JULY 25, 2005
What happens now in F1?
The announcement from the Formula 1 teams and the newly-formed Grand Prix Manufacturers Association was not the work of a moment. There has obviously been a great deal of discussion not only about the content of this document and the proposals which have been sent to the FIA but also about the strategy for the future. The statement issued gives little away and this appears to have been deliberate so as to avoid any sensationalism and so keep the sport out of the newspapers. The argument is that the sport has had enough bad press in recent months and that it is better to sort out the dirty washing out of the public eye.
The impression one gets is that the GPMA and teams are now beginning to flew their muscles. As long as they remain united they are very powerful and appear to moving towards proposing some kind of arrangment with the FIA to switch away from the old Formula One structure and sanction their plans instead.
The key question is what happens to the Formula 1 banks, which own 75% of the Formula One group. They are trying to recoup their investment in SLEC but are at loggerheads with Formula One group founder Bernie Ecclestone, whose family retains 25% of the business. The banks continue on their path to take full control of the business. Once they have done that it is possible that a long-term deal might be struck with the GPMA to pay them off from the revenues generated by the sport. There are various ways of doing this and if an agreement can be found the whole issue of a rival series will disappear because the new structure will simply slip into position under the existing Formula One banner. In that way the 100-year lease of F1's commercial rights would then become the property of the competitors, the banks would depart happy and the only nose that would be seriously out of joint would be that of Ecclestone. he is believed to be protected by a change of control clause in the 100 year agreement between the FIA and SLEC but the FIA is going to have difficulty making a stand on that if SLEC cannot guarantee to have a full field of top-level cars in 2008.
When everything is carefully considered, the FIA simply cannot afford to back the wrong horse in 2008. It has already lost some credibility with the shenanigans in recent months and the obvious solution for the federation is to do a deal with the manufacturers as they can guarantee 14 competitive cars. The minute such a deal is done the series would have 20 cars because there is no future for Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Jordan in a six-car series. There might be ways in which Ferrari could supply more teams but a one-make Ferrari promotional series will have none of the credibility of a manufacturer championship.
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