The eight remaining teams that make up the Formula One Teams Association have decided to set up a new racing series following the failure to reach an agreement with the FIA over the 2010 World Championship. While this news has been building and building in recent weeks, the announcement – made at midnight this morning – is still a shock and will undoubtedly overshadow the British Grand Prix this weekend. In fact, it is likely to cast shade over the remainder of the 2009 season.
The eight teams – Ferrari, McLaren, Brawn, Toyota, Renault, BMW, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso – met at Renault’s Enstone factory yesterday to discuss the issues surrounding their Friday deadline to remove the conditions they had placed on their 2010 Championship entries. Through letters sent back and forth between the two parties, it was made clear that the FIA have little intention of backing down over the teams demands. The FIA had stated that the £40m budget cap would remain for next year and rejected FOTA’s recent complaint against Steward Chairman Alan Donnelly. FOTA claimed that Donnelly was intentionally trying to cause a rift in FOTA by misrepresenting the teams during meetings at the Turkish Grand Prix.
With little sign that the governance of the sport will improve to FOTA’s liking, the four hour long meeting resulted in the association releasing a statement that has sent shockwaves through the sport and it’s fans.
Since the formation of FOTA last September the teams have worked together and sought to engage the FIA and commercial rights holder, to develop and improve the sport.
Unprecedented worldwide financial turmoil has inevitably placed great challenges before the F1 community. FOTA is proud that it has achieved the most substantial measures to reduce costs in the history of our sport.
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.
These teams therefore have no alternative other than to commence the preparation for a new Championship which reflects the values of its participants and partners. 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. FOTA Statement.
The news is very damaging to Formula One, and while preparing for this weekend’s race, many drivers have voiced their concern for the sport’s future, but vowed to follow their respective teams. Many of the comments coming from the drivers centre around the fact that with so many new teams entering next year, the sport will not be as challenging or technically advance. In essence, the drivers do not want to race in a dumbed-down series.
FOTA seem confident that they can set up a breakaway series and that there will be transparent governance – something the fans have been crying out for. FOTA say they will listen to the fans and generally try to improve on what Formula One has pretty much failed at doing; cheaper tickets and one set of organised regulations. FOTA also say that the major drivers, sponsors and promoters will follow them to the new series, which if true, particularly for the promoters, will give the new championship and excellent starting position.
It is almost certain that when FIA president Max Mosley responds to FOTA’s announcement, it will be a response filled with optimism for the future of Formula One, of new teams, new faces and stability for the future. However, loosing many of the sport’s big names will have a costly impact and even with the little knowledge we have at the moment (literally, it is just the FOTA statement), I can foresee many fans following FOTA and the drivers they employ to a new series.
For Bernie Ecclestone, the future may not be quite so clear. Ecclestone controls the commercial rights to Formula One and therefore he is not directly linked to the negotiations that have happened in the past few months. However, the wealthy Briton obviously has a vested interest in the sport, and losing so many household names will not make his job any easier. It is likely that for now, Ecclestone will have to remain with Formula One, but if the breakaway championship proves successful, the lure of it may prove too much of an opportunity to miss.
Of course, this is big news for Formula One, but it also affects the future of BlogF1. I will not lie, the recent political mess the sport has found itself in has worn me down somewhat, but BlogF1 still holds a very special place in my heart. The site will always remain as will the 1600+ article archive. But what to do in 2010? Well, I’ve been up all night thinking about it – I’m literally stepping out the door to go to work – and although I cannot really make decision until more is known about the championships, a new domain will likely be set up and efforts moved over accordingly.
So, what’s next…?