APRIL 21, 2009
The future of FOTA - and why it is important
The Formula One Teams' Association enjoyed a spectacular love-in during the winter months when the F1 teams had nothing to argue about. The start of the new season has changed all that. Team bosses now have to answer for their on-track failures. That means that they need all the help they can get from circumstance - and some of them are quite capable of cutting loose from the others if it saves their own bacon. The issue of the diffusers has strained relationships, notably between the winning Ross Brawn and the losing Flavio Briatore. The desperation at Renault was highlighted in China, where Fernando Alonso qualified third fastest, but with a car that had an oddly small fuel load. One can make up stories about any strategy if one wishes to do so, but no-one apart from Briatore thinks Renault is the third fastest car. Worse still one of the teams ahead of the Renault factory team is customer Red Bull... which has nothing to do with diffusers. This seems to suggest that it has a much better chassis than the works operation, which probably not something that Briatore wants people to focus on.
Flavio is now suggesting that Brawn should not be paid the TV monies earned by Honda for last year. This has sent the media hounds up another blind alley, a very skanky piece of meat. This means that they are not focussing on Renault's failures. It is a classic diversionary tactic: create a flash-bang somewhere else and let people rush to that.
In fact Briatore is right about the money. It should not go to Brawn. It should go to Honda. The Japanese company earned it and it will help Honda square away its problems with Bernie Ecclestone. Honda management in Japan had hoped that selling the team to Ross Brawn & Co would absolve it of all responsibility related to the contract that existed between Honda and the Formula One group which goes to the end of 2012. Normally that would be the case, but the FIA ruled that Brawn GP had to be a new team because it did not enter the World Championship with a new name and thus could not use cars called Hondas. This was only a small detail but it meant that Honda would have to negotiate a settlement with Ecclestone. If this is the case, then the money owed to Honda should be paid to Honda. There is no real argument that it should go to the other teams. The obvious argument is that it would help Brawn survive and thus should go to the team, but these things are never straightforward in F1.
FOTA needs to rise above all this qubbling if the organisation is to survive as a force in F1. If the teams fall apart, they have only themselves to blame. For the organisation to survive and flourish there must be a change in mentality. If those involved cannot see beyond the on-track performance of their team, then there is little hope.
There are some who argue that this can only happen when certain team bosses are retired and gone.
They may be right.