DECEMBER 16, 2004
BMW and Honda capitulate over engines
BMW and Honda have dropped their opposition to the FIA's 2006 engine regulations after a secret meeting with FIA President Max Mosley last week in Monaco. It is not clear what was said at the meeting but Mosley somehow managed to convince the two automobile companies that it was not in their best interest to continue to fight the FIA plan. This means that only Mercedes-Benz is now against the idea (at least officially) and there is therefore little chance that the arbitration case will go ahead despite the fact that the FIA had made commitments to retain V10 engines until the end of the Concorde Agreement in 2007.
Mosley has been very combative on this subject - in September he dismissed the arbitration case as "footling" - and so one must assume that he did not make any concessions to the two car manufacturers and thus one must ask how he managed to convince them to publicly back down. Big automobile companies do not generally like to change their opinions in public unless they have been forced to do so. No-one wants to talk about what happened in the meeting in Monaco and it is fair to speculate that if it all been polite conversation there would be no need for any secrecy.
BMW says that the decision was taken because a legal challenge to the modified regulations would "take up too much time - time in which all manufacturers would be forced to undertake costly parallel developments". Both companies have been working on V10 and V8 development in recent months. BMW added that arbitration would not be "in the interests of the sport, whose future we aim to strengthen". The Munich did however point out that part of the reason for making the decision was "to contribute to a united position of the engine manufacturers in F1."
Uniting the engine manufacturers is not necessarily something that F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone would want to see. Ecclestone is fighting with three investment banks to keep control of the Formula One group and, at the same time, trying to convince the F1 teams (most of which now have strong manufacturer connections) that they do not want to sign up with the rival GPWC, which is an organization run by BMW, Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes-Benz. Honda and Toyota have been politely sitting on the fence up to now but if they sniff an advantage for one side or the other, it is expected that they will jump into the dominant camp. The disputes over the engine regulations had threatened to divide the GPWC members but they now seem to be united on the matter, even if Mercedes-Benz has yet to officially accept defeat.
It is worth noting that while all these machinations are going on no-one seems to be at all interested in the fact that F1's TV viewing figures dropped significantly in 2004.
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