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Twists and turns of breakaway row emerge

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F1 Mole | 12:45 UK time, Sunday, 21 June 2009

As the British Grand Prix weekend has developed, more and more details of the behind-the-scenes political shenanigans have come out, and they make interesting reading.

The Mole's sources say that on Wednesday last week, the teams' umbrella group Fota had agreed a compromise with FIA president Max Mosley that would have seen everyone sign up for F1 in 2010.

It appears, though, that when Mosley sent through the documentation the following morning, he had changed the date until which the teams had to commit to F1 from 2012 to 2014.

For Fota, it seems this was the final straw - one more piece of evidence of what they see as Mosley's autocratic and arbitrary decision-making.

FIA president Max Mosley

Later that day, the Fota teams had the meeting at the Renault factory in Enstone in Oxfordshire that culminated in them putting out their statement that they would be racing elsewhere in 2010.

The mood on Friday and even into Saturday morning was one of lightness borne of a decision finally taken. Sort of: "Well, we've done it then. That's it."

But over the weekend the sands have continued to shift.

Both sides continue to pursue contrasting ends. Fota talk about their breakaway championship, which they have started to organise. But at the same time McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh was on Saturday afternoon openly talking of "finding a solution if we can".

Mosley and the FIA have continued discussions with potential new teams - as of now, there are only five entries for the FIA F1 world championship in 2010, and even some of them are plagued by uncertainty.

But at the same time, Mosley's aide Alan Donnelly met with Red Bull's Christian Horner, Ross Brawn, Stefano Domenicali of Ferrari and Toyota's John Howett on Sunday morning to pursue common ground.

But there are serious issues still to address. Mosley's style of governance remains a major issue with the teams, who have not been impressed by the flood of press releases put out by the FIA last week.

Inevitably, these painted a pro-FIA picture, but the teams feel that they misrepresented - at best - what was actually going on.

Mosley made a number of major compromises in the course of the week, but faced with no guarantees that he would do what he said he would, Fota teams felt they had no option but not to sign up for next year.

And there were problems even with some of the promises he had given.

As an example, the 2010 technical regulations as published enshrine a two-tier system which gives a performance advantage to those teams who choose to operate within a cost cap.

Among these is the ability for the Cosworth engine used by the budget-cap teams to run without a rev limit, while any team not operating within the cost cap would be restricted to 18,000rpm, as they are this year.

Mosley has promised to remove the two-tier system but wants to retain the engine disparity.

Mosley claimed in a letter on 17 June that "any engineer will confirm that this will not give the relevant teams any competitive advantage whatsoever".

The problem is, no engineer will confirm that. One senior engine technician told the Mole this week that Mosley's claim was "total rubbish". Except he wasn't as polite as that.

Another engineer explained that Cosworth cars would be slower in the early laps of a race because their higher-revving engine would need to start the race with more fuel following the banning of refuelling next year.

But because they had more power - by around 10%, or more than 70bhp - they would be faster in qualifying. Overtaking is very difficult in F1, so they would be able to hold up the rev-limited cars in the early laps and would anyway be faster again at the end of the race once the fuel had burnt off.

There is a meeting of the FIA World Council on Wednesday - effectively the organisation's cabinet and legislature rolled into one - and there are rumours that Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who is expected to attend as the company's representative, may try to undermine Mosley in some way there.

Certainly, if there is one thing that has not changed it is the sense that if Mosley left office, the problem would rapidly go away.

(Even if there are other issues surrounding the amount of money the venture capital group that owns F1's commercial rights, CVC, takes out of the sport and the effect that has in such things as the places F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone chooses to hold races ).

But persuading a man who appears to live for power and influence to give it up is perhaps the most intractable of the many problems facing F1's powerbrokers right now.


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