FIA outlines its vision for Formula None

This week there has also been an avalanche of anti-Fota copy emanating from the FIA’s press desk. These have all been very carefully worded in order to try and present Fota in as bad a light as possible. However, a close reading of the situation reveals that it is in fact the FIA who are being stubborn here.

Take, for instance, this press release which criticises Fota representatives for not being “prepared to discuss regulation at all”. However, in the following paragraph, the FIA concedes that Fota did bring proposals to the table — just that they weren’t to the FIA’s liking.

the FOTA financial proposals were discussed but it became clear that these would not be capable of limiting the expenditure of a team which had the resources to outspend its competitors.

In other words, because Fota do not want a budget cap (and that surely cannot be news to Max), the FIA are not prepared to countenance any of Fota’s suggestions. That does not seem to me to be Fota who are being inflexible. It is the FIA slamming the door shut on anything that is not a budget cap.

The following day, the FIA released this diatribe which was supposed to outline why Fota were such bad, bad people. But once again it demonstrates the arrogance of the FIA, who appear to be in cloud cuckoo land over what makes the sport attractive to fans:

The FIA and FOM have together spent decades building the FIA Formula One World Championship into the most watched motor sport competition in history.

Axis of Oversteer’s post is bang on:

This statement, which essentially blames di Montezemolo for the whole current mess, is set on the premise that the whole of Formula1’s success is based, in it’s entirety, on the FIA’s work. Apparently the reason people watch sports is not for the stars or the teams, it’s because of the rules. Brilliant!

The FIA goes on to describe Fota as being an organisation “made up of participants who come and go as it suits them”. That seems like quite an odd way to describe an organisation with the stature of Ferrari which is the only participant in any shape to have been involved in Formula 1 from the very start.

The FIA, on the other hand, always delegated the regulation of Formula 1 to Fisa, an organisation which was merged into the FIA by Max Mosley only in 1993. Mosley then set upon moulding it into his dictatorship. Foca (the precursor to FOM) only gained commercial rights to the sport in 1981. Interesting to note that Max and Bernie managed to find their way to positions of power in the governance of the sport following a war in which they both acted as representatives of the teams arguing against the governing body.

The Fisa-Foca war was a complex matter. But I think it’s fair to say that “to take over the regulation of Formula One from the FIA” is something that Max Mosley succeeded in doing, “and to expropriate the commercial rights for itself” is what Bernie Ecclestone once did. Strange that “These are not objectives which the FIA can accept” once the boot is on the other foot.

The FIA reject the notion that the governance structures need changed. But they have an odd way of showing it. One paragraph they talk about how important it is that Formula 1 has a “strong and impartial regulator”. Then in literally the next paragraph, they keep a straight face while admitting that Ferrari have been “officially (as well as unofficially)” represented on the WMSC since 1981. This is the “impartiality” of the FIA that is so important?

According to the FIA, the “Background” of the current political war is based on the fact that Honda pulled out of Formula 1 in 2008. This, apparently, was a bad thing, as it showed that teams could exit F1 at a moment’s notice. Quite why this should be a surprise to Max Mosley stumps me, because no fewer than 23 teams — easily enough to fill two healthy sets of grids — have left the sport since Max Mosley became President of the FIA in 1993 (I may have missed some out — this is just the quick count I did).

  • Arrows
  • BAR
  • Benetton
  • Footwork
  • Forti
  • Honda
  • Jaguar
  • Jordan
  • Larrousse
  • Ligier
  • Lola
  • Lotus
  • Midland
  • Minardi
  • Pacific
  • Prost
  • Sauber
  • Scuderia Italia
  • Simtek
  • Spyker
  • Stewart
  • Super Aguri
  • Tyrrell

Apparently, Max Mosley didn’t notice all of this. Quite why the Honda scenario made him sit up unlike all the others is a mystery to me.

It is even more odd when you consider that the transition from Honda to Brawn has been a massive success. Unlike some of the above teams — which sometimes embarrassingly went to the wall mid-season, leaving gaps on the grid — the sale of the Honda team was a relatively successful pull-out. Yes, it was messy over the winter. But the Brawn team is reaping the rewards, and it’s a great story for F1. Yet, for Max Mosley, it’s a major problem.

There is also, in this statement, a tacit admission that a budget cap system in a single-tier Championship cannot result in a grid full of the best cars that perform to the standard that fans have come to expect from Formula 1:

…the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) decision of 17 March… introduced a voluntary financial regulation and technical freedoms for the capped teams to enable their cars to achieve Formula One levels of performance.

When the two-tier system was scrapped (as the FIA insist it has been), they decided to retain the budget cap and ditch the technical freedoms. Therefore, in the FIA’s own words, the “pinnacle of motor sport” will no longer contain cars which are “able to achieve Formula One levels of performance”.

Claims that the budget cap would damage the DNA of Formula 1 are rejected by the FIA, who say that the budget cap is a good idea because it evens the playing field. “Isn’t Formula One above all about competition?” I would agree that Formula 1 is about competition. And the budget cap idea is completely antithetical to the principle of meritocratic championship. A budget cap doesn’t “even the playing field”. It rigs the playing field in favour of teams who would not otherwise be in F1 on merit.

There is also no mention of the fact that the one credible new team on the FIA’s entry list, USF1, declared its intention to enter the sport long before the budget cap proposals were announced. USF1 is totally indifferent towards the budget cap, and has dropped a hint that it entered as a non-cost-capped team. It also seems as though the smallest of the current teams, Force India (which split off from Fota for legal reasons), is not interested in the cost cap either.

The FIA claims that “Left to their own devices, at least half the existing teams would have adopted those [budget cap] rules.” This neatly sidesteps the fact that left to their own devices, all of the current Fota teams joined Fota and remain members of Fota as I write.

The FIA says that its actions have been motivated by the need for “new entrants needed to know urgently if they had a place in the Championship.” That is completely contradicted by the way they have treated teams such as Lola like political pawns. Indeed, Lola have decided to withdraw its F1 entry, so incensed were they at the FIA’s behaviour. In the process, Lola have dropped a heavy hint that they will join any potential Fota-led breakaway series (more about that theory can be read on Will Buxton’s blog and at Grandprix.com).

So, what do we want? Top-level grand prix racing? Or Max Mosley’s Formula None?

8 comments

  1. Excellent as always.

    Simple question, asked a few weeks to late: Do people really think it’s money that’s keeping more teams off the grid? Or is that just what everyday people think, because everyday people can’t afford it?

    It seems more likely that it’s a mix of competence and connections.

    Have a great Friday, F1 folks….

  2. Great article. Do you think FIA realise that they are the roadblock to a deal or do you think they really believe what they say?

  3. I find it amusing that Max claims F1
    “needs new blood” to survive, yet also complains that F1 teams can “come and go as they please”

  4. Money is a large part of the reason teams can’t afford F1, but it’s not as simple as the annual budget figure. It’s also the multi-million pound investment necessary to get top-class facilities before they start and the price of jumping a place in the results table once in.

    There’s also nowhere to practise being a constructor since Dallara monopolised the construction of F3 cars (though Mygale are trying to change that). A junior constructor series would help teams to gain confidence and gradually develop the necessary resources to tackle F1.

  5. Alianora, you make a great point about there not being a “practice ground” for constructors. The obsession with spec series has put paid to that. It may be cheaper, but is it really good for the future of the sport? We want innovation, not spec cars. You are right — Max Mosley should have made F2 a new series for constructors. Instead, he has written the teams out of it completely.