JUNE 20, 2005

What is this really all about?

The FIA World Motor Sport Council has called representatives of the seven Michelin teams to appear before them at the next meeting, which will be held in Paris on Wednesday, June 29. The Council has the power to punish the teams involved - if it can work out some reason why teams, acting on the grounds of safety, should be punished for doing so. It is hard to imagine that the Council will rise up against FIA President Max Mosley, who many believe is the man who should be in the firing line after the debacle in Indianapolis, and so there is doubt that justice will be done.

If the Council does punish the teams, there will inevitably be knock-on effects. There may be appeals processes and we will once again have to plunge back into the argument about whether or not the FIA Court of Appeal is independent or not. The alternative, which seems to be getting ever closer, is that teams will simply start to boycott the FIA Formula 1 World Championship in order to force the issue. One can imagine a situation in which only a handful of cars will turn up at the Grands Prix ahead. That is not being alarmist. Things have been getting out of hand for some time now and the battle must eventually come to a head.

What is important to ask is why there is a battle. Who is fighting for what in the current war? And the answer one comes up with is that the fight is for Formula 1 itself. The teams do not like the way that the sport is run, they do not like the way the regulations are going and they do not like the way income generated by the sport is redistributed. You can argue all day about who is right and who is wrong but while all this is going on, the sport is being driven into oblivion. And that is what must be stopped.

There are some who will say that it is all part of a masterplan to push down the value of the sport so that the banks and big money walk away and leave the sport to the people who have been exploiting it for the last 20 years. It could be that this is the case but it is hard to know. All we do know is that the sport we love and want to see grow is being held back and, worse still, damaged.

In this extraordinarily unhealthy atmosphere the one thing that pops up over and over again is that a large percentage of the F1 community has little confidence in the FIA. Unpalatable as that may be to some, it is an indisputable fact. The federation can argue that time and again people have confirmed that they accept its decisions but while this may be true on paper, it is not the reality at all. Everyone in F1 knows that on several occasions, for a variety of different reasons, teams and manufacturers have been forced to back down and make conciliatory noises.

But this does not mean that there is confidence in the current management of the FIA. Indeed, the signs are that the opposite is actually the case. Mosley and his supporters may not like that - and to some extent it may or may not be fair - but it is a reality and that means that until something changes, one fight will lead to another until either teams start to quit F1 and Mosley wins control of a damaged sport or he is removed from office. The important question for F1 fans is which of these results is the more positive for the long term future of the sport.

This is a fight to the death and, as we saw in Indianapolis, the fans come second. This is wrong. They are what gives the sport its global significance, via their enthusiasm and their spending power, and to ignore their wishes, wellbeing and opinion is a sign that things have degenerated too far and must now change.

Boil the arguments down still further and one is left with a question: what logic is there in damaging a sport just so one can control the wreck that is left behind? While a governing body should be allowed to govern - as the FIA insists - one has to ask at what point is that going too far?

In our opinion what happened in Indianapolis was going way too far.

Coming back from the brink is a tough thing to do. What is needed is confidence in and respect for the FIA, amongst the competitors and amongst the media and the spectators. The FIA can bang on as much as it likes about independence but until people begin to believe in the federation once again, the problems are not going to go away.

The fact is that Formula 1 now is like a province that is split by discontent and resistance. In such circumstances the vast majority of the population wants to live in peace and be allowed to prosper. The problems are created by a small number of people. Experience has shown that if the trouble-makers are weeded out, the problems can be solved and peace and prosperity can return.

That is where Formula 1 sits today.

So what is in the best interest of the sport? Is it best that the teams pack up and leave or that Mosley moves on?

What do you think? E-mail us at info@grandprix.com we will publish all sensible and non-libellous responses, so that your voice can be heard.