Williams cave in and enter for 2010

F1 politics-watchers will be intrigued to read the news today that Williams have become the first of the current teams to confirm that they have submitted an entry for the 2010 season. This is an embarrassment for Fota, as it makes mincemeat of the organisation’s President’s assertion — which was only made on Friday — that none of the current teams would enter unless the FIA promised to change the 2010 technical regulations.

Indeed, Luca di Montezemolo practically made it the defining policy of Fota. It must be disconcerting for him to see that already one Fota member has undermined this.

The Williams team’s explanation is interesting though. Their CEO, Adam Parr, has gone out of his way to point out that Williams is still fully aligned with Fota:

The unity of FOTA is of paramount importance to Williams. Yesterday we joined the other members of FOTA in writing to the FIA (International Automobile Federation) to request a continuing effort to find a compromise concerning the regulations for 2010.

We believe that under the leadership of (Ferrari president Luca) di Montezemolo and (Toyota motorsport president) John Howett, FOTA has extracted some very significant concessions from the FIA.

These include not only the procedural aspects of the budget cap but also other elements that will enable the higher budget teams to participate.

But explaining the team’s decision to enter the 2010 Championship, contrary to Fota policy, Mr Parr has essentially said that Williams felt that it had no option but to enter the 2010 World Championship:

Williams has — and has always maintained — that we have a binding contract with both FOM (Ecclestone’s Formula One Management) and the FIA to participate in the world championship from 2008 to 2010.

Presumably if Williams has a binding contract, so do other teams. I assume the binding contract is the Concorde Agreement. In a way, therefore, it is unsurprising that it is the manufacturer-backed teams who are standing up to the FIA the most. Williams can’t really afford to breach a contract. But manufacturers have enough money — economic downturn or not — to buy their way out, just as Honda essentially did.

But if it is the case that all these F1 teams are contractually obliged to participate in the World Championship in 2010, why is the FIA asking them all to re-enter?

5 comments

  1. well, the contract is with FOM probably, not with FIA

    and apparently teams have to submit entries every year. but this year the deadline is about 6 months earlier to give the new team enough time to get ready

  2. I think a lot of teams are trying to play both sides… after all Williams needs engines but also can benefit from the Mosley plan.

    Worse I think are BMW and Mercedes not really committing either way.

  3. Simple – all the FIA has with most of the teams is a Memorandum of Understanding. Courts are supposed to take such documents into consideration but are not obliged to treat them as legally binding. As a result, the FIA doesn’t even have the protection of the courts in this case.

    Contracts with Bernie are a separate matter. These may oblige some or all teams to enter F1, but the FIA isn’t involved in those contracts and therefore demands paperwork and entry fees separately. As far as the FIA are concerned with regard to entries, Bernie is just another team sponsor.

    Ferrari definitely has a contract with the FIA to compete until 2012, but it is arguing that the FIA has already broken the contract. In that case, Ferrari is not obliged to do anything unless it wants to.

    Of course, there is nothing to stop a team from entering in 2010, passing/selling the team on to another entity (perhaps a “paper tiger”, once they realise that they can’t possibly set up an F1 team from scratch on £23m even if they had it) and getting out of F1 that way. But then the FIA will simply sigh about costs and keep pressuring the remaining teams.

  4. Oh, and the Memorandum of Understanding, from what I understand of what I’ve read about it, hinges on a Concorde Agreement or similar existing. The FIA is behaving like there isn’t a Concorde Agreement, so I’m not sure how dependable the Memorandum would be even if it had been a formally legally enforceable document.

  5. Thanks for the comments and explanations everyone.

    AC’s point is interesting, and highlights the dilemma that the privateers (all currently supplied by Mercedes) face. They will probably want to keep the manufacturers happy — unless they want to stick with a Cosworth engine that half the grid will probably also have — while tempted by the budget cap offers.

    I too thought the teams had a contract with FOM, but Adam Parr specifically states that Williams has a binding contract with both FOM and the FIA.

    The situation with the Concorde Agreement always confuses me. I remember a couple of years ago it was a huge political issue that Max Mosley had refused to sign the Concorde Agreement, and the teams were upset with him because of it. Alianora’s suggestion that the FIA believes there is no Concorde Agreement chimes with this. But it makes you wonder how the FIA has this power over the teams.

    Is it perhaps notable that Williams was also one of the teams that did a deal with the FIA while the other teams were still thinking about GPMA / GPWC? I seem to remember that they were among the first teams to confirm that they would commit to the FIA’s way of business not long after Ferrari did.