MAY 5, 2009

FOTA discussions ahead

The Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) meets in London tomorrow to consider the latest moves by the FIA. The recent World Council meeting voted through a series of things that FOTA is not keen on, notably the budget cap and the system by which the World Champion is etablished by the number of victories, rather than by the overall points tally. The FIA's message with these changes is that it is going to do what it wants to do and if the teams do not like it, then they can go and race somewhere else. The FIA clearly does not believe that any of the teams will walk away from the sport and it is felt that negotiation will find a solution between the FIA's current position and the position of the teams. One of the problems with the teams is that getting them all to agree is not going to be easy, because of their different sizes and different goals. The larger teams will want to push up the budget cap and the smaller ones which want it to be closer to the FIA figure. Holding FOTA together will thus be a challenge (as perhaps the FIA intended when it came up with the decisions). Having said that the teams know that if they split they will lose any power than they did have and can then be picked off one by one and effectively forced to sign a new Concorde Agreement which is not what they want.

The alternative to a compromise is more trouble and disruption but it is hard to imagine that any of the teams will want to try to start a new championship. It would be possible t do this and it wuld probably be a lot easier than people think. The A1GP series is sometimes suggested as being a possible framework for a new championship but closer examination suggests that some of the tracks used are not really up to F1 standards. The A1GP series went to only seven venues this year with Mugello, Indonesia and Mexico all being cancelled. The other venues were Zandvoort, Chengdu in China, Sepang, Taupo, Kyalami, the Algarve and Brands Hatch. The increase that number to a sustainable level, given the contracts that exist with Formula One Management, would be tough but there are tracks such as Silverstone, Magny-Cours, Hockenheim, Indianapolis, Surfers Paradise and others that would have nothing to lose.

This is all well and good in theory, but it is hard to imagine that the teams would take such a massive step, when there is still plenty of scope for negotiation. They know that time is on their side. Bernie Ecclestone is 79 this year and there will come a day when he will be replaced and whoever takes that role (if indeed it is one single person) will not have the historical clout that Bernie commands.