Posts Tagged ‘F1 breakaway’

The row between the FIA and FOTA entered a new phase this afternoon as the FIA put out a statement saying that they were preparing legal action,

“The FIA’s lawyers have now examined the FOTA threat to begin a breakaway series. The actions of FOTA as a whole, and Ferrari in particular, amount to serious violations of law including wilful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari’s legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law. The FIA will be issuing legal proceedings without delay.

“Preparations for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship continue but publication of the final 2010 entry list will be put on hold while the FIA asserts its legal rights. ”

The FIA is meeting fire with fire. Part of the reason for the delay is that some of the potential new teams have withdrawn, leaving a potential entry list looking thin.

The legal threat is serious, but it does allow a period of reflection and dialogue, if a way can be found to restart the talks. The next major stage is Wednesday’s FIA world council meeting. I still think that the FOTA strategy is to try to effect change, but Mosley seems to be very sure of his ground and his support.

Ferrari are singled out in the FIA statement and their contract with the FIA remains the single most important aspect of this.

They responded this evening by saying that they have already launched an arbitration process at a civil court in Lausanne, this was done on Monday. This will establish the validity of the contract.

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There is a lot of activity going on at Silverstone, following the announcement by FOTA that they are commencing preparations for a breakaway series.

No-one on the FOTA side is saying how much preparation has already been done, but I gather that one of the team principals has been on the phone to several tracks which have recently hosted F1 events and are no longer hosting events, like Indianapolis, Montreal, Silverstone.

Ferrari owns Mugello, while Imola is ready to host these cars again after a major refurbishment. The teams seem to feel that the logistics of putting a new series together are not as much of a problem as is being suggested, especially getting the tracks and track operations together. The TV deals would be the tricky bit.

The talk here in the paddock is of the new teams, like Lola, Prodrive who are next on the FIA’s waiting list. They are apparently moving towards FOTA, N Technology has withdrawn from FIA list and Prodrive has put some conditions on its participation.

What FOTA is hoping is that the entry list Max Mosley will take to next Wednesday’s world council meeting will feature fewer teams than are currently in F1 and three of them (Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso) will be on the list against their will.

Then a challenge would be launched against Mosley’s presidency. FOTA have put themselves in a position where the only way forward with the FIA world championship is if Mosley is not in his current role.

There was a rumour going around that Luca di Montezemolo had been quoted as saying that FOTA is seeking Mosley’s removal, but this has been categorically denied by Ferrari.

Mosley is about to release a statement, apparently, after the end of the second practice session.

The FIA has said it is announcing its entry list tomorrow.

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Max Mosley arrived in the Silverstone paddock midway through this morning’s free practice session and went straight into Bernie Ecclestone’s motor home.

The announcement by FOTA of a breakaway series is no surprise to him, indeed he will have been expecting this. He has a huge appetite for this fight and he knows what a huge undertaking it would be to start a new racing series. The FIA put out a brief reaction earlier today as follows:

“The FIA is disappointed but not surprised by FOTA’s inability to reach a compromise in the best interests of the sport. It is clear that elements within FOTA have sought this outcome throughout the prolonged period of negotiation and have not engaged in the discussions in good faith.

“The FIA cannot permit a financial arms race in the Championship nor can the FIA allow FOTA to dictate the rules of Formula One.

“The deadline for unconditional entries to the 2010 FIA Formula World Championship will expire this evening.

“The 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship entry list will be announced tomorrow. ”

There is a grim determination about the FOTA members. They have decided to pull the trigger and now they await the full reaction from the FIA. This is likely to involve an entry list for 2010 which features Williams, Force India, Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso along with USF1, Manor and Campos, with another five teams from the list of teams hoping to enter, such as Prodrive.

The atmosphere here at Silverstone is febrile. It’s going to be a dramatic day. The FIA press conference at 3pm will be interesting with four team principals, Brawn Horner (Red Bull), Parr (Williams) and Whitmarsh (McLaren).

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“If you are going to bark, you need to be prepared to bite.” This is what a member of one of the FOTA teams said to me yesterday afternoon, with respect to the threat of leaving Formula 1 and forming a breakaway series.

Shortly after midnight FOTA made the announcement that many had feared was coming and which takes the sport into unchartered waters. The teams met at the Renault HQ near Oxford prior to making their announcement. They will have done so with a heavy heart but had to do it, really. It was put up or shut up time and as the spirit of team unity has survived through the winter and the early part of the season, despite the diffuser row and various other challenges. I have seen them get progressively more angry as this row has gone on.

“(The) teams.. have no alternative other than to commence the preparation for a new Championship which reflects the values of its participants and partners, ” says the statement. “This series will have transparent governance, one set of regulations, encourage more entrants and listen to the wishes of the fans, including offering lower prices for spectators worldwide, partners and other important stakeholders. The major drivers, stars, brands, sponsors, promoters and companies historically associated with the highest level of motorsport will all feature in this new series.”

Of course ‘commencing preparation’ for a new series is not the same as closing the door on F1 and walking away. The teams expect a compromise to be found and are trying to force it. It has always been the case that if they stay together they can achieve something, but if they allow themselves to be split they will fail. So they have gone for it and put the ball back in the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone’s court. This is going to cause damage to F1 whatever happens. There could be a swift resolution, through negotiation, after all the gaps between the two sides are not that great and both want to achieve the same things. The gap is ideology and increasingly the FOTA teams have come to resent the way in which the FIA has governed in this situation.

Last week, when the entry list was published with Ferrari and the two Red Bull teams on it and the other FOTA teams conditional, FOTA appealed over the head of Mosley to the FIA senate and World Council. This was the equivalent of saying that there could only be a solution if Mosley is removed from his position.

Since then there has been a round of mud-slinging and name calling both in press statements and in press conferences. It got highly personal with Mosley and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo at the forefront of it all.

Today is the FIA’s deadline for finding a solution and FOTA have pre-empted the action by issuing the statement in the night, allowing a day of frantic diplomacy to take place. It is going to be one of those very dramatic days in the paddock.

TV executives will be really alarmed. They see the numbers on F1, get the commercial proposition and sign off cheques for tens of millions of pounds a year. But many of them do not understand the sport and will not be happy to face the prospect of holding the rights to a series which on the face of it has Williams, Force India and some new teams. Circuit owners and regional governments will feel the same way. And this will not make it any easier for Donington to find investment.

Of course the FIA is confident that it has a binding contract with Ferrari to race in F1 and if this continues, that contract will have to be tested in a court of law.

“FOTA is proud that it has achieved the most substantial measures to reduce costs in the history of our sport. ” says the statement. “In particular the manufacturer teams have provided assistance to the independent teams, a number of which would probably not be in the sport today without the FOTA initiatives. The FOTA teams have further agreed upon a substantial voluntary cost reduction that provides a sustainable model for the future.

“Following these efforts all the teams have confirmed to the FIA and the commercial rights holder that they are willing to commit until the end of 2012. The FIA and the commercial rights holder have campaigned to divide FOTA. The wishes of the majority of the teams are ignored.

“Furthermore, tens of millions of dollars have been withheld from many teams by the commercial rights holder, going back as far as 2006. Despite this and the uncompromising environment, FOTA has genuinely sought compromise. It has become clear however, that the teams cannot continue to compromise on the fundamental values of the sport and have declined to alter their original conditional entries to the 2010 World Championship. ”

A lot of the focus will now fall on Bernie Ecclestone, the 78 year old chief executive of the body which holds the commercial rights to the sport. He has threatened a hailstorm or writs if the teams took this step. His reaction and that of the FIA will be interesting. They have pushed FOTA to this point to see what they would do. But did they really think they would go for it?

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It’s been an intense day of statements and announcements. In all cases reading between the lines has been necessary.

After the FIA’s announcement of the entries for 2010 this morning came Ferrari’s swift, calm but strong reaction, then FOTA’s threat to issue a dossier listing all the things that are wrong with the way F1 is run. FOTA sources refuse to say on what day this dossier will be issued.

The day ended with the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) suggesting, again between the lines, that not only would it apply pressure on the FIA to look at the conduct of its president in the way he conducts the FIA’s regulatory business, but also suggested that if it did not get satisfaction that it would pursue the idea of a breakaway.

“Today, the members of the Board of the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association discussed the current situation prevailing in Formula 1, and have concluded that the current governance system cannot continue.

“ACEA has come to the conclusion that the FIA needs a modernised and transparent governance system and processes, including the revision of its constitution, to ensure the voice of its members, worldwide motorsport competitors and motorists are properly reflected.

“The ACEA members support the activities and objectives of the Formula One Teams’ Association to establish stable governance, clear and transparent rules which are common to all competitors to achieve cost reductions including a proper attribution of revenues to the F1 teams, in order to deliver a sustainable attractive sport for the worldwide public.

“Unless these objectives are met, the BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Toyota along with the other teams are determined to find an alternative way to practice this sport in a manner which provides clarity, certainty of rules and administration, and a fair allocation of revenues to the competing teams. ”

This last line is the crucial one – that can be said of a lot of today’s statements, the mots interesting stuff is buried at the end (the opposite of the way a new story should be written!)

FIA sources are suggesting that the two sides actually aren’t as far apart as the picture given by all these statements suggests and that it is a couple of hardliners within the manufacturers’ group who are making the noise.

Ferrari are the crown jewels in this tug of war and they continue to align themselves with the other manufacturers. The FIA believe they have them under contract, Ferrari insist they are not.

The ACEA statement moves the story on quite a bit. Tomorrow at Le Mans, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo will hold a press conference.

He has some lines prepared, I understand.

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