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MARCH 22, 2006

The World Council meets today

The FIA World Motor Sport Council meets today in Paris to endorse the ideas being put forth by FIA President Max Mosley over the future of Formula 1. The body is not famous for its independent thought and so the plans will no doubt be put through accordingly. While everyone agrees that the threat of a rival series is now dead, the talks are currently centred on the rules and regulations for the future rather than battles of ego and money.

"As far as we are concerned," said someone close to the manufacturers. "We do not care if we are seen to lose the battle so long as we get what we want commercially and in relation to the rules. We are quite happy to let Max Mosley be seen to win. That is probably the best thing that can happen now."

The manufacturers have gained a considerable amount more money during the negotiations and have won a number of concessions from the FIA in relation to the way things are done. There are still disagreements over the regulations but everyone is aware that the FIA Formula 1 World Championship belongs to the FIA (although the commercial side has been leased to the Formula One group) and those who do not want to join in have to accept what the federation wants from the rules and regulations. The manufacturers had their chance to put a candidate for the FIA Presidency up against Mosley in October last year and failed to do so and so they must now accept that he makes the rules. Having said that there is pressure on Mosley from the commercial interests in the sport. CVC Capital Partners agreed to buy the commercial rights to the sport for a certain amount of money and their expectations are that there will be a level manufacturer involvement. Without that the sport has less value. A World Championship with Ferrari, Williams and a bunch of make-weight or middle ranking teams with customer engines and chassis is not quite the same as the Formula 1 that CVC found attractive. It is quite possible for the manufacturer teams to sign up the 2008 World Championship without having agreed to the commercial deal on offer so Mosley's deadline of a week from now is not perhaps as radical as it once appeared, particularly it the manufacturers do not care if they are seen to be losing the fight. There are likely to be one or two opportunists who may apply for entries as well and this might provide the FIA with the chance to clean out some of the less successful teams at the back of the grid. It really depends on who has the budgets.

Other ideas are floating around including freezing technology for three years from 2008. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this idea apart from the fact that a company which builds a bad engine before the deadline of June 1 this year is not going to stick around and be beaten for the next three years. The rules at the moment allow for teams to improve if there is a problem and if that possibility is taken away, no engine company is going to be tied to a contract. Formula 1 is all about ingenuity and development and such a regulation cuts at the core philosophy of the sport. The same is true of the common ECU. This is, of course, all up for negotiation until June and with the FIA carefully excluding anyone who does not sign up, the manufacturers really have now choice but to make a commitment. Some may call it coercion but the fact is that everyone in F1 wants to be in F1 and it is just a matter of how to negotiate from A to B. There are sure to be compromises on both sides before the 2008 rules are set in stone.

Reducing the costs of F1 is a stated aim of the FIA but as we have seen so often in the past, change rarely does that. F1 teams will spend money wherever they can if they have money available and it is inevitable that money will ultimately help them perform better than teams without it.

Entries for the 2008 World Championship will open on March 24 and will close on March 31. It remains to be seen whether we will be told who has signed up and who has not signed up.