The current Formula One teams, the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone met today in a Heathrow hotel to discuss the intended 2010 budget cap rule. In the past week, five teams including Ferrari and both Red Bull squads said they wouldn’t compete in next year’s championship if the current proposals for a two-tier formula remained. The discussions resulted in no compromise and now the teams are talking between themselves to decide what their next move will be.
Essentially there are two things that are annoying the teams; the two-tier formula and the way in which the rule has been introduced. The ‘two-tier’ argument comes from the fact that should the voluntary budget cap idea come to fruition, there will be two sets of regulations. Those teams who choose not to restrict their spending will have to adhere to stringent development limits, will have their engines limited as they currently are and essentially, little will change for them from this season.
However, those that do limit their spending will be allowed greater freedom to develop their cars, they will have their engine rev-limits removed and the fear is that this will split the performance of the two tiers on the track. Although by imposing a limit, more companies may be inclined to enter the sport, potentially creating more competition and a better spectacle for the fans. According to the FIA, there will be more invention and innovation from those limited teams as they will only have a set amount of money to develop their cars.
Currently Ferrari, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso have said that they will not enter the 2010 championship unless the rules are changed. Obviously, the announcement from Ferrari has created the biggest news and split Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley. Ecclestone believes that Formula One needs Ferrari, and he himself would obviously want to have Ferrari on board as they generate a lot of money for the sport, and therefore his company. Undoubtedly, Ferrari help indirectly with the repayment of the loans taken out by CVC to acquire the commercial rights to the sport.
Conversely, Max Mosley believes Formula One will continue without Ferrari and has been suggesting that there are plenty of other teams looking to enter the sport should the costs of competing competitively be dramatically reduced. The budget cap is an instantaneous way of slashing costs and will make the sport more alluring to new ventures. Interestingly, it is usually Ecclestone who doesn’t give two-hoots about the sport’s history while the FIA who try to maintain some of its roots. Ferrari is undoubtedly a large part of Formula One, but Mosley doesn’t seem overly concerned by their intention to withdraw.
Regarding the way the rule was introduced, Ferrari have taken particular exception to this and are seeking an injunction in the French courts to prevent the FIA from going ahead with its planned budget cap rule. Ferrari have the power to veto new rules, but this process was presumably not followed when the FIA announced the budget cap. Although the governing body cannot enforce a budget cap, they can make it difficult for teams to not sign it by placing heavy demands on those who remain unrestricted in budgets.
This is what Max Mosley had to say following the meeting earlier today.
It was quite a friendly meeting, but in the end all that happened was that the teams have gone off to see if they can come up with something better than the cost cap.
We explained we cannot put back the entry date, as this has all been published, and we cannot disadvantage the potential new teams who will come in. But we are prepared to listen to whatever they have to say. Max Mosley.
This is understandable. The deadline date of May 29th, 2009 has been known for a long time, and although USGPE have been preparing themselves for a while now, other teams that will have their entry considered further will want to know as soon as possible if they are in or not so they can prepare themselves.
In the meantime, the regulations are as published. We have explained that we want everyone to race under the same regulations. We have explained that we would like all of the teams to come in under the cost cap and that is what they have gone off to consider.
We have said that we cannot see why anyone wouldn’t want to operate under the cost cap, and it would mean a gradual relaxation of the technical regulations – which all the engineers would want. We said in the end the choice was between intellectual freedom and financial constraint, or intellectual constraint and financial freedom – which is what they have had up until now. Max Mosley.
It’s good that the FIA can see that the sport should operate under one set of rules – I have mentioned this previously as it would itself save money (having to police one set of rules as opposed to two) and will make the sport far easier to understand. However, one of the things that has really annoyed the teams, who together form the Formula One Teams Association, is that as FOTA they suggested numerous ways of gradually reducing the costs in the sport.
While it may be easy to say “cut costs now” in practice it will take longer because some teams, Toyota being a classic example, currently spend hundreds of millions a year on their Formula One operation. Contracts have been signed, people employed and to release themselves from these obligations may not be possible straight away. FOTA say that their suggestions, which would have apparently resulted in costs being cut further than what the FIA are doing, have been largely ignored.
We have pointed out, and it is something the engineers have said, that current F1 consists of endless refinement at enormous expense and we want to move away from that and have invention and creativity, but we can only do that if we restrict the cost – because if we have unrestricted cost nobody would be able to afford it.
I think some of the teams agree with that idea, and some don’t, and they have gone away to discuss it. Max Mosley.
In principal, the FIA is correct. Cut costs, allow more entries, the sport survives, the sport thrives, everybody is happy. However, in typical FIA fashion, they have introduced it in completely the wrong way. It would appear that they have completely ignored the teams, they have not considered what could happen as a result of their actions and now the sport is paying for it by being on the front pages of the sports newspapers all over the world for completely the wrong reasons.
The fans are utterly flabbergasted that Ferrari et al may withdraw, and generally speaking, this is all completely unnecessary. Had both parties communicated and cooperated more effectively, this whole scenario could have been avoided. And from a fans point of view (and doing my best to put my own reservations about the FIA to one side), the blame looks to be more on the FIA’s shoulders than the teams. In principal, it makes sense, in practice it is harder to achieve. And when something is hard to achieve, you break it up into smaller chuncks and go about solving the issue that way. It really isn’t rocket science.
The issues currently remain up in the air. The FIA has stood its ground and the teams have been forced to discuss further among themselves as to their next move.