F1 row nears endgame
The paddock at the Nurburgring is a low-key place this weekend, but behind the scenes there have been ground-shaking developments that could change the face of Formula 1.
It appears that Max Mosley's latest manoeuvrings in the political battle in the sport have backfired.
The motives behind the FIA president's actions in the last fortnight are not entirely clear but their consequences are coming into focus.
To recap briefly, on 24 June it appeared that Mosley, F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had come to a deal that ended the threat of Ferrari and seven other leading teams setting up a rival championship.
Their agreement was widely - and accurately - reported as a victory for the eight 'rebel' teams, who are represented by the umbrella group Fota.
But two days later, Mosley - apparently upset by what he interpreted as the teams' ill-advised triumphalism, and by the widespread perception that he had been defeated - hinted that he could go back on his guarantee that he would not stand in October's FIA presidential elections, which had been part of the peace deal.
And this week, through the proxy of FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting, he told the eight Fota teams that they did not have entries for 2010 - despite the fact that the FIA had published an entry list with them on it. That led to renewed talk of a Fota breakaway, as a last-resort option.
Mosley and Fota are actually very close to an agreement on all matters of issue, but the teams are not prepared to sign any legally binding documents until they are absolutely sure that the FIA president will not renege on his part of the bargain.
The shenanigans have deeply concerned CVC, the venture capital group that owns F1's commercial rights. Sources tell me that CVC is very nervous about what it perceives as the risk Mosley is putting on its business, and it is exerting pressure to ensure it is removed.
Behind the scenes, I'm told, CVC and Fota are finalising a new commercial agreement with Ecclestone's F1 Management company (FOM). The plan is apparently to tie the three entities together and then present Mosley with a fait accompli.
Effectively they will say: "This is what we have agreed. These are the new arrangements for the world's premier single-seater championship. We would like to run this with the FIA as its F1 world championship, so we would like you to sign these contracts, on our terms. But if you don't, fine. We will go and do it ourselves."
There is no obvious reason for Mosley not to sign, but it will be made clear to him that, if he doesn't, CVC will launch legal action against him for breach of contract.
At the same time, it appears that a new Concorde Agreement - the legal agreement between the teams, the FIA and FOM that enshrines the relationship between them, the teams' rights and the distribution of funds - is ready for signing. And, as of Saturday, that is scheduled to happen on Wednesday.
In theory, this should be a way out of the impasse in which F1's senior figures currently find themselves. Certainly, that is what many insiders hope.
But when I asked a senior figure whether this was now the endgame, he gave me a withering look and said: "No, because as soon as this is sorted out we have to work out what happens with everything after 2012."
For Mosley, though, it does appear that his four decades in a central position in F1's power games may be coming to an end - even if it should be remembered that, as an ex-president, he would have a place on the FIA Senate and might well be able to wield influence from there, and he might also succeed in having an ally such as ex-Ferrari boss Jean Todt elected as president.
Intriguingly, people are also beginning to look at what all this means for Ecclestone.
As this row has dragged on, it has become clear that he does not have the near-miraculous fixing powers of old. The fact that the teams have had direct negotiations with CVC is another new development. So Ecclestone's remarks last weekend about Adolf Hitler - which have caused deep disquiet among the major multi-national companies that back F1, and are said to have infuriated CVC - were badly timed as well as ill-advised.
All of which has led to speculation that his position may not be secure in the medium to long term.
F1 without Bernie Ecclestone as its powerbroker and money-maker? Now that really would be the start of a new era.