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Archive for July 8th, 2009

When a ship was sinking the radio operators used to send out a very simple message in Morse Code: · · · — — — · · ·. It meant SOS and was the international distress signal. This would bring other ships racing to the scene to rescue whatever could be rescued.

There are times when being an F1 reporter is like being a radio operator, sending out messages about how things are going on a ship that has been out at sea for a long while. Well tonight this radio operator feels the need for a distress signal. The F1 ship is once again in great danger of foundering. God alone knows what is happening up on the bridge, but there is a bloody great hole in the bottom and unless someone starts behaving in a smarter manner than they have of late – and starts doing it very quickly indeed – the whole thing is going to sink without trace.

The man on the street does not understand all of the politicking that has been going on. He does not care. Aside from “the anoraks” who can tell you the chassis numbers of Theodore F1 cars, the people who are counted as F1 fans – because they sit on a couch and gawp at the TV – only really care about the sport if the racing is good. They do not understand, nor care about Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone or any of the others involved in the politics. They do not know, nor care who Alan Donnelly is, and whether his interests are conflicted is really of no importance to the man at the fish and chip shop in Bolton.

The stars of the sport are the men like Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, who drive these wonderful machines. The drivers are the knights of the modern era. They are the only people who matter. Them and the men who design their cars. The rest of those around them are the money-changers, the bookies, the stable hands, the ladies of ill-repute, the clowns and the helmet carriers. Some of them are clever, no doubt about it, but they don’t matter… even if they wear a badge saying “Sheriff” or feel important because they represent the interests of a bunch of goat herds in Outer Mongolia.

On June 24 the FIA put out a press statement announcing that a deal had been struck by the interested parties in F1. This had been rubber-stamped by the FIA World Council. The details were sketchy but it was clear who wanted what and what had been agreed. The World Council’s credibility was thus at stake. This was their agreement, hammered out in a back room perhaps, but it had gone back to them and they had voted it through.

What was agreed in Paris? And if nothing was actually agreed why did FOTA agree to it and why did the World Council bother to endorse anything?

Today the FIA claimed that the FOTA walked out of a meeting at the Nurburgring.

Not so, says FOTA. The eight teams were informed by the FIA’s Charlie Whiting that, contrary to previous agreements, they are not currently entered into the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship and have no voting rights in relation to the Technical and Sporting Regulations.

So the FIA entry list issued the other day was not true? How does that work? There was enough trouble getting to that point, wasn’t there? I am sure that if I dug around for a Mosley quote about peace and harmony I could find one, but what is the point?

The FOTA teams requested that the meeting be postponed but this was refused on the grounds that no new Concorde Agreement would be permitted before a unanimous approval of the 2010 regulations was achieved. FOTA argues that the basis of the 2010 Technical and Sporting Regulations was already established in Paris, and endorsed by the FIA World Council. The FIA press statement of June 24 said that “the rules for 2010 onwards will be the 2009 regulations as well as further regulations agreed prior to 29 April 2009”. Now it appears that is not the case.

FOTA says that at no point in the Paris discussions was any requirement for unanimous agreement on regulations change expressed.

“To subsequently go against the will of the WMSC and the detail of the Paris agreement puts the future of Formula 1 in jeopardy,” FOTA said. “As a result of these statements, the FOTA representatives at the subsequent Technical Working Group were not able to exercise their rights and therefore had no option other than to terminate their participation.”

FOTA says it undertook the Paris agreement and the subsequent discussions “in good faith and with a desire to engage with all new and existing teams on the future of Formula 1”.

I can hear the real fans screaming “Stop!! Who cares about this shit? What about the racing?”

What about the jobs of those involved in all these teams?

What about the credibility of those involved. This has all gone too far.

One day there are going to be some very colourful obituaries written about these people.

History always gets the final word. Hopefully F1 will not be a thing of a past when those obituaries are written.

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There is more trouble coming between the FIA and FOTA, despite the supposed agreement at the FIA World Council meeting on June 24, when Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone and Luca di Montezemolo were supposed to have agreed to a deal, which was then confirmed by the World Council. The agreement was concluded by the FIA announcing that “in view of this new agreement and with the prospect of a stable future for Formula 1, FIA President Max Mosley has confirmed his decision not to stand for re-election in October this year”. Soon afterwards Mosley indicated that he might change his mind on this as the FIA member clubs want him to stay on. This was viewed as a response to the suggestions that the FIA had lost a major political battle at the World Council. Clearly Mosley’s remarks has not gone down well with the FOTA teams, although they have kept very quiet on the subject in recent days.

According to the latest FIA press statement the F1 teams met with the FIA today to try to agree the details of the rules and regulations that were discused prior to April 29. The FIA says that the eight FOTA teams were invited to discuss their proposals for 2010 but that no discussion was possible because “FOTA walked out of the meeting”. The changes were then agreed by the five FIA teams, subject to the maintenance of a minimum weight at 620 kg and – more importantly – the signing of a legally binding agreement between all the teams competing in 2010 to reduce costs to the level of the early 1990s within two years, as promised by the FOTA representative in Paris on June 24. A gambling man would say that no such thing is going to happen until Mosley confirms his decision not to stand for office in writing. The problem for the teams is that if he chooses not to do that, they are faced with a choice of having to try to build cars to the FIA rules and hope that a deal is done, or go their own way and start their own series. It is now very late to be starting on such an endeavour and thus one must assume that they are hoping that a deal will be done – with Mosley out of the way in October.

Mosley’s position is not as strong as once it was as former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen has declared that he is seriously thinking about standing for office (which means that he is already well into his campaign) and the question now is who is going to support Mosley and who is going to go with Vatanen. The situation is complicated by the FIA rules regarding elections. These state that each candidate must name his World Council team before the election and that no-one can appear on more than one list. This means that anyone who intends to turn against Mosley will have to make their intentions known before the election.

The internecine nature of FIA politics could easily mean that people who appear on Mosley’s list (or Vatanen’s come to that) could have a secret agreement with the other side. One should never forget that Mosley’s predecessor Jean-Marie Balestre went into the 1991 election convinced that he had the support enough delegates to win and was shocked when some of those who had promised their support switched sides and voted for Mosley.

One can only hope that before the election comes around there is a clear indication as to who will win. Once that is established, there will likely be a back room deal so that no-one loses face.

That is the best we can hope for.

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