Yesterday I met with Max Mosley for a long interview which is in today’s Financial Times.
He was in London briefly following this week’s world motor sport council meeting where the £40 million budget cap was voted through.
I posted yesterday on the letters exchanged between him and Luca Di Montezemolo Ferrari president. Ferrari are very angry about the budget cap plans and the ‘two tier’ system which might see two classes of car racing in F1 next year. Montezemolo’s letter hints at a possible legal challenge to the plans.
I asked Mosley whether F1 could survive without Ferrari.
“It could,” he said. “It would be very sad to lose them. They’ve been in the sport since the start, but if it’s a choice between that and a situation doomed to failure and which would collapse F1 … We are not going to bend over backwards to keep them.”
Mosley described the budget cap move as “by far the biggest development in my time in the sport”.
He is confident though that this is a time for action, not for wait and see, as the economy struggles to recover from global recession and cars companies are losing £1 billion a month. But he accepts that it might go wrong and that this summer could see a damaging stand off between some teams and the FIA.
“If you are trying to make big changes things can go wrong,” said Mosley. “We may have a very damaging conflict, it’s possible, but we are prepared for that. We’d tough it out. We’ve got very little room to negotiate, but the message I’m getting from the board of two or three of the manufacturers is that if you can keep us in F1 so that the cheque we write is not more than €25 million, you can consider this a pretty permanent arrangement.”
In recent years the manufacturer-backed teams, like Honda, BMW, Toyota Mercedes and Renault have fuelled an arms race of costs, but the boards of those car companies take a different view, according to Mosley, especially now that the economic picture has deteriorated.
“We have contacts with the boards other than through the teams. The teams spin to the board. The CEO hasn’t got the time, knowledge or expertise to question it. But now because they are all [short of money] to throw away tens of millions on F1 is not acceptable.
“I hope and think that when a team goes to its board and says, ‘I want to go to war with the FIA, because I want to be able to spend £100 million more than the FIA want me to spend, then the board will say ‘Why can’t you spend £40 million if the other teams can do it?’ “
Mosley believes that Formula 1 has “gone down the wrong track”, with the emphasis on endless costly developments, rather than genuine innovation.. He believes that the budget cap reverses that trend.
“The cleverest team is going to win, not the richest. It’s manifestly fair because it litterally is the one who makes the best invention who will succeed, Invention is cheap, it’s refinement that is expensive and F1 is now refinement orientated. It’s probably our fault for allowing rules to develop in such a way that refinement is the means of progress rather than invention.“
* Tomorrow I will post the second half of the interview, with some interesting observations from Mosley on Ron Dennis, an explanation of how the cap will be policed and thoughts on how long it will stay in F1.