MARCH 17, 2009
An important FIA World Council
The FIA World Council meets today to decide on important issues facing the sport as a result of the ongoing economic crisis. The feeling in FIA circles is that the threat to the sport is unprecedented and that we have probably yet to see the full extent of the crisis. In the circumstances, there is an argument that trying to cling to the past and maintain what has become an unsustainable business is not the way forward for the Formula 1 world.
The teams are trying to solve the financial problems by cutting back but the FIA believes that it is necessary to do much more than that - and indeed that it has a responsibility to do that, in order to protect the sport.
It also believes that the sport has a role to play in promoting the idea that the automotive industry can help the world solve its ecological problems, rather than being constantly blamed for the situation. A popular theory at the moment amongst scientists is that the cars of the world could actually be used to help solve the problem as they can, in theory at least, use electrical energy generated to power the electricity grids by downloading it each evening when the car owner returns home. This would involve highly-advanced and complex power management systems, but the work being done in F1 with KERS could well be helpful in this research.
The FIA's latest idea is to offer the teams a choice: they can continue with the current cars, but these would have to be more and more regulated, to a point at which they become virtually standardised. Budgets could remain free.
However, the FIA is proposing that teams choose between that route and going on a completely different tack and accepting a budget cap of perhaps $40m a year but being allowed technological freedom to develop whatever they can for a certain amount of money. In order to balance the two approaches the FIA would have to be allowed the right to tinker with the rules to get the right equivalency. This is a highly controversial approach but it is one that keeps the sport sustainable from a financial point of view and keeps the sport on track with its technological raison d'etre. It also means that new blood can enter F1, which has to be healthier than the current situation.
There is no doubt that this is not very fair for the teams that have invested vast sums in exotic windtunnels and other such machinery, but it is hard to argue that their route has a better future for the sport. Given the choice, it may only be a matter of time before the big teams conclude that the budget-capped free technology route is a better business model for them in the long-term. There will inevitably have to be job losses but the FIA argues that this will also happen if teams go out of business.
It is expected that the World Council will also discuss the question of World Championship points and whether the current system, designed to stop drivers running away with the title too early in the season, should not be changed to offer more rewards for winning a race. The proposals include one from FOTA for the current 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system to be changed to 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 to offer more incentive to win.
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