Posts Tagged ‘FIA’

There is a story in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera today about a letter sent by the FOTA teams yesterday (Saturday 13th June) to the FIA complaining about the behaviour of the FIA’s Alan Donnelly at the recent Turkish Grand Prix.

The letter alleges that Donnelly was going around from team to team telling them to abandon the FOTA stance and sign up for 2010. It amounted to behaviour which the teams considered not appropriate for a man whose role at the races is to convene and oversee the stewards and to take a totally impartial view of problems arising on the track.

The teams have requested Mosley’s comment on the matter.

The anti-FIA stuff continues in another story, concerning the way the entry of Italian outfit N Technology was handled by the FIA representatives responsible for assessing the new teams. The N Technology people allege that their submission was not properly processed, documents were mislaid and so on.

Apparently the FIA had no comment on the story.

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It was all looking so good, Ross Brawn saves the Honda team, the car turns out to be a rocket ship, David threatens Goliath, a shake up of the old order was in prospect. The racing was shaping up to be really close, with many teams on roughly the same pace. In other words a great season was in prospect, as many of you have said in your comments on this blog.

And now with a week to go until the first race, we have the FIA backtracking on the winner takes all points rule, because the FOTA teams did not unanimously agree it and then there is the virtual certainty of a messy technical protest into the legality of the diffusers on some of the cars, including Brawn, which will dominate the weekend and be well beyond the understanding of most of the fans and the media.

F1’s capacity to shoot itself in the foot is to the fore again.

As I’ve been saying in my recent posts here since the Barcelona test, the Brawn car is seriously fast, perhaps fast enough to stay out front for quite a while before teams like Ferrari and BMW catch up. It would be intriguing if one of the Brawn drivers got a good head start on the field with four or five early wins.

It would then be tough for one other driver to get beyond that total. With McLaren seemingly out of the picture at the start of the season and the two Ferrari drivers likely to share the wins between them across the season, the way is clear if one of the Brawn guys can gain supremacy, to open up a bit of a lead, which under the winner takes all system might make him champion.

Ed Gorman in the Times today writes that this is the suspicion of the FIA as to why the teams are now refusing to sign off on the new winner tales all system for deciding the champion.

Brawn’s pace is certainly not going to encourage the other teams to sign up, but I think the real reason the teams have kicked back on this one is simply because they can.

To bring in a new rule at short notice requires the teams to sign off on it unanimously and, stunned by the FIA’s budget cap move, they’ve said, “You know what? We aren’t going to to that, Max.”

Mosley must have known that there was a risk of this and the blame appears to be being deflected onto the teams, but also onto Bernie Ecclestone, who allegedly told Mosley that the teams were on side with the new system. Maybe they were at the time, but given the opportunity to put the brakes on an FIA initiative, they’ve taken it.

In other words its another step in what is now clearly going to be a drawn out battle
between the FIA and the FOTA teams. It’s not what anyone wants or needs, for a sport to be seen to not know what the hell it’s doing eight days before the start of a new season. One of my old heads of sport at ITV, a football man, used to say that he quite liked F1 as a spectacle, but that it too often it opened itself up to ridicule. And that’s what we have again here.

The FIA brought out some stunning material on Tuesday, particularly the £30 million budget cap, which would oblige the top teams to shed three quarters of it workforce, and would encourage a gold rush for new teams to come in to the sport.

This blocking move by FOTA and the embarrassment caused to the FIA, is likely to harden the FIA’s resolve to leave the capped figure at £30 million, rather than negotiate it up to the £50-60 million, which is more feasible.

I was also interested to see Lewis “No comment” Hamilton commenting quite strongly yesterday on this. His words, especially the second paragraph below, read like they were drafted by a FOTA or McLaren speechwriter, but as the reigning world champion, who has hitherto kept his opinions to himself, his words carry real weight,

“It’s a shame what is happening to Formula One. It’s hard to believe that these recent decisions will improve things for the trackside spectators and TV viewers, who should always be our No1 priority, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

“For the first time in recent years we have the teams, drivers, sponsors and fans all working together for the good of our sport – now we just need the governing bodies to listen to us and help us.”

Yesterday’s short statement by the FIA that the new system would not be introduced if the teams did not all agree it, sits oddly for me. Max Mosley is famous for planning everything meticulously. Something has gone wrong here.

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Just going back through my email archive I came across the February 29th press release from the FIA anticipating what arrived yesterday. Take a look, especially paragraph 3 and see how it evolved from here.

“In view of the difficult economic conditions which continue to affect Formula One sponsors and major car manufacturers, the FIA is preparing radical proposals for 2010.

If adopted by the World Motor Sport Council, the new regulations will enable a team to compete for a fraction of current budgets but nevertheless field cars which can match those of the established teams.

These regulations will not affect the established teams which now have stable backing from the major car manufacturers, but will enable new teams to fill the existing vacancies on the grid for 2010 and make it less likely that any team will be forced to leave the Championship.

The proposals will be submitted to the World Council on 17 March.

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Dennis makes big claims over costs

Interested to note that overnight Ron Dennis has made some comments which show that the top teams are shifting their view of the severity of the situation in F1 and the need for drastic action. Up to now they have been very resistant to the idea of talking percentages or numbers in terms of how much budgets might be brought down. But last night Ron said,

“I think the top teams will manage to reduce their costs from between 10 and 50 per cent. But for the smaller teams it will be more dramatic, to the order of 30 to 50 per cent. That is the aim we have this year.”

When I did a story on this for the Financial Times last week, even Flavio Briatore, the cost-cutter in chief among team bosses, was taking about only a 25% reduction. But for Ron to put in a range of up to 50% is very interesting. I sense that there will be some remarkable developments in the next few months, change and progress on shaping the sport which would have been unimaginable two years ago.

Ron still reckons that the top teams will spend upwards of €100 million a year on engines and gearboxes, but surely if that becomes an area of non-compete, what’s the point? Small teams, he points out, will get the engines and gearboxes for €6.5 million. If it’s all free from development, I cannot see why or indeed how, a top team would spend that money and what the expected returns would be.

Ron made these comments having just been presented with a Palme D’Or by the FIA in Paris. How times change.

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