else. And where Ferrari go, so does the money and in this sport the leading players, even Ecclestone, have traditionally done likewise. FOTA will have the leading teams and drivers, and though their venues are as yet unclear they would certainly include Silverstone.

Thus Mosley might feel he has won if he hangs tough, but will he preside over a world championship worthy of the name?

There may be few other motor racing categories capable of supplanting F1 or grand prix racing, but it remains to be seen whether FOTA really have the stomach to risk a split.

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