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APRIL 9, 2005

Ferrari in isolation

Ferrari is now completely isolated in Formula 1 politics - and that cannot be a good thing. Formula 1's most famous and most popular team has been on its own for more than six months following its refusal to sign up to a testing restriction which the other teams wanted in Brazil last autumn. Jean Todt exasperated the other team bosses by constantly saying "non" to every suggestion that was put forward and as a result the teams finally decided that they had had enough. At the time Ferrari believed that it held all the cards. It was the dominant team in F1 and so funding was not a problem and it was obviously involved in behind the scenes negotiations with Formula One Management and the FIA to do a deal for the long term future. All three parties believed that this would be the killer blow that would cause the opposition to fall apart. In fact the opposite happened. The other teams were so incensed by the blatant attempt to split them up that they moved even closer together and the stand-offish manufacturers were alarmed by the FIA's attitude when they met with the federation to discuss the outstanding arbitration question in December. All this served to draw the nine teams together into what is now a very solid alliance. The teams are aware that they can lose one or two of the teams and still retain the power to dictate regulation changes, at least if their understanding of the rule-making process in the Concorde Agreement is left unchallenged.

And so the teams are working slowly towards presenting the FIA with a complete plan for the future of the sport which they will have created together after much discussion. Ferrari has not been involved at all and so if the teams are successful Ferrari will be faced with competing in a series in which it had no voice at all in the rule-making process. The nine teams say that Ferrari is welcome to join them at any time and will be welcome in the new series but for the moment at least the Italian team remains on the sidelines, testing much more that all the other teams. This will help the team to catch up from the uncompetitive position in which it currently find itself but will undermine the credibility of any success that does eventually come - if it comes.

The danger of all of this is that the teams will win their fight and that Ferrari will be faced with the situation of being "just another team" from 2008 onwards, with no special benefits nor vetoes, and it may then decide that it is too much for the company to continue in F1. The other teams know this and we believe that there may be clauses in the new plans to allow for extra money to be given to those with historical involvement in the sport but the biggest problem is probably not the money but rather whether the Ferrari management will be willing to eat humble pie and rejoin the flock or whether they will stamp their feet and storm out of F1.

There will no doubt be further attempts to break up the alliance of the teams but for the moment they remain united.