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No end in sight for F1 power struggle

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Andrew Benson | 18:36 UK time, Thursday, 18 June 2009

As Formula 1 convenes at Silverstone for this weekend's British Grand Prix, heads are spinning as people try to navigate their way through the latest developments in the political crisis that threatens to tear the sport apart.

Amid the mire of speculation, double-talk and untruths, though, one thing is abundantly clear - there is little prospect of an early end to this seemingly endless row over the future of F1.

On the face of it, the immediate issue is a deadline set by Max Mosley, the president of governing body the FIA, for the end of business on Friday.


That is the time by which he has asked the five teams whose entries into next year's championship are conditional - Brawn, McLaren, BMW Sauber, Renault and Toyota - to sign up unconditionally or risk having their places taken by a number of aspiring entrants.

In reality, that deadline is effectively meaningless, as is the distinction Mosley is drawing between those five teams and the other three members of the teams' umbrella group Fota - Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso - whom he has listed as confirmed entries next year.

As things stand, none of those eight teams are committed to racing in F1 in 2010 and sources say there is still a long way to go before the parties involved reach a resolution.

The argument between the FIA and Fota is about reducing costs, stability of the regulations and governance of the sport.

It is also a power struggle in which the teams are determined to end the absolute control Mosley has had over the sport since he allowed the Concorde Agreement, which governed F1 and enshrined a series of rights for the teams, to lapse in 2007.

Both the FIA and the teams are committed to cutting budgets, but they want to go about it in different ways. Mosley wants to set a maximum budget; the teams want to restrict expense at source, by reducing the time they allowed to spend in a wind tunnel, or the amount of changes they can make to their cars in a season, for example.

The teams want to make it impossible for Mosley to unilaterally change the regulations in the way he has done for 2010, and they want a return to the system where rules were agreed by the teams before being submitted to the FIA for approval.

(There are longer-term issues, too, revolving around where F1 races are held and the money that is paid to the teams, but they are not what the immediate disagreement is about).

In his latest offer to the teams, Mosley has appeared to effectively give them what they want and he has invited them all to sign up on the promise that he will then make the agreed changes to the published rules.

But the teams do not trust him to honour his promise. They want to negotiate the settlement first, get it legally watertight, and then sign up for next year. If Mosley does not, they say, their ultimate fall-back position is to set up their own championship and take their world-famous drivers with them.

Mosley counters that threat with one of his own - that if they do not sign up, he will replace their entries with those of a number of other aspiring teams. He is also publicly sceptical of the ability and willingness of car makers struggling in the global financial crisis to fund their own racing series.

The problem for Mosley, though, is two-fold:

Firstly, even if he lists five more new teams as entrants next year - to add to the three he has already accepted - there is widespread scepticism that all of those teams will be able to find even the £40m they need to race in Mosley's new F1 and design and build a car.

Secondly, even if they could, what value would F1 have with a load of teams and drivers the public had never heard of - especially if the best drivers in the world were all racing for the acknowledged best teams somewhere else?

As one driver said on Thursday: "Who in Spain is going to watch an F1 world championship without Fernando Alonso in it?"

The Fota teams are meeting on Thursday night to discuss what they should do about Mosley's deadline.

Individuals within Fota are said to share differing views: some are pushing for an early compromise; some are saying they have had enough of the FIA and should set up their own championship; others want to commit to F1 but would like to see the back of Mosley.

But their collective position is absolutely clear - they want to find a solution to the current problems.

That, though, does not look likely to happen this weekend. Insiders told BBC Sport at Silverstone that the Fota teams would probably not lodge unconditional entries by the deadline of close of business in Europe on Friday.

They seem determined to remain united in pursuit of their aims, although because of their hugely differing circumstances there is always the possibility that another team might break ranks - Ferrari, for example, with their history and sizeable budget, are in a very different situation from Brawn, who at the moment have no funding for 2010.

Because the alternative would damage all of those involved, the smart money is on a compromise being reached, at some stage, one that would ultimately see F1 continue next year in much the same form as now, but with the teams bringing their budgets down by a similar amount again to the 20% they have already cut off them since 2008.

But how long it takes to get to that point - and how it is reached - is anybody's guess right now.


  • Comment number 1.

    Time for Mosley and Ecclestone to go!

  • Comment number 2.

    It's not about budgets, it's about seizing power.

  • Comment number 3.

    I guess if Fota do set up their own championship then we might be racing at Silverstone next year after all.

    Mosley really needs to go.

  • Comment number 4.

    Please FOTA, do not back down. You are the last hope we have of restoring F1 to its former glory, where we have great racing on tracks that the drivers and fans love, with more fans in the seats than track workers on the sidelines. We'll be able to go back to Silverstone, Montreal, Indy, Imola, etc, and watch races that are run under consistent, intelligent rules, with professional stewards working for race control instead of the other way around.

    Goodbye to the Evil Twins -- FOTA it is now YOUR time to shine.

  • Comment number 5.

    Time to end this dictatorship - the Bernie and Max duopoly must stop. In what other sport can two people dicatate with little or no consultation with the prime stakeholders ?

    What exactly does Moseley bring to F1 ? Cutting edge design ? Ground breaking technology ? Nothing but opiniated garbage: a Sepp Blatter with an even bigger ego.

    Bernie's circus will look pitiful with Manor and other teams racing racing glorified bath tubs in soulless places like Bahrain and Malaysia.

    Consult the teams, drivers and fans.

  • Comment number 6.

    While there is a lot of spin in the press about this issue and I'm sure both parties have been less that forthcoming with the true reasons for there positions and the facts, I have to side with FOTA.

    How can cost caps that Frank Williams say's will result in him getting rid of staff be acceptable after the investment these teams have made in F1 and there companies.

    How can these cost caps be "essential to the very future viability of F1" while Bernie continues to increase the fees the circuits have to pay to put on an F1 race to the point that many have already or are planning to drop F1.

    How can it be in anyone interest to race in front of empty Grandstands such as those we se in Turkey and then drop well attended we publicised events like Canada, the US and France?

    I'm behind FOTA all the way if only to get rid of Max and Bernie.

  • Comment number 7.

    It is the teams that make the sport not moseley or ecclestone. Their financial control makes a mockery of the word sport.
    Get rid of Moseley or lets see the FOTO world championship.

  • Comment number 8.

    FOTA have gone nuclear. Things came to a head a bit earlier than you predicted Andrew... :-) FOTA have had enough of trying to compromise with power-mad old men. Good for them! Hard to see how FOTA can lose now - there are only two possibilities really.

    Option 1: when the new championship goes ahead, it does so without CVC taking 50% off the top. So we get sane ticket prices, more reasonable fees for promoters AND reinstatement of all the great historical tracks that Bernie has priced out of F1, such as Montreal, Silverstone, Imola and probably a race on each coast of the US for a start. Monza and Monaco will jump ship, and they could ditch the worst snooze-fests like Hungary and Valencia. And maybe Red Bull will do something with the old A-Ring... the possibilities are endless!

    Option 2: the FIA/WMSC accept that Max has lost the plot, give him the boot (preferably to replaced by Ron Dennis - how sweet would that be!), and Bernie and CVC renegotiate the debt load to make the financial split fairer.

    FOTA have played an absolute blinder.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great news! The odious couple are on their way out!!!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Ecclestone, Ecclestone, Ecclestone pie.
    Mosley has blown it, and Bernie will cry,
    Ask me a riddle and I'll reply,
    Eccleston, Ecclestone, Ecclestone pie.

    (with apologies to A A Milne)

  • Comment number 11.

    Go FOTA, please leave Max & Bernie out in the cold.
    They have shown you no respect and are just plain old bullies. Bring on the FOTA World Championship. Go back to the circuits we love (canada, Silverstone etc) and give us fans what we want.

  • Comment number 12.

    It's all a game. Where will these FOTA teams race - any track with a Grand Prix has a conract which expressly prohibits any "opposition" formula races to be held - or they did the last time that this was tried. So no more Spa, Monza and Hungaroring (two out of 3 ain't bad) and it could mean welcome back to the Hatch! I suppose Imola would be welcome but I can't see anyone in the prawn sandwich brigade at Zolder or some of the other tracks likely to be dragged in. Don't forget that various middle and far Eastern countries spent a good wedge to get a race there - now the main attractions will be elsewhere! Reminds me of FISA/FOCA and even the old punch up's with the CSI and Jean-Marie!

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm slightly concerned - has anyone read Animal Farm?

  • Comment number 14.

    An interesting press release from the FIA has been published dated 19/06. Even more interesting is there is no word at this time on the official F1 website. I think the word is brinksmanship.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think we might see some races in countries that support motorsport. It looks like Silverstone might keep the jewel in the crown after all. Bernie has shot himself in the foot, by falling out with the BRDC he will allow the FOTA series a flagship event which will be well supported. Who is going to go to watch some none descript teams trundle round with drivers you have never heard of? The big teams and drivers are what sells the tickets and puts bums on seats. Bernie and Max are two tired old men who have lost there grip on reality. For them it is all over, the sport they have been bleeding dry for years is finally biting back and the true fans will support the teams and drivers.

  • Comment number 16.

    FOTA are mad. They are only 8 teams and Torro Roso are up for sale, I can not see the TV companies wanting to cover a race series of only 12 cars and I do not see new teams coming in without a budget cap. FOTA missed their chance in 2005 when Ferrari broke ranks. At best they will be a A1GP clone. Yes people will follow the best drivers but who was Alonso when driving for Minardi or Massa in a Sauber. The FOTA plan of cutting costs means we will see identical cars year after year with the only technology being that of Reanualt or Ferrari wheel nuts. There plan seems to revolve around having the right badge on engine covers.

    Without the FOTA 8 you will now see a grid made up of Lotus, Williams, Aston Martin, Lola and possibly other innovative sports car manufacturers all allowed to use what ever technology they want within the budget. 2010 might be the best ever F1 series.

  • Comment number 17.

    Please please please get rid of these two greedy men (Max and Bernie)..........F1 is for the fans not so that these two fat cats can sit and count their huge pots of gold each night!

    It is sickening to continuously read about these two, this sport should be about the competitors, they must go!

  • Comment number 18.

    This could hopefully be the begining of the end on the max and bernie show. Bernie did a great job in bringing F1 to its pinacle, but it is time to retire now Bernie. You brought in Max, get out whilst there is still something left, before he destroys it all.

    He's done it in the past, just look at group C

    By the time F1 recovers, your nestegg will have withered to a shadow of its former worth

  • Comment number 19.

    Williams had better make the most of this trouble because it's the only chance they have of any WDC/WCC points in the near future, or 2010.

  • Comment number 20.

    Lets face it bernie and max, have made a fortune from F1.
    I want a race in the uk.bernie&max dont.I want F1 as it used to be before bernie&max got high and mighty.
    I saw no such daft ideas in the Michel schumacher years.And those years where boring.He did more Damage to the sport than anyone.
    That was the time to change the sport then.
    Bernie&max take the money and go.Leave the sport in the safe hands of the teams.FOTA yes please.FIA no.

  • Comment number 21.

    It's time to go Mosley!

  • Comment number 22.

    Bernie and Max have all the money they will ever need out of this wonderful sport. They do not reflect well on the sport any longer. They just seem like old hangers on that need to retire and return F1 to the racers: FOTA.

  • Comment number 23.

    He should have been sacked over the sex scandal. It's shameful.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm outraged at these idiots, all of them.

    At a time of world crisis F1, Mosley, Ecclestone and the teams deem it an acceptable time for rocking the boat. They are laughable and should all go- this is simply not the time for beating chests, brinkmanship and point scoring. Sport should not be dominated by politics, or economics. Many here have forgotten what F1 is all about, the passion and support of the fans.

    Mosley needs to back down and be the bigger man, in the absence of agreement the status quo should prevail. Fota need to become more realistic and commit to significant changes in the medium term. Ecclestone needs to stop prancing around like he owns the place. He doesn't, he's just lucky and luck can change. Money doesn't grow on trees and with the current mess brand marketing will start to switch off...who wants to be associated with a load of embittered detached millionaires? Have they not noticed that austerity is the new advertising watch word? F1 is hardly likely to attract money as in recent years- Monaco has little relevance to the ordinary Joe.

    In that context the situation is just remarkable.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well if we do have a break away series ive come up with the following 17 circuits that as far as im aware arent currently used by F1 so no contracts or rights to argue about but are used by other formulas so shouldnt need complete rebuilding....... but i havent had time to think it through too much so i am probably quite wrong !!

    Kyalami, Aida, Adelaide, Phoenix, Canada, Spa, Magny Cours, Paul Ricard, A1-Ring, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, San Marino, Hockenheim, Mexico City, Sebring, Indianpolis, Long Beach

    Mostly are in Europe (8) but 4 in the US (mmmmm?)and most of them are proper race circuits.

    Hopefull Mad Max and Bonkers Bernie will make all of this irrelavent and just go..................

  • Comment number 26.

    The more Mosely tightens his grip, more F1 teams slip through his fingers

  • Comment number 27.

    if ferrari think they are the gods of the sport and think they could go it alone, i say go ahead ferrari try and do a spin off of f1 without the top drivers and see how much money you will lose just to save face. the only reason ferrari have stayed in the sport so long for is because they have the money to do so and if everyone have the same money to spend ferrari no that that they wouldnt be one of the top teams every year! i back max with the buget cuts so it will make f1 more exciting we all no that its the car and not the driver!if the buget comes into law to make all cars exactly the same then the race is on!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    It's about time F1 had a governing body and Max and Bernie gave up their stranglehold on F1 - without them there won't be a new set of rules every season, we'd see decisions based on the sport not what is financially attractive to them.
    Alonso's right, if the breakaway happens then F1, Max and Bernie are finished, the world just can't cater for two championships claiming to be the best and although the cheap option would give great racing (like the lower formulas) I think Fota would carry more clout with sponsors and TV deals. Although one worry is that we'll all get fed up and switch off all-together - disaterous for all concerned!

    I hope this doesn't overshadow what promises to be a great farewell to the awesome track that is Silverstone, with any luck we'll have a British driver on the top step of the podium, driving for a British team at the home of British motorsport.

  • Comment number 29.

    Max needs a good whipping and thats what hes getting right now. So everybody is happy. We get a race next year we all want to see and Max has what he wants. A red backside.

  • Comment number 30.

    This is so reminiscient of the American Champ and IRL series when they first split up. For years there was not enough sponsorship money to go around eventually leading to Champ car being absorbed back into IRL last year.
    Now there's a recession going on there isn't enough sponsorship to go round to support two F1 series meaning that the series that has the best ability to gain sponsors will prevail, and that looks like FOTA because it has Ferrari and Mclaren

  • Comment number 31.

    You know what the most sickening thing of all is; Formula 1 (F1) is owned by a venture capital company that takes half of the sport's profit.....yes half. I wonder who the beneficial owners of the venture capital company are.

    Isn't it time that this practice is stopped, that way F1 could become cheaper to run, ticket prices could be cheaper for the real fans and budget caps wouldn't have to be mooted or even enforced.

    I hope that Fota does breakaway and shift the powers of the sport with those who it should reside, the competitors and fans, instead of with two politically charged greedy men. F1 is all about cutting edge innovation, team work, supreme skill and ultimately providing exhilaration for all involved.

    Unfortunately and very sadly, I suspect that the Muppet show will go on, controlled by Gonzo and Kermit (aka Bernie and Max).

  • Comment number 32.

    This power struggle (FIA, FOTA) shows us how infantile this whole formula 1 world has become ! It has become a playing ground for big children, mainly European, who think they have the highest IQ and technical expertise, but in fact are just investing in power games with second rate carbon fuel burning technology in the hope of selling some more low-tech cars to other big infants ! Get to the real high-tech world, and invest in hydrogen fueled, electrical or hybrid cars, solar powered cars,... and become useful to world society !


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