Friday, June 12, 2009

The drama continues - a week to save F1?

I've written before about the battle for the future of F1 which is now becoming closer to civil war.

Since that post, the eight remaining members of the Formula One Teams Association filed a block entry for next year's championship with strings attached and today was the day we would find out whether Max Mosley would be stupid enough to throw four fifths of the current field out of the sport.

Just after 10 am today, the announcement was made. In a move that I can't describe as clever, because I don't think it's in the interests of the sport, perhaps devious would be a better word, the FIA has split the FOTA teams into two blocks. First you have Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso being given unconditional entries because, says the FIA, they are contractually obliged to race next season. These teams have since basically told Mr Mosley to take a running jump. I expect Our Learned Friends will earn a whole load of money sorting that one out.

The other five FOTA teams, current heroes Brawn GP, defending world champion Lewis Hamilton's McLaren, BMW, Renault and Toyota have been given conditional entries and could potentially be kicked out next Friday, as the F1 world gathers at Silverstone which is hosting its last British Grand Prix. It couldn't get any more dramatic, really.

By splitting the FOTA teams, Max Mosley and the FIA have made sure that if everyone holds to their current positions, Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso could end up in protracted legal proceedings for quite a long time after next Friday. If they win their case, by that time it might be too late for them to get together with the other five to organise a breakaway series. If they lose their case, the other five will be on their own with not enough teams to organise that breakaway series.

The risks for the FIA are that if they chuck out the five with conditional entry next week and Ferrari and Co win their case, then their 2010 grid will consist of a couple of also rans (to put it mildly in Force India’s case, much though I love them and their very well updated Twitter feed), and a whole stack of new teams with no fan base whatsoever. And before anyone complains that I've counted Williams as an also ran, when did they last seriously win anything? Solid and seady would seem to sum their performance of recent years up. If that happens, Formula 1 would have been pretty much assassinated for no good reason.

To lose one immediate past world championship winning team in McLaren could be considered unfortunate, to lose this year’s potential champion in Brawn in addition would be careless and to lose great names like Renault and Ferrari on top of that would be sheer lunacy and would have Lady Bracknell reaching for her smelling salts.

Later in the day, the drama continued, reported by former ITV commentator James Allen on his blog as FOTA said it was going to issue a "dossier" about the FIA and issues with the governance of Formula 1. Whether it suggests that Max has weapons of mass destruction capable of launch in 45 minutes remains to be seen, but it will be interesting reading.

FOTA were boosted with the backing of the European Car Manufacturers who not only take issue with the FIA, but are calling for Max Mosley to step down. So a body with power and money agrees with the Maxout campaign on Twitter. Not bad!

There's discussion on this and many other issues going on at a new F1 discussion forum called Diffuse F1, so if you are interested, you are welcome to come and join us.

So, it seems that there's a week to stop the public execution of a sport that's lasted almost 60 years. I wonder what twists and turns will happen before close of business next Friday.

UPDATE: Just been alerted via the magic of Twitter to this brilliant blog posting from Ed Gorman at the Times who is not impressed by the management style of Mr Mosley. Wonder if he'll get a press pass for Silverstone!

UPDATE 2: Thanks to Andy (also known as @brawngp_fanblog on Twitter) for alerting me to this petition in support of the FOTA teams. It will ask you for a donation after you've signed but that's entirely optional and you can just close down the window at that point if you don't want to, like I did.

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