JUNE 27, 2005
Tin helmets on, here comes the World Council
As Formula 1 looks disaster in the face once again, at the meeting of the FIA World Council in Paris on Wednesday, the signs are not looking good that peace is about to break out and team principals, in addition to the voluble Paul Stoddart, are whispering darkly that if the FIA imposes harsh penalties on the teams there will be war. And war will almost certainly mean that the French Grand Prix will have to be run with two cars. One can only assume that in such a circumstance the FIA would have to either cancel the event or run the two Ferraris with a field of GP2 cars, which would not be much of a spectacle and it would be breaking what Max Mosley says are unbreakable rules.
On the surface, however, the team bosses (with the exception of Stoddart) are not saying much and it is impressive that the discipline that exists between them is not breaking down. They obviously have a plan and are sticking to it.
Max Mosley, on the other hand, is talking openly about the conflict and is showing no signs of compromise, apparently being confident that the FIA will win no matter what happens.
"It doesn't particularly bother me," he told BBC Radio. "My predecessor, when he had a conflict like this, and I must say I was on the other side with the teams, we used to ask him to resign on an hourly basis. He never took any notice."
What Mosley forgot to mention was that eventually the FIA membership grew tired of Jean-Marie Balestre and voted him out of office, much to his surprise. There is a danger that the World Council could vote against Mosley. That happened at the equivalent meeting a year ago, over the question of karting. After that defeat Mosley resigned, only to return to office a couple of weeks later when it became clear that the other FIA men were incapable of naming a new leader.
The downside of voting Mosley out is that the FIA would be seen to have bent to the will of the F1 teams. Some members may see that as being a bad thing but the alternative is little better as any serious punishment will result in an explosion and probably a rival championship beginning almost immediately, possibly even next weekend. It is more likely therefore that Mosley will try something to divide the teams, perhaps by punishing some but not the others. He has hinted as much in an interview with The Guardian.
"I wouldn't exclude a ban or two," Mosley said. "If it emerges that the guilt of certain teams is of a certain level, then a ban will be justified. There are various other possibilities - points being deducted, a fine or reprimand. I don't know what will happen until we hear from the teams."
The teams are, however, now well-tuned to tactics such as divide-and-conquer and they will be going into the meeting having thought through all the possible outcomes in advance and so their reaction will probably be set even before they go before the World Council.
In addition the many fans who have written to complain about Mosley - and in our mailbox the responses have been clearly anti-Mosley in percentage terms - other well-known figures in the sport have joined the fray, notably Sir Jackie Stewart, president of the British Racing Drivers' Club, who told BBC Radio Five Live: "The infrastructure failed. The FIA communication system failed totally. In all the years, I've never seen such damage done, and I think it was avoidable."
Stewart warned that a serious punishment would be "scandalous".
"I think the sport, if it's allowed to be dealt with in that fashion, can't go on with the leadership it has if that is the case," he said. "We've got to have a workable organisation because those teams are being supported financially by multi-national corporations around the world. In the normal business sector, where corporate life has a very dim view of that kind of situation being allowed to occur, the management of the whole structure is put into question. I think the people at the top are vulnerable."
The 23 members of the World Council thus have a heavy burden on their shoulders. Many of them are longtime Mosley supporters and may not dare go against their patron, for fear of losing their own positions, but others, particularly those who organise Formula 1 events, have much to lose if Formula 1 blows up. This group includes France's Jacques Regis, who was a leading light in last year's rising against Mosley, Germany's Hermann Tomcyzk, Turkey's Mumtaz Tahincioglu.
The other members of the council are Marco Piccinini (I), Michel Boeri (MC), Carlos Gracia (E), Nazir Hoosein (an Indian who represents China following a dispute with the Indian government), John Large (AUS), Burdette Martin (USA), Raphael Sierra (RA), Jacek Bartos (Poland), Morrie Chandler (NZ), Vassilis Despotopoulos (Greece), Henry Krausz (Dominican Republic), Derek Ledger (Jordan), Radovan Novak (Czech Republic), Lars Osterlind (Sweden), Katsutoshi Tamura (Japan), Antonio Vasconcelos Tavares (Portugal) and Vincent Caro (representing the international karting federation). There are two other members: Bernie Ecclestone, who represents the F1 teams and Jean Todt, who represents the Constructors in F1 matters. Todt's role in the proceedings is sure to be controversial as he clearly does not have the support of the other manufacturers in F1. The option would be for the Constructors to the represented by Gabriele Cadringher, who sits on the Council for all non-F1 matters.
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