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Is Mosley set to push forward budget cap plans?

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F1 Mole | 09:18 UK time, Monday, 27 April 2009

McLaren face Formula 1's disciplinary and legislative assembly, the FIA World Council, on Wednesday to answer charges arising from their decision to mislead race stewards at the Australian Grand Prix - but the sport is braced for other decisions that day that would affect all the teams.

It is widely expected that FIA president Max Mosley will also use this World Council meeting to push through further changes regarding next year's rules - particularly his plan for a budget cap.

FIA president Max Mosley

Mosley has already announced that he intends to have a two-tier championship next year - with teams accepting a £30m budget cap allowed greater technical freedom than those who choose to operate without it.

In traditional Mosley style, that was always only going to be a starting point for negotiations.

It is his standard modus operandi to come up with a proposal the teams will consider outrageous - the teams run around trying to stop that happening, succeed in bargaining him down, but still end up with something further away from what they originally wanted than they would have done had Mosley gone in softer at the start.

Problem is, this time there have been very few negotiations - the teams have been too busy a) preparing for the new season; and b) arguing over the controversial 'double-decker' diffusers which have come about because the rules were left with loopholes.

(The double-decker diffusers, incidentally, run counter the FIA's original intentions for the 2009 rules - but wicked cynics have suggested they fit Mosley's wider political plan by driving a wedge between the teams and proving that success does not always have to be about money).

The Formula 1 Teams' Association (Fota) is planning a meeting to discuss the budget cap, among other things, on 6 May - ie, a week after the latest decision by the FIA is expected.

They are certain Mosley will unveil his latest proposal on Wednesday - but they are unsure what it will be.

Much of the discussion in F1 has been about how high the cap should be set.

Some say it should be £30m, but with drivers' salaries and marketing excluded. Some say it should be £60m. Some say it should start reasonably high and 'parachute' down over a number of years to £30m.

But it seems only Ferrari are opposed to any form of cap at all - with president Luca di Montezemolo saying the legendary team stay in F1 for the competition and to benefit from advanced research, some of which feeds into road cars.

Di Montezemolo wants stable, clear regulations, not the constant change F1 has at the moment, and Ferrari's wishes do need to be taken into account, so important are the team to F1.

But the betting is still that Mosley will plough ahead with the cap - and that it will be set lower rather than higher.

He and F1 commercial supreme Bernie Ecclestone are desperately worried about some of the road-car manufacturers following Honda out of F1 at the end of this season.

In the global financial crisis, there are doubts about whether manufacturers not enjoying success can justify their commitments to F1 at current spending levels - with the focus currently on Renault and BMW, who are both struggling to varying degrees this year.

So Mosley and Ecclestone want the cap low enough to encourage new teams to enter - and that almost certainly means closer to £30m than £60m.

One thing most people in F1 certainly hope, though, is that Mosley will abandon his plan for two sets of rules for the teams operating within and without the budget cap, with the FIA manipulating them to keep the cars level.

That, most realise, is just going to add another unnecessary level of complexity and make F1 even harder to follow for the general fan than it already is.

Whether Mosley heeds those concerns, though, remains to be seen.

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