Doesn’t it strike you as odd…

After the initial rush hammering out articles about who was and was not on the F1 entry list, there was finally a chance to stop for a moment and reflect about what it all means. My colleagues produced an impressive string of Q&As with all the right people and used all the available press releases but there is something which I think sailed over the heads of many people. Lola’s Martin Birrane said when asked about the new teams that: “one of three that has been chosen is worthy in my view. They will have a proper car. The other two – who knows?”

What Martin thinks is not really the significant point. What is key is that two of the teams chosen were a fairly big surprise. More importantly, it is strange that they were picked ahead of other very significant candidates. And one had to ask: how did that happen?

Prodrive has a terrific record in the sport and, according to David Richards, has the funding for the project from Dar Capital. This is a recently-established British-based investment bank, which is controlled by Kuwait’s Investment Dar. To give you an idea of the scale of the company, not long ago Mercedes-Benz had meetings with Investment Dar about a possible joint venture. Investment Dar has been listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange since 1999 and has close links with the ruling families of the region, it claims to have 800 prominent and respected individuals and institutions mainly from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman as its investors. In other words it has money. It also owns Aston Martin, which gives it a good reason to want to be in F1.

And let us not forget that David Richards’s Prodrive was granted an entry in F1 by the FIA back in 2006, so his organisation clearly met the criteria then. So why not now?

Take a look at N Technology. This is not some back street garage operation in Catania, but rather a highly professional organisation that grew out of a merger between Alfa Romeo’s sporting department Alfa Corse; Fiat’s Abarth competition department and Nordauto, an independent team that enjoyed an impressive record of success in European touring car racing. It operates the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the International Formula Master series and I think it is fair to say that it would not have made an entry if it was not 100% certain that it would be accepted by the FIA. Why would the FIA reject such an ally?

It does not make sense, does it?

Lola. Here is another one. Birrane says that he is underwriting the whole thing himself, but of course he will offset that by finding sponsorship. He has a lot of property in Ireland and Lola is now a very successful company with defence contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Yes, Lola has recruited an entire F1 design team and has everything it takes to enter F1. So why would you choose small fry over Lola?

Then there is Epsilon Euskadi. Take a look at its facilities here and wonder why this team was not included on the list, particularly when team boss Joan Villadelprat has openly said that he has secured the necessary budget for the next four years. From what I hear much of that is from the government of the Basque Autonomous Community, one of the wealthiest regions of Spain. Why would this team be refused an entry when Manor Grand Prix gets its ticket to F1?

Applying logic is not necessarily something that is widespread in F1, but when you look at the current situation the only sensible conclusion that one can draw is that the FIA is simply NOT going to reject such strong candidates. They will end up being on the list because they are stronger than some of those that have already appeared.

Then apply a little mathematics to the situation. We have two committed established F1 teams (Williams, Force India). We have three new teams with an entry confirmed (USF1, Campos, Manor). We have four new teams that seem better on paper than the trio that have been chosen (Lola, Prodrive, Epsilon Euskadi, N Technology). And we have four FOTA teams that are dependent on F1 for their existence (Brawn, Red Bull Racing. Scuderia Toro Rosso, McLaren). Two plus three plus four plus four. Thirteen…

But that does not include Ferrari. Nor the manufacturer teams from Toyota, Renault or BMW.

Now if Ferrari suddenly wanted to return to the FIA fold, no doubt an arrangement would be made. But who is going to get the stray bullet? It is a pretty good incentive to get one of the smaller FOTA teams to jump, isn’t it?

Max Mosley is many things (and best we do not go into all of them) – but no-one ever accused him of not being clever…

12 thoughts on “Doesn’t it strike you as odd…

  1. I think Birrane was being overly harsh (bitter perhaps?) on the entries, to the extent that I wasn’t sure which one he was implying was the decent one. Both Manor and Campos are competant teams that have major constructors as partners, whilst US F1 has been in the works for months, is believed to have bags of money and one of the best windtunnels in the world.

    US F1 and Campos were always going to be givens because they’ve been in the works for so long – I remember reading that Campos was working on “another project” when he sold the GP2 team. I had expected both to get in and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one had already been given a nudge and a wink.

    We don’t know the full extent of Manor’s bid yet because they’ve snuck under the radar but Wirth is no idiot. I had heard that Penske were linked to WRL and in which case, they would’ve been certs in my book. Manor are a pretty solid team too with pedigree. The usual anti-Mosley forumers have been looking down their noses at them but I wouldn’t mind betting a lot are probably “fans” of Hamilton or Raikkonen, who were both given their breaks by Manor.

    Conversely, Prodrive’s commitment to this has been questionable. DR has ummed and ahhed about it for a while and only put his bid in at the last minute. Dar’s money has been debatable because they’ve lost a bit lately. Lola hadn’t been working on their project for as long as Campos and US F1 and they have a lot of commitments like Prodrive. And 2 Spanish teams would probably have been too many which probably ruled Epsilon Euskadi out. Lotus and Superfund were always going to be just behind them.

    So yes, it was a surprise to see Manor in particular on there. But in hindsight, there is logic behind it.

  2. Interesting analysis but if it is MM’s goal is to produce a strong, competitive grid, isn’t he taking a big risk here? Why would he keep arguably stronger, better supported teams in limbo while accepting USF1, Campos, and Manor? What if FOTA and the FIA/MM actually reach an accord? Would then Lola, ProDrive, Epsilon, and N Tech be turned away at the expense of a potentially stronger grid?

    Looking at it that way one might wonder if MM has any intention to include the manufacturers at all. Is this debacle actually intended to eliminate the manufacturer presence (aside from engines) from the grid? Is MM not really interested in an accord at all and he is manipulating the entry list to achieve the result you suggest (2 committed F1 teams, 7 news teams, and four FOTA)?

    Or could my reasoning merely be a contorted conspiracy theory born of a diet consisting of too much shadowy politicking and not enough racing?

  3. Max wins (for his purposes, and certainly in his estimation) not matter what the outcome for FOTA.

    He will have a championship with at least 10 teams.

    It will be contested on his terms.

    He will be calling the shots.

    Whether anyone actually wants to watch said championship is neither here nor there. Max will have won and consolidated control, which I think is all he ever wanted.

    Will anyone watch? I will not want to, but may just out of curiosity and many years’ habit. (Though I may put some real effort into not watching anymore regardless of the outcome. Hmmm, free Sundays….) I think many “fans” will not know the difference.

  4. Max Mosley is very clever.

    But is he loosing the plot. After all, he has been subjected to huge personal pressure in the past twelve months.

    I think he is loosing touch with reality and his power has consumed him. I don’t think it could be simpler.

  5. Agh Epsilon Euskadi should get in come on big shots please make it happen our facilities are amazing.

  6. Nice article Joe,
    Like most people I was very surprised to see Prodrive/ Aston Martin, Lola and Epsilon not on the list and extremely disappointed to see who was on it instead.

    My immediate thought was that Mosley (as usual) had ulterior motives when making his selections.
    Could i be forgiven for thinking that he accepted the entries of 2 relatively weak teams (from the outside at least) and left the so called ‘big guns’ (Prodrive, Lola etc) waiting in the wings, just to make the manufacturer teams a little more nervous about not falling into line?

    Its a shame that a more concerted effort hasn’t been made to rid F1 of Mr. Mosley. Yes the manufacturer teams can seem a little disorganised, but Mosley runs the sport like a dictator. He seems to think himself beyond criticism and is obsessed with mind games and personal vendettas..
    Why isn’t anyone standing up to him?

  7. I’m very pleased to see Manor involved, partly because they kept it to themselves and just got on with it in the background.

    I am surprised not see one of the badge engineering teams (Lotus/Brabham/March) on the list. I had suspicions that, as per the FOTA teams reportedly being encouraged to submit conditional entries by Max, I thought these teams may also have been encouraged by Max to dig up a long buried name: the potential loss of Ferrari, which doesn’t really have much in common with 1950-1988’s Enzo regime, would certainly be offset in some quarters (certainly not mine) by 3 “historic” names. Litespeed’s vomit inducing press release last week sounded like one of Alistair Campbell’s best (all fluff, no substance).

  8. “Conversely, Prodrive’s commitment to this has been questionable. DR has ummed and ahhed about it for a while and only put his bid in at the last minute.”

    Probably at least in part to Prodrive getting an entry slot before and then finding out the rules it believed it was applying to run under had in actual fact not been pushed through, leaving them to supposedly prepare an entry under different regulations at relatively short notice.

    And with the current situation, that scenario seems highly feasible. Manor/Campos may well be expecting a £40 million cap that either does not kick in at all or only kicks in a season later. They may get help in other ways from FOTA but I can’t really blame DR/Prodrive for being a bit wary about the whole thing.

  9. A very good analysis. I think it is almost certain the major motor manufacturers will not be present on the grid next year and some of the more competent teams that submitted be on the grid (e.g. Prodrive, Lola, EpsilonEuskadi and NTechnology). Max’s intentions were to break the power of FOTA not matter what cost, and these new teams will be more malleable to his wishes (especially Manor as Nick Wirth is an alley and ex-partner). I do not believe FIA ever had any real interest in listening to FOTA – certainly they have not backed down on their proposals. Toyota, Renault and BMW will probably use this to hide a more secrete desire not to continue in F1. It would not surprise me if BMW at least, were to enter in the Le Mans series to compete with Peugeot and Audi – Toyota and Ferrari could follow. Sauber has had a lot of experience in developing sports cars so BMW would be particularly well positioned. I am not sure an alternative series could be produced given the economic situation.

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