The FIA shuts its ears

This week in F1 has mostly been about the FIA’s diarrhoea of the press release. Rather than looking for a compromise, they have instead gone on the attack, launching press release after press release and slamming the door shut on Fota’s suggestions (oh, and saying goodbye to Lola — good work, Max!)

This week the ACEA, the European Car Manufacturers’ Association, came out to say that the “current governance of the sport can’t continue”. The FIA’s retort was predictably arrogant and bitter. One thing that particularly interested me was this irrelevant paragraph at the end:

The FIA understands that Porsche did not support ACEA’s Formula One resolution and has instructed the ACEA secretariat to make this clear in response to any press enquiries.

Grasping at straws, this was the one thing the FIA found to attack the ACEA with (and how typical it is of Max to go on the attack with a straw man like this rather than methodically argue their case — probably because their case is filled with holes). It’s odd that they should find the view of Porsche within the ACEA so important. This is a manufacturer which was last involved in F1 way back in 1991, and not very successfully either. They have shown very little interest in returning to F1.

Indeed, a certain revelation last year put paid to any slim chance that Porsche might enter F1 while Max Mosley is in charge. Wolfgang Porsche said last year: “After the affair with Max Mosley and the women it would not be very savoury to get involved (in Formula One) now.”

Funny how Max Mosley didn’t pay so much attention to Porsche’s views then, isn’t it?

It strikes me as odd that Mosley should bang on and on about how the current recession means that the manufacturers must be told how much they will be able to spend. Somehow I think the ACEA is in a much better position to know where than manufacturers stand.

Yesterday, the FIA released to the media a further exchange of letters between the FIA and Fota. Presumably this is again supposed to show Fota in a bad light. But Fota’s letter is conciliatory in tone and the content clearly seeks a compromise. Fota propose solutions in four key areas. Max Mosley’s response? Four doors slammed shut.

On governance, Mosley wants the teams to agree to extend an 11-year-old Concorde Agreement and from that point negotiate forwards. This would involve the teams placing a huge amount of trust in the FIA, and the FIA have shown themselves to be a distinctly untrustworthy organisation. Slam.

On resource restriction, the FIA still contends that “a fundamental problem with the Fota proposal was the absence of a clear figure”. In other words, unless the budget cap is on the table, the FIA will not discuss it. Slam.

On the two-tier system, the FIA confirms that even though it says there will be no two-tier system in F1 next season, the technical regulations will still in fact be rigged in favour of teams running the Cosworth engine which will not have a limit on its performance, as all other engines do. Slam.

Bye-bye compromise. And it’s all thanks to Max Mosley. The letter looks as though it was formulated in order to tweak the teams’ tails. It leaves F1 facing the serious prospect of a breakaway.

It pains me to say it, but I am beginning to find the idea of a breakaway very appealing. By the FIA’s own admission, next year’s budget capped cars will not perform to F1 standard. All of the top teams in F1 currently do not stand on the FIA’s side, and the most promising of the new teams were not given a slot on the entry list last week. As things stand, the FIA Championship will have no teams of a high pedigree.

As for drivers, as things stand the FIA Championship will have no Champions on the grid. Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Mark Webber have all spoken out against the FIA’s budget cap proposals, lamenting the fact that it would bring to an end the notion of F1 being the pinnacle of motorsport. All three drivers would sooner drive in a breakaway series than drive in a budget capped series.

Fernando Alonso:

I prefer to race in any other category before in the new F1. A model similar to GP2 or F3 is not interesting for any driver, for any sponsor or for any circuit or television network. In that case it would be a category without any sense.

Felipe Massa:

…we need to look seriously at what is the best option: as the teams appear to be united, then maybe it is time to look at doing something different that could be better for the sport.

Mark Webber:

Collectively everyone has played a role in trying to help and protect the sport and you just see all that effort down the years being devalued or diluted through some pretty radical ideas.

It’s good to have some stability, to be able to predict what’s going to happen, not have different things going on every six months.

All the drivers share the same view. We want to drive for the best teams and race against the best drivers. If it’s not the FIA Formula 1 world championship, so be it. It’ll still be the most prestigious championship.

Mark Webber’s opinion is particularly useful to pay attention to, as he the most senior member of the GPDA, the F1 drivers’ union, to have a race seat. He therefore has an intimate knowledge of what the drivers are thinking, and he has pointed out that “All the drivers have the same view.”

So the teams are against the FIA. The drivers are against the FIA. And the fans are almost universally against the FIA (see, for example, here and here).

I sense that there are a few journalists who have taken the FIA’s side. However, it is well known that journalists who speak out against the FIA sometimes find themselves having “problems”. After The Sunday Times received a writ for libel from Max Mosley following a column written by Martin Brundle, he had this to say:

I’m tired of what I perceive as the “spin” and tactics of the FIA press office, as are many other journalists. I expect my accreditation pass for next year will be hindered in some way to make my coverage of F1 more difficult and to punish me. Or they will write to ITV again to say that my commentary is not up to standard despite my unprecedented six Royal Television Society Awards for sports broadcasting.

The FIA vets journalists, so they must be seen as another F1 institution that is inherently biased towards the FIA’s point of view. In that sense, it is amazing that a few journalists have decided to speak out. See, for instance, Richard Williams (who I believe does not attend grands prix anyway as Maurice Hamilton is The Guardian’s main F1 correspondent) and Ed Gorman.

Unless the unthinkable happens and Max Mosley capitulates, we as fans (who have been given no say by the FIA, unlike Fota who have conducted proper market research) will have to endure his rotten vision of F1 anyway. At least with a breakaway we will have a choice.

What do we want? Max Mosley’s dungeon dictatorship which, like all dictatorships, will run his playthings into the ground? Or the best drivers racing the best cars at the best circuits? It’s surely a simple decision.


  1. It pains me to agree with you. As reconciliation is looking increasingly unlikely, the prospect of the FOTA championship seems more and more appealing.

    Is Bernie Ecclestone likely to jump ship with FOTA though, or is he contractually obliged to stay with the FIA series?

    The new FOTA series would be benefit from Ecclestone’s organisational and media ties, but then again would be hindered by his ridiculous demands on circuits. If FOTA went without Bernie, we could expect to see one or more races in America (fingers crossed for Laguna Seca or Long Beach), Silverstone and Montreal back on the calendar, Mugello and possibly Imola.

  2. There is also the thought that the FOTA teams are hoping for a split on Friday, and that the split triggers a vote of no confidence in Max within the FIA. FOTA might come back to a FIA without The Spanker – a split would be damaging for everybody.

  3. Absolutely brilliant post, Duncan. I’m still not sure a breakaway series is feasible, though – it’s a hell of a risk and how will they organise circuits/tv rights and that kind of stuff in the time available. I really want to see Brawn, Red Bull, Ferrari et al race next year and it will be awful if we can’t.

    If the FIA were at all interested in getting FOTA teams back on board, they would move the deadline back – at the moment if FOTA splits, the teams which sign up have to pay this $50million bond which would be ridiculous. I mean, it’s a bigger sum than Max’s budget cap.

  4. of course the driver’s are against the fia and siding with the teams, it’s the teams that pay their wages!

    for the first time i can remember i’m agreeing with the fia, something needs to be done about the spending in f1 and their proposal of Technical freedom within a set budget is much more appealing to me than FOTA’s spec series.

  5. Thanks for the comments anyone. Incidentally, in case anyone missed it, this post was the second in a two-parter I wrote last night. Catch the first part here.

    El Gordo, Bernie Ecclestone’s stance will be interesting to find out. He hasn’t has as much to say as you would expect, and I should think he is the last person in the world who would like to see a breakaway. But he would dislike the prospect of Ferrari not being part of the Championship even more.

    I think Bernie’s deals on circuits are mostly to do with his job working for CVC. They need to recoup the money they have invested to service their debts, and that means going to circuits that are heavily subsidised by their governments. If any breakaway had no CVC involvement, this restriction would be removed and we can again go back to racing at proper circuits which fans will actually attend.

    I like your hypothesis about Max Mosley being thrown out of the FIA. But from what I have read, he is currently regarded as a “hero” in FIA circles.

    Caron, I get your point about a breakaway being difficult to organise quickly. This is one potential problem with the idea. But then again, I would think circuits and television companies would fall over themselves to accommodate the top level of grand prix racing with names like Ferrari, rather than Max’s proposed series which — in the FIA’s own words — will contain cars that are not up to F1 standard.

    Red five, the notion that Fota are proposing a spec series is news to me. It is the FIA who have placed restriction after restriction on the cars. It was the FIA who even suggested that all racing cars should have the same engine. And Mosley has already removed his fig leaf of technical freedoms for 2010.

  6. doctorvee, FOTA have proposed not having a budget cap but instead reducing costs by having spec gearboxes, suspension, brakes and other parts.

    The only reason the fig leaf has been removed is because FOTA say they want next years regulations to based on this years, so Moseley has proposed a set of regulations based on the current regs, but with a budget cap, all be it a much higher one than his original proposal.

    I can’t see why saving money with a budget cap is such a bad idea, except for teams like Ferrari and McLaren who spend their way out of trouble, and Toyota who have thrown money at a largely unsuccessful F1 Team.

    I agree that the original two-tier system would not have been favourable, but – other than the Cosworth engines being unrestricted – this idea has been dropped.

  7. Red Five, Fota’s proposals for spec gearboxes and the like were made at the request of the FIA. They were necessary in order to find a compromise with the FIA’s hardline position which was originally to write out engine manufacturers completely by using the same engine in every car. Fota have simply shown flexibility in their attempts to reach an agreement.

    Spec series? You might get it from Fota. But you will definitely get it from the FIA.

    The problem with a budget cap is that it is unenforceable without intruding on private companies’ private business. F1 is supposed to be a sport, not a (national) socialist dictatorship.

  8. For what I understand, it seems that the vision right now in the UK is quite different than the one we have in Spain. Here we have assumed as fact that the split is unavoidable. Furthermore, there are increasing rumors about teams, pilots and even circuits involved.
    There have been contacts between Dorna (the owners of MotoGP) and FOTA and the spanish pilots (ALO, DLR and GEN) have all argued against FIA.
    In my opinion, a championship that is regulated by the very same participants is the ideal way of doing things. Take the NBA as an example.

  9. Hi Ponzonha. The rumours about Dorna’s involvement were reported in a few outlets here, but none of the more prestigious ones. So we are treating that rumour carefully at the moment.

    I’m interested to hear that all of the current Spanish F1 drivers have voiced their opinion against the FIA. It chimes with Webber’s assertion that the drivers are all opposed to the FIA’s proposals.

  10. Well, it seems logical, mainly because De la Rosa and Gené are paid by two of the “rogue” teams.
    I think that all the F1 pilots fancy the idea to drive the best cars around. The current FIA proposal would undermine their status as top of the tops…

  11. The FIA didn’t request that FOTA propose spec parts, they requested that FOTA come up with their own ideas that they could discuss.

    The FIA proposed much greater technical freedom than at present, just with a limit on spending, and have moved the goalposts slightly to try and get FOTA on board.

    Why haven’t FOTA released their own minutes from meetings and correspondence with the FIA if they haven’t been as uncooperative as those communications would lead us to believe?

    Why are you interested that Drivers that are paid by FOTA members have sided with FOTA?

  12. Red Five, the FIA have made it clear themselves that there are two options as far as they are concerned.

    you can have technical freedom – the freedom to innovate – or you can have freedom to spend without limit. But you cannot sustain both.

    I happen to disagree, but Fota have shown flexibility in trying to deal with the FIA’s stubbornness on the matter. The FIA gave Fota no choice.

    The FIA proposed technical freedoms after their preferred suggestion of a spec engine was met with universal revulsion. They promptly removed the technical freedoms as soon as they got a chance to.

    Fota are apparently planning their dossier, but I don’t mind whether or not they release minutes. Fota have said they want to avoid stooping to the level of the FIA in conducting a war by press release.

    I am interested in the drivers that have sided with Fota because, as Mark Webber has stated, that is all of them. All of the best drivers in the world have sided with Fota. What drivers are signed up to FIA-supporting teams? Nakajima and Sutil? They hardly set the world alight, unless you mean by crashing a lot. Besideswhich, no driver has spoken in favour of the FIA.

  13. So you think that if the teams were to continue with spending without limit that the sport wouldn’t crash and burn as soon as the recession hit road car manufacturer’s decided that they couldn’t be seen spending hundred’s of millions of dollars on F1 whilst making hundreds or thousands of people redundant?!

    Spending without limit is not sustainable in the current economic climate, therefore a budget cap to keep the manufacturers and encourage new teams seems perfectly logical.

    All of the best Drivers in the World have sided with FOTA? Well that’s rather conditional on whether you think that all of the best Drivers in the World are in F1. I don’t. All of the Drivers that have sided with FOTA are the Drivers that are paid by FOTA members, hardly interesting or surprising.

    I also don’t believe there are teams that are supporting the FIA, there are teams that have entered F1 next season, as that is the point of their existence and they have legally binding contracts to do so.

  14. Red Five, I don’t think anyone is opposed to cost-cutting. The FIA, Fota, fans and almost everyone involved all agree that costs should be cut.

    The problem comes when you try to impose an arbitrary limit. The FIA’s budget cap is unenforceable. It will be impossible to police, and will involve the FIA having access to private companies’ information which is none of its business.

    It is for each team to set its budget and decide how much it wants to spend. The FIA pluck a number out of thin air, without justifying why it should be at that level other than something vague about attracting new teams.

    That is odd though because this year, for the first time in several years, we have seen two new private teams — Brawn and USF1 — enter the fray, and they did not need the budget cap. “Crash and burn”? Doesn’t seem that way to me.

    I agree with you that the best drivers in the world may not be in F1, but given that we are discussing grand prix racing, I think it is a given that we are talking about the best grand prix racing drivers, and I would posit that they are all on Fota’s side.

    You say it is hardly surprising that drivers are on Fota’s side since they are paid by Fota teams. This may be the case. But ask yourself why the Fota teams are not on the FIA’s side? And you say yourself that there are no teams that are supporting the FIA.

    It is the teams and the drivers that draw the fans in, not the FIA. Given that all the main attractions of the sport are against the FIA in this dispute, I would say that it would be quite odd to stick up for the FIA.

  15. I wouldn’t really call Brawn a privateer team this season – in fact neither does Ross Brawn – and he has said that he would find it hard to not side with FOTA considering the help it’s members gave him at the start of the season.

    The problem being for me, is that as you say no one is opposed to cost cutting, but no one is prepeared to realistically do anything about it other than bring in spec parts, which would in my opinion devalue F1 more than a budget cap – as long as the technical freedom was implemented and extensive.

    The FOTA teams seem to be lead by Ferrari (if the FIA’s press release is correct), wh o don’t want a budget cap because they wouldn’t be able to spend their way out of trouble, and also are upset that maybe they aren’t getting their own way anymore. Again going by the FIA’s press release it’s FOTA that walked away from a seemingly productive meeting saying that they hadn’t moved any nearer agreement (do they actually want one?!).

    I’m not sticking up for the FIA perse, just their idea of a budget cap with technical freedom. There are at least two sides to every argument and I hope that FOTA don’t waste too much more time in releasing thiers.

    I’m not sure a split would cause the same problems that it did in the US, but it can’t really be good for the sport.

  16. Red Five, I agree with you wholeheartedly that a split would be a bad idea. And I also agree that ideally there would be far fewer technical restrictions. It is the FIA’s contention that you can’t have a situation where both prevail that disappoints me.

    As much as that, it is the unpredictability of the FIA’s governance. They will preach about cost cutting on the one hand, then botch the introduction of the massively expensive kers, which was originally banned by the FIA a decade previously. (Had it not been banned in the first place, the technology could have been developed in a more controlled manner rather than the rush job encouraged by the FIA.)

    You have Max Mosley saying one year that privateers like Williams did not fit into his vision of the future of F1, while today they are the saviour of the sport and manufacturers should be ditched at all costs.

    There is no underlying ideology to the FIA’s actions, other than as a conduit for Max’s addiction to power.

    As for the current political wrangling, as you say we have only heard the FIA’s side of the story, and that is bound to be biased. We only have the FIA’s word for it that there have been productive meetings. Today the BBC says that the meeting was not nearly as productive as the FIA is trying to make out.

    Your point about Brawn is right in that the team cannot be considered a truly private team just now, particularly because of the support it has had from Honda (not least in funding the development of the current car). Next year will be a different story, which is why it’s notable that they haven’t expressed much solidarity with the new privateer teams.

    Brawn can indeed be thankful for the support it has had from the manufacturer teams. This kind of support is a sound basis for a future cost cutting regime (and this is the main reason why I support the idea of customer cars, another route out of this mess that the FIA has thwarted).

    I agree that a split should be avoided, but sadly it is becoming the least-worst option in my view.

  17. Ok, so I lied, maybe I do still care!

    Red Five, I wouldn’t discount the drivers opinions simply because they are employed by FOTA teams. To do so undermines their intelligence, and a few of the drivers seem pretty switched on to me – Webber & Alonso particularly. Don’t forget, they are closer to the mess than we are, so I would consider their opinions to be far more informed than ours.