Indycars replacing F1… the real story behind the news

How does one explain the bizarre story that is floating around the Internet at the moment about the majority of the Formula 1 circuits getting together and rejecting Formula 1 racing and doing a deal instead with IndyCar?

You can say it is daft, or you could say that it comes from Ron Walker, who is one of Bernie Ecclestone’s closest allies. It is further tied to Mr E by the fact that it has been reported by his pet website, which he likes because he gets whatever he wants into the public domain, without any hint of analysis of hidden agendas. Mr E brushes the crumbs off his table and the journalist who sits below like a baby bird with his mouth open, swallows everything and then regurgitates it to the fans, with a metaphorical oompah band marching in front of the story.

So let us explain this latest article. It comes from Walker, the race promoter of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, who happens to be Mr Ecclestone’s best buddy and often business partner in countless money-making schemes over the years. These guys are super-clever and spin great plots wherever they go. Walker, for example, seems to have been the man who invented the idea of a Grand Prix on Staten Island, New York, in order to convince Australian political Muppets that they needed to support the race in Albert Park lest a rival big bad city comes along and steals Melbourne’s prime event.

With the likes of Walker and Ecclestone if one hears a bang off to the left, one must look to the right to know what is really happening. They are magicians and manipulators of World Championship standard. What is quite amusing in this scenario is that the idea of organising the circuits into a political force – traditionally rather like trying to herd cats – is also the last thing that Ecclestone wants as there is a very real danger that one day a leader will come along who realises that the race promoters have the real power in the sport, as the owners of the venues are the real owners of the TV rights.

The aim of the IndyCar story appears to be to try to create yet another reason for the F1 engine regulations to be changed in 2014. The goal of this idea, as with the recent kerfuffle with the engine manufacturers, appears to be to create the impression that FIA President Jean Todt is weak and to have him replaced by someone else (read Max Mosley or someone who will be controlled by him). To understand why this is the case one has to go back to the 1970s when Ecclestone and Mosley were team owners and were battling for control of the commercial side of the sport with the FIA.

The main player against them was an eccentric Frenchman called Jean Marie Balestre. Despite their best efforts and undoubted intellect, Balestre managing to thwart their ambitions and the result was a peace treaty called the Concorde Agreement, which defined how the sport would be organised. After that battle was over Ecclestone and Mosley realised that if they wanted real power in the sport in the longterm they needed to control the FIA as well and so Mosley worked his way through the committees, pressed the right flesh and tickled the right egos and was duly elected FIA President. This enabled he and Ecclestone to conclude a deal to lease the commercial rights to Ecclestone for 100 years, at minimal cost to Bernie. After that Ecclestone cashed in his chips and became a billionaire, but retained control of the business by various complicated means. Unfortunately for the two men Mosley’s unusual extra-curricular activities appeared on the front page of the News of the World and demolished his stature as a global politician. He managed to win sufficient support to avoid immediate resignation, but it was clear that he could not stand for election again. The best man available for the job was Jean Todt, who Ecclestone and Mosley felt would be an ally. There has been some disappointment in that he has not been the ally they expected and has agendas of his own. The attitudes have been hardening of late and the impression one gets is that Todt is now the fly in the ointment, which is a problem because of the need to renegotiate the commercial arrangements of the sport in a new Concorde Agreement. Although the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) is making a lot of noise, there are signs elsewhere that the chess pieces are being moved to make that organisation irrelevant and thus the only obstacle in Ecclestone’s way to getting what he wants is Todt, who (ironically) has the right to veto any change of ownership of the F1 commercial rights. This has put him into the firing line.

There are some who feel that the recent debacle over the Bahrain Grand Prix was just such a move. In that circumstance the FIA made the wrong decision to support putting the race back on the F1 calendar. Todt was then hung out to dry when Ecclestone did a rapid U-turn, having previously supported the idea strongly in the World Council meeting. In the end Mosley said sensible things and came out looking good. Todt came out looking weak. This was followed by an Ecclestone-driven move to get the engine rules for 2013 changed by whipping up opposition to the FIA from Ferrari and Mercedes. This bullet was dodged as Todt managed to get everyone to agree to the new idea and thus presented it to the world, with everyone (bar Ecclestone) singing harmoniously from the same song sheet. Using the circuits to stir up further trouble with the engine rules is a rather desperate move, but this is the only issue around at the moment to be exploited.

Students of F1 politics see the hand of Ecclestone in all of this and reckon that the goal is to get Todt out of his position and put Mosley back in. At the same time there are clearly moves afoot to get Flavio Briatore into Ferrari.

When it comes to negotiating the next Concorde Agreement, Ecclestone has a problem if FOTA remains strong and allied (albeit loosely) to the FIA. Mr E has long understood that there are only three elements that really matter in the defining Formula 1: the FIA, the Monaco Grand Prix and Ferrari. The FIA owns the right to use the name Formula One and the right to declare World Champions (which are both of vital importance). One could start a rival GP1 World Series but even if it had Monaco and Ferrari, it would not be as solid as World Championship. It would more likely be like the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when compared to the FIA World Rally Championship. The upshot, however, is that neither F1 nor GP1 would be successful as a split would inevitably result in a mess similar to that which destroyed IndyCar racing in the 1990s and 2000s.

The problem with FOTA is that it only has a real value if Ferrari is involved. Right now FOTA has Ferrari support. It was dreamed up by Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo to counter-balance the power of the FIA and the Formula One group. It was a great idea and seems to be doing at least some of the things that need to be done to ensure that the sport achieves the maximum that it can, rather than the maximum Ecclestone wants. The key question is what will happen when Montezemolo leaves, which is going to happen sooner or later, either when he goes into politics to be the next Italian Prime Minister or is pushed aside by the people who actually own Ferrari. Ferrari ownership is firmly in the hands of Fiat, which is controlled by Exor, which is an vehicle owned by the Agnelli Family. The scions of this clan are John and Lapo Elkann, two of Gianni Agnelli’s grandsons. Montezemolo’s position of power within the Fiat empire has been on the wane for some time. He was chairman of the company from 2004 until April 2010 but was then replaced by John Elkann, although the real power in the company lies with the chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne, who is leading the car company in its bid to create a new force in the automotive industry by merging Fiat with Chrysler. In order to achieve this goal Fiat needs a great deal of money and for that it must turn to the banks of the world, although some of this cash will probably be raised by floating part of Ferrari on the stock exchange.

The signs are that when Montezemolo goes Lapo Elkann will become the chairman of Ferrari. The 33-year-old has had a rather colourful past, tainted by scandals, but in recent times he has become a creative consultant with the Ferrari Styling Centre in Maranello. The Elkanns will be the front men for Fiat and Ferrari and they will no doubt be convinced that Flavio Briatore is the right man to run the competition department in Maranello. Briatore is a staunch Ecclestone ally. The fact that such an appointment would not be good for the sport’s international image does not seem to worry any of those involved. John Elkann is supposed to be the force behind the combined Exor/News Corporation bid for control of the Formula One group, which has been portrayed as a force to counter Ecclestone. Others believe that it is in league with Mr E with the goal of getting CVC Capital out and having the sport controlled by Ecclestone-friendly forces. Some think it could jump either way, depending on who would cut the best deal for Ferrari.

The real power behind the two businesses will be Marchionne, although he will always have to listen carefully to what his bankers tell him to do. I have heard it suggested that the architect of the Exor/News Corporation idea is a Monaco banker called Marco Piccinini. His father Arnaldo was an electrical appliance billionaire who sold his empire and went into banking. In 1977 Marco Piccinini was thrust into the limelight by Ferrari when he was appointed sporting director of the team. It was always assumed that this appointment was based on the fact that Piccinini money financed Ferrari’s expanding automobile business. He would remain in charge of the F1 team until Enzo Ferrari’s death in 1988 and was the third architect of the Concorde Agreement with Ecclestone and Mosley. He has been on the board of Ferrari SpA since 1983 and thanks to Mosley became FIA Deputy President (Sport) between 1998 and 2008. For a period he was also deputy chief executive officer of FOA and FOM, working with Ecclestone. Since 1981 he has been a member of the board of the Automobile Club de Monaco, the organiser of the Monaco Grand Prix, and from 1998 until 2009 was on the board of the Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), the resort and luxury hotel operator on Monaco. Piccinini and his financial friends at Mediobanca and other financial institutions, have long been loaning money to Ferrari and Fiat, indeed they have owned shares of both businesses whenever that was deemed necessary. In January this year Piccinini was appointed Minister of Finance in Monaco. At the same time it is probably not a coincidence that Piccinini’s longtime assistant Pierpaolo Gardella went to work for Ecclestone in London at the same moment.

Money is power and thus it would be fair to say that the only way that FOTA can really compete with such financial muscle is if it is able to raise more money than Exor/News Corporation and buy the shares owned by CVC Capital Partners – and in the current financial climate that is not going to be easy. They might try to convince CVC to work with them with a different fund in the future, but that would be expensive. The other way that the plan can be stopped is if the FIA vetoes a change of control… which takes us back to where we started.

116 thoughts on “Indycars replacing F1… the real story behind the news

  1. This is exactly the reason I like this blog… Investigative journalism and Ecclestone BS debunking… I sometimes think you’ve got the business model wrong, you should give away GP+ and charge for the blog 😉 Great piece !

  2. Great piece Joe, but there’s still a question to be addressed.
    The Ecclestone / Todd imbroglio aside, would it not be a good thing for the circuit owners, either through Walker or whomever or by whatever means, to show some muscle and take on the power brokers as a means of getting a decent return for their efforts?
    Things can’t go on the way they are.
    If this causes an almighty disruption, and a few circuits drop out of the calendar for a while, would it really matter?
    Surely, long term health of F1 is the great concern?
    The Australian Grand Prix is on the slippery slope to oblivion because of costs and – you may not like this – but if the spectacle is muted via yappy engines, the declining attendance will turn into a stampede for the gates.
    Can’t anyone grasp the bleedin’ obvious?
    The game [won’t call it a sport] is in crisis.

  3. Wow, I hope you allow swearing in here Joe, but fffffuucckk, this is an awesome blog post… it brings back memories of the threatened split, and how (in my mind) it was just as exciting as some of the on-track F1 action, perhaps even more since this is powered by giant fragile egos and not mechanical things that seem to be predictably and reliably able to go round-and-round a track one after the other nowadays.

  4. Fascinating stuff. There are issues I see with the circuits. Firstly, the differing length of contracts that would be broken for some. Secondly, it’s too convenient with Bahrain that there are now troubles with others.

    There’s an underlying intent from at least one party obviously and my guess is to undermine Todt further but not to remove him. He’s a known quantity and i don’t think Mosley wants to go back to that role (but not necessarily stay out of F1).

    P.S. For reasons unknown the organisation decided to call themselves INDYCAR. IndyCar looked much better and didn’t make them look like an offshoot of NASCAR.

  5. Brilliant! Thank you so much Joe, I’ve never read anything so concise re. the FIA & Bernie’s machinations.

    As you say, clever men have been at the helm for years now – clever but with animal cunning too.

  6. good article , so in the end 2012-2013 ferrari will have new president who will pull flavio to ferari, then ferrari decide to step on side fota , fia or bernie eclestone…?

  7. Yet again another facinating article…..many thanks Joe, seems to me that Hollywood is missing a great theme for a new movie! but would anyone believe it?

  8. Great article Joe, this is one of the best bits of writing I’ve seen from you in a long time.

    I remember back when it was Vatanen vs Todt for the President’s role, a lot of commentators talked about Todt being a lackey for Ecclestone and Mosley. It never made sense to me, because Todt did things very much his own way at Ferrari.

    He acted as a shield from the upper management which allowed his team to get on and do their jobs.

    He’s performing a very similar role at the FIA. The sport is much, much better for it.

    Whatever people think about Todt’s ‘sporting morals’, he is a ruthlessly efficient administrator and has shown to command a lot of loyalty from those he manages. I do wonder if it comes down to it, who the teams would rather deal with. An appropriately ran FIA, or a wide boy partnership with Ecclestone.

    I hope for the good of the sport it is the former.

  9. No matter how boring is Valencia track, the city inspires you. This is a great article by Joe Saward including 3 trademarks of Joe :

    – exclusive news
    – political financial analysis
    – an attack on fellow worthless journalists. This time you used mass destruction weapons and I liked that. You included pet/baby bird/regurgitates in the same paragraph. If words are weapons, that paragraph was a mass destruction weapon.

  10. Great analysis as always Joe. (Unlike the other place.)

    Just one question in all this. Bernie and Max are undoubtedly still close, and Bernie and Flavio are close allies, but doesn’t Max hate Flavio? Does that matter (to Bernie)? Is he just playing them all?

  11. What a joke, who would really believe that Silverstone would junk F1 for Indycar? The wording implies that even the V6 is a deal breaker????? It’ll be 600cc smaller than the new Indycar engine, other than that just the same apart form the F1 side being just superior in technological terms. Walker even says “it must be 18,000rpm? It was lower than that for most of the 90’s and things sounded great, plus there is no way Indycar will get anywhere close to that and will likely end up lower than anything F1 go for.

  12. If Max and Flav get back into positions of power within the sport then I think I’ll stop following F1. Since they’ve been on the sidelines things have been so much better.
    I really wish Bernie would retire too. I know that will never happen and that he’ll only relinquish power when he goes to the big pile of cash in the sky, but I’m not going to wish that on him.

  13. Fascinating article, Joe. Absolutely riveting. Such are Ecclestone and Co’s machinations, I imagine you had to lie down in a darkened room after piecing this together. Truly, even if you had John le Carré scripting, you couldn’t make this up.

    The longer he is around, the more I wonder about Ecllestone’s line of succession, business-wise. Do you have any knowledge or ideas on this?

  14. An interesting article about the ongoing machinations of F1 politics. I wasn’t far Todt by any means during the FIA elections but I have to admit he’s done a good job so far and steered an apparently independent path. By and large, you have to take your hat off to Ecclestone and (a lesser dgree) Mosley for making F1 (for good and bad) what it is now, but there comes a time when they need to wind their necks in. Mosley, with his transparent hatred for McLaren and Ron Dennis in particular was beginning to treat the FIA as his personal little courthouse and for all his strengths, Bernie’s comments about the Germans, women, etc. didn’t cultivate the right impression.

    The irony is that if Bernie wanted to cut the FIA out of F1, he could have easily done so by siding with FOTA at the height of the Max-gate scandal (ooh, I almost said ‘Nazi-gate’ there, that of course would be a mistake). Clearly his loyalty to Max outweighed his commercial ambition, which in a way is admirable, but just goes to illustrate what a bizarre man he is (they both are!).

    Max coming back to the FIA would be a complete disaster, and to be honest, I think its time Bernie hung up his grey shirt too.

  15. Fascinating read Joe, the perfect antidote to rain delays at Wimbledon!

    I’m always intrigued but at the same time worried by the backstage politics of F1. Rather like the Lotus saga you feel there is one party in it purely to use the sport as a vehicle for its commercial interests and another who is in it purely for the sake of being involved – with a sensible view of the commercial opportunities of course. I feel that the FIA and the teams should ideally fall in the latter category, and that naturally they should resist Mr E and his cohorts – especially when those cohorts number Briatore and Montezemelo who both have more power than sense in my view.

  16. Bernie is in his 80’s and it seems it’s hard for him to notice how his old tricks are clear to everybody. Both his position change on Bahrain & this IndyCar stupidity were clear as daylight.
    The big problem for him is that the sale of F1 is kind of a public topic and there are plenty of richer people or companies, so they might have different plans that might suit CVC a lot more than Bernie’s little games. It’s in the interest of CVC to be created a bidding war and may be these are people who haven’t liked what they saw when they went into the Paddock 😉

  17. Problem with this article is that I have much more questions after than before !

    – LdM doesn’t give a bip about FOTA. He left presidency to Whitmarsh as soon as he get rid of Mosley. Where I disagree with you is that Mosley didn’t leave because of BSDM gate, but because he wanted to impose harsh resource restriction to the teams & LdM in particular was determined to see his head roll.
    On his political ambitions, LdM doesn’t look to have enough momentum to consider council presidency. So he’s likely to want to stay at Ferrari. But you suggest that LdM is no longer strong within the Exor group. Is he completely out of the Exo/NewsCorp consortium plan ? Can he loose Ferrari presidency despite his aura & see it handed to Briatore ? I somehow doubt it but it wouldn’t be the 1st time I would be surprised.

    – Mosley granted Ferrari a veto. Is that veto still available & if yes what does it concern ?

    – I need your clarifications Joe. What Todt wants for FIA is more money, isn’t it. He already mentioned that & hinted that he might ask the teams for that money & the teams would have to get it from Bernie. If problem was only money Bernie can afford to give the FIA some in exchange of full control of that veto.

    – Bernie as you said wants to control to whom CVC can sell because this way he can sell only to his future partners. The veto available to the FIA is available to the world council or to the FIA president ?

    – If Bernie sells to the consortium, I hardly see how he can keep control. Those partners are of a different caliber. Exor/Ferrari would want to have greater control of the sport. NewsCorp of the medias. Bernie will loose too much power & control and his well rooted dictatorial standards prevent him from going that route.

  18. Joe, do you think Melbourne’s elected politicians give their local race promoter a puzzled stare from time to time? If he’s such a good mate of Bernie’s perhaps they’re wondering why he can’t cut a better deal for the city.

  19. the claim that fans will reject F1 and it’s new, smaller V6 turbos for indycar’s new, smaller V6 turbos is utterly comical

  20. @Elephino

    Aside from the point of the article, INDYCAR is reference to the organising body that comprises the IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and the Mazda Road to Indy package.

  21. Great Read, thanks.

    Got a comment on the timing? This sort of stuff always seems to hot up just before the British GP.

  22. Hi Joe,

    That was a wonderful read. Loved every bit of it!

    I am wondering though, Does Bernie like you?

  23. A split is never the answer and these politics have been played since 1977 when FOCA changed from being a loose group of team owners (Garagista’s as Ferrari called them) to a more cohesive unit under BE. The Austrian Grand Prix in 1979 was the turning point when BE first wrestled TV rights away from promoters. In the past the promoters paid or forget to pay start money and prizemoney to the teams with Ferrari getting the lion’s share. At the time the compromise of the Concord Agreement was the best solution and worked well for ten years. As an un-incorporation it suffered from the in ability to recover withholding tax from the growing TV income so BE created a commercial structure that improved this at the same time creating an asset that he could leverage firstly with the bond issue. In the early days the media paid little attention but the modus operandum has not changed.
    Now the world is more transparent and the improvement of the IOC and the changes that will eventually happen at FIFA are examples of that. The premier category of Motorsport has to change to be relevant to more of the World than just a predominently European audience.

    The question is will it be F1 as we know it or a new organisation. Relevance to the youth of the World is critical otherwise the sport will die with the encumbent generation of team owners. Where are the young turks of the sixties and seventies! Thw drivers are talented but un-inspiring in the way they communicate. The technical developments are relatively miniscule adjustments to a heavily regulated format. We need to allow more technical creativity.
    The reason F1 survives is it is cash cow in an artificially protected enviroment. All potential competition has been vigorously destroyed.

    In this day and age why doesn’t the FIA allow all the members of affiliated clubs vote for its officers. This could be achieved so easily online. It is an archaic organisation that is self-serving to a few chosen people.this is not the way of the World as recent events have shown in the Middle East.

    Someone needs to challenge the established structureso and create a product that the masses want. Maybe a Steve Jobs!

    If the product is good the venues will come but a one make Indycar series is a farcical option!

  24. Sensational insight into what may become of the sport sorry business.. When i next see Ron Walker in Collins st Melbourne i may just ask him the question Are u and bernie destabiseing todt to get Max back as FIA president

  25. Incredible read Joe, thanks. When I first read the news in another publication, the primary thing I noted was that other then stating that they would run Indycars, nothing was mentioned whatsoever about Indycar itself. One would expect something to be reported from IndyCar C.E.O. Randy Bernard in a piece that involves his series. This was clear that it was the typical rattling of sabers that one has seen in the past, over the years from Ferrari. They have always used the “IndyCar Card” when attempting to move things in their direction, to the point that they actually built an Indy Car (but never raced it) a decade or two back. Mr. E and Walker have decided to learn from Maranello’s learned lead. I realized that the piece I had read was a farce. Too many things just didn’t fit (IndyCar adding 17 races to their schedule, Dallara suddenly having to build twice as many new cars, the Concord Agreement being violated… the list goes on and on). However, your piece Joe, puts it all into logical perspective. Thank you. Excellent work!

  26. @Elephino

    The IRL changed their name to Indycar because that is what they were called when the series was successful in the early 90s. It reminds everyone that these are the cars that race in the Indianapolis 500 which is the only real asset the series has.

    The race last weekend was deemed a “success” because it sold out all 30,00 seats and the TV ratings were up 35%(up to 400,000 households.) The series probably lost money on this.

    Indycar is in huge trouble and is not the answer to anyone’s problems. They have a good leader in place but as the current cars are slow crapwagons and the next cars are being built by Dellara due to the owner’s daughter having an internship at the firm when the contract was given out.

  27. Leigh

    Any deal would be with INDYCAR and the phrase ‘organising body’ escaped me while writing my earlier response. Would have been useful if it hadn’t 🙂

  28. Money is indeed power. But power, like Tolkien’s fabled golden ring, has a tendency to corrupt and destroy mere mortals. I could care less what happens to the egregiously greedy characters in Bernie’s fable, but I do care what happens to F1. Ironically, no matter how much money you have you can’t really buy the history and tradition that makes F1 what it is is. You can however lose it by just not caring about it. And it seems from this post that none of these characters really give a damn about F1 beyond the money it can make them.

    It may all work out in the end, who knows? But to me, this is just a sad moment for my beloved sport.

  29. If FOTA don’t ask CVC for 75% of F1’s income, the circuits won’t ask FOTA for 30% to allow them to race.

    If FOTA stay at 50%, the circuit ‘union’ will (most probably) fade into the background, but it’ll crop up every now and again, just like FOTA’s breakaway threats, just before the concorde agreement needs signing again.

    The engine talk is just to hang the “FOTA aren’t listening to the fans” statement on … It’s really all about power and money, but then isn’t it always.

    1. Karen,

      I am sure you are right – you obviously have very good connections with Princes Gate – but the idea of a circuit union makes no sense at all unless it is an Ecclestone device, because otherwise they would be going after the whole of the FOM income, rather than money from the F1 teams…. That could be a Pandora’s Box because if they realise that they can work together successfully.

  30. Piotr Misztal

    Indy cars are a spec series, unlike F1, with a main focal point of being cost effective. The brakes alone on an F1 car exceed the entire cost of an Indy Car. F1 of course is the apex of automotive technology, where everything is state of the art. It’s for these reasons alone (plus about 4000 others) that an Indy Car today could never replace an F1 car. Who’s kidding who? Having said that, the current Indy Car has run in the mid-230 mph on the straights at Indy and I don’t know anyone who would call that “slow”. 40,000+ at the race at Iowa, according to C.E.O. Randy Bernard, and lastly Dallara won the contract primarily due to the fact that they agreed to build a factory in Indianapolis.

    1. Chris Rehm,

      A pal of mine says that this is all an obviously idle threat because 2012 IRL engines will be 2.4-litre turbo inline-4s or V6s, producing 550-750hp, depending on the track in question. Being larger capacity than their F1 equivalents, they will either rev less or be blown less hard than F1 engines which yield similar power levels. Either way they will probably make less quantity and less quality noise as a result.

      Why would anyone go to hear them rather than F1?

  31. @Joe

    I agree, it’s a bit like the sponsors group, it doesn’t stack up.

    But there’s something there, but it’s like a duck, there’s a lot going on that you can’t see, but there’s one thing we all know, there’s a big bill for someone.

  32. An excellent article. I subscribed to GP+ on the spot when I’d finished reading. Many thanks for your blog.

  33. Joe, I understand both the new F1 and new IndyCar engines will be limited to 12,000RPM. That being the case, with an F1 engine at 1.6 and the Indy engine at 2.2, I’d have to imagine that the F1 engines will have more boost to compensate. I don’t know the weight difference between the two, but no matter what it is, the F1 brakes are in another stratosphere from the conventional system used on the Indy Car. In a way I think it’s a shame that over the years the cars have drifted so far apart. I recall when McLaren developed the M24 for Indy, from the M23 F1 car and prior to that, Lotus did the same prior.

  34. It’s still not entirely clear to me why Indycar would overnight go from their mainly North American calendar with lots of ovals to a mainly Europe+Asian one with a lot of Tilkedromes and no ovals.

    I don’t doubt Indycar would love to have some of those circuits (e.g. Monaco, Silverstone, Singapore, Monza) but if the circuits are negotiating collectively then presumably they’d want Indycar to race on them collectively.

    Anyway the Pitpass line seems to be that “Indycar” itself is just a smokescreen, an example, and it could be any other alternative to F1. The natural question being, of course, what series would that be? If A1GP were still around, then maybe the circuits could try market themselves with that…but A1GP is as dead as a dodo.

    The Pitpass article therefore seems a bit silly to me, frankly

  35. Blimey, if you dig any deeper, you’ll have to start checking underneath your car each morning . . !

    Or does everyone within ‘the circus’ know this stuff and just avoid falling out with the wrong people?

    Great writing

  36. Fascinating stuff Joe, trying to see where Bernie’s fingers are. (Mostly hidden in pies)

    Will this all be settled before Bernie has to decide to ditch Bahrain? There is no way it is going to turn into a peaceful democracy, or even a peaceful Kingdom, by March next year. It was mooted that Bernie may take his own team of fact finders to Bahrain, but I cannot see that any different result would ensue, since any trouble makers would have disappeared or be unavailable to interview. The only thing that might be of significance was if he went with a list of the missing Bahrain track officials (who must be known to the FIA) and journalists (who must be known in your community) and told the Bahranis to produce all of them in good health to be interviewed in private. I suspect that we shall not see another Bahrain GP. No doubt Bernie will force the decision on to someone else again, noting that this time it was merely a matter of dates and the F1 calendar and not a word of ethics involved.

    I had always thought that FOTA was a direct successor to FOCA.

    Did the Indycar rumour have anything to do with Austin not wanting to pay the Bernie fee out of the state funds?

    If an alternative championship should be organised outside the FIA then would not the FIA sell the rights? (eventually)

    1. rpaco,

      Bahrain is a problem that will come up again in about January next year.
      FOCA did not include Ferrari. FOTA does (for the moment)
      I have no idea why you think Indycar and Austin are related.
      There is no possibility of an alternative championship (everyone is contracted not to organise one until December 31 2012), by which time it is too late to do anything for 2013.

  37. Joe, you wrote:

    “The FIA owns the right to use the name Formula One and the right to declare World Champions”

    Who exactly gave the FIA this (exclusive?) right? Why can’t another sanctioning body use the term “World Championship”? Is it a simple trademark thing?

    Also, while the Indycar story is obviously nonsense, I have often wondered why the F1 circuits don’t team up against FOM… there’s a limited number of them and if they stick together have a lot of power. No F1 without suitable circuits. So why don’t they?

    1. It is trademarked. They own it. It is recognised by everyman and his dog. They do not team up with the circuits because they are too busy taking money off them.

  38. CART use to call their series champion “World Champion”

    “Indycar World Champion”

    I believe all they own the rights to is “Formula 1 World Champion”

  39. Top level journalism is rare from the F1 circus, thanks Joe. The comments from Walker make no sense on so many levels and he must know it. Why is he allowing himself into this game? What’s in it for him? Joe, do you know if his meeting with F1 bigwigs at Valencia really happened?

    Also, Adrian Newey said on the BBC’s excellent F1 Forum that the original four cylinder proposals were only agreed to because Audi promised to enter with these rules. He said Audi have now said they won’t be doing F1 and that is what prompted the move to a V6 layout. Did I miss this episode of the F1 soap opera or is this information (or mis-information?) already out there? I didn’t know Audi were coming or going with any certainty at all, now they are being cited by a very clever fellow as the reason for all this flip-flopping.

    Thanks again for braving the murky waters Joe.

  40. Can you say “red herring”? Any conversation mentioning IndyCar immediately becomes moot and reveals only desperation on the part of those who mention it.

    Even I and my fellow ignorant and dumb Americans don’t watch IndyCar any more. The whole series is a snoozer, far less interesting even than GP3. 25 years ago the mighty battles between the Andrettis, the Unsers, Foyt, and Mears made for great viewing. These days I don’t even watch the Indy 500 any more.

    A mention of NASCAR might perk up the conversation, but (A) they already race 35 weeks a year, and (B) the Good ‘ol Boys would have to figure out how to drive their chrome haulers from Charlotte to, say, Silverstone.

  41. The return of Mosley would be anathema to the sport, but I suspect Max’s ego is pushing in that direction. Having Max as a foil is exactly the kind of cover Bernie seeks.

    Great insights Joe, makes for interesting reading. I guess this kind of content will make you persona non gratis at Bernie’s Xmas party.

  42. i mentioned the circuits union thing to the MD of Silverstone holdings and circuits ltd a number of years ago; in 07 i think it was. you can imagine the response i got. it was short to say the least.

    the power of the whole sport lies with the circuits and teams and not the rights holders (fom / allsport / cvc / fia et al.) But funnily enough a clever man by the name of bernard has them all running scared thinking he has the power.

    One day someone will unionise the circuits and strike a commercial deal with fota. job done.

  43. Great essay Joe. Two things I found particularly interesting: In the past you have been quite conservative in your comments regarding Bernie in fear of libel issues (even editing some of my more colorful responses on certain subjects related to Bernie) and yet in this post you speculate on many things and connect many people by name. Why the newfound boldness? Secondly, I hope and pray for Flav to eventually join Ferrari when Luca moves on to Italian PM. This move would leave no doubt as to Ferrari’s level of disrespect for the “sport” of racing. Reunting Flav with Alonso at Ferrari would complete the triumvirate of slimyness and unethical ethos that will allow me to root even more for their abject failure over a longer period of time. Absolutely freaking perfect !!! Welcome back Flav, right where you belong.

    1. Lon,

      It is not new-found boldness. It has always been like this. You do not know my writing very well.

  44. Thanks a lot joe I feel massively better informed after reading that! One thing I’ve always wondered about,although it’s probably a very silly thiry, but would Bernie ever consider buying the circus back,would he have the capital(especially if he creates enough dissension and drives down the value?!).Or would he be very averse to be the one writing the cheque?

  45. According to law – there IS legal right for anyone to call AnyFormula World Championship, and so on. I should know that, it’s my profession.
    FIA just have rights to “FIA Formula 1 World Championship”, not even for “Formula 1 World Championship”, because this without FIA is free.
    Do not expect that FIA or FOM will be winning in court this sort of case.
    They just pretending that is cast in stone.
    Or, both of them just intimidating by “rights”.
    That wouldn’t go.

    Anyway, excellent article.
    Well done Joe.
    Thank you.
    I always do regard you as top journalist, not just F1 journalist.
    And, I have ALL copies of The Mole.
    Perhaps we will discuss it sometime.

  46. Thanks, Joe, for your knowlege-filled article. I normally do not have a lot of time for F1 politics, preferring to concentrate on the racing, but your post covered a lot of ground, dotted i’s and crossed t’s in just a few paragraphs.

  47. I just hope the FOTA keep together long enough and in line with Todt to get a good deal out of it. The thought of them actually getting the funds in to buy the series sounds interesting, but who knows.

    How do the things Williams Adam Parr was saying lately fit in with this? And what about teams like McLaren and Red Bull and Daimler do they have a chance to be some counterweight in this?

  48. Of course Ferrari once yanked the FIA’s chain (Bernie’s too?) by pretending they were going to do Indycar instead.

    What goes around…

  49. Intriguing article Joe and well researched although ultimately it left me despairing for the “sport” because sooner or later with this amount of politics, deception and sniping going around it will likely unravel dramatically and pull itself under the water. Of course F1 has been treading a tightrope for several years but I just have a gut feeling that in the next five to ten years it will implode and when it does many people will be recalling your wise words above as they analyse the shattered remains of the sport.

    I hope you get some well deserved pats on your back for this blog when you walk into the new media centre at Silverstone next week.

  50. Joe your article is fantastic and i have emailed Barbara at FOTA asking the sporting panel to read it before the forum on thursday so they can answer questions relating to it.
    I do have one problem with the article though: why do you state the following?
    The Elkanns will be the front men for Fiat and Ferrari and THEY WILL NO DOUBT be convinced that Flavio Briatore is the right man to run the competition department in Maranello.
    This seems to be your speculation rather than fact as the rest of the article seems to be based on your musings about Flavios recent visit to Ferrari…
    And by whom?

  51. Really frustrating is all these big wigs speak for F1 fans, and an F1 fan in their interpretation appears as a genue zombie. Whenever the scream of a racing engine arises, a swarm of blockheads condensates around the source, moaning ‘Revvvvz! Revvvz!’. And the ladies, yes.

    I, personally, miss sparks from early nineties, but who asks me?

  52. Fabulous article Joe. I agree with many others – it’s for this type of insight and depth of knowledge that your blog is absolutely compulsory reading every day. May you keep it up for a long time to come.

    It does highlight something which for a long time I’ve never been able to understand – how is it that Bernie can be so full of crap and yet seems to be teflon coated?!
    Read back through his pronouncements on just about any issue over the years – one day he’ll be arguing that black is white (or red or yellow or whatever variation suits him that day) and the very next day he’ll argue that black is black, with barely a twitch, and yet not a single person seems to bring him to task for it!! He goes blithely on as if nothing contradictory has ever been uttered, over and over and over.
    If any other high-ranking business leader or official behaved in this way it would have worn pretty thin long ago and they’d be regarded with the contempt it warranted.
    He may have somehow developed this staggering ‘cult of personality’ but despite what he might have people believe, F1 can, and in future will, be hugely successful without Bernie at the controls.

  53. Re Walker. My Mother always todl me ‘Never trust a Rangger (or ‘Ginger’, if you will).

    Awesome insite. It will indeed be interesting to see how this pans out. While I would have believed the rumour if you replaced the year 2011 with 1993 and the workd INYDCAR with CART, I cannot ever see this happening at this point in time.

  54. Thanks for replying Joe. Perhaps I can use the opportunity to ask something else about the FIA I don’t get:

    Why is it that the FIA has authority over series like A1GP (defunct, I know) or Formula Superleague, but not, for example, Indycar? Last year, Superleague wanted to race on a street course in Beijing, but had to turn it into a non-championship race because the FIA didn’t grant the circuit the right license.

    How can the FIA determine where Superleague can or cannot run? Surely a series that is not sanctioned by FIA can make up their own rules? I always thought the FIA sanctions only their own series, i.e. F1, F2, WRC, FIA GT1 etc. but do they also sanction, for example, Superleague?

    1. Jan,

      The FIA does have jurisdiction over Indycar in certain respect, by way of ACCUS, the FIA umbrella body in the US, of which IndyCar is a member.

  55. Sorry Joe, i understand that these blogs are your forum for expressing your views, i didnt mean how my comment sounded. Just that the rest of the article is very fact based and then this statement just seemed different to the tone of everything else. I guess that what is meant is that Bernie will no doubt try to get Flavio in as sporting director at Ferrari so he can break up FOTA and that also this would be good from Exor to bring in Sky without pesky FOTA banging on about free to air…and mean more money for Bernie. Suprise, suprise.
    Thank you for these incredible and informative blogs.

  56. —————————————————–
    One day someone will unionise the circuits and strike a commercial deal with fota. job done.

    Well that’s not today, as the circuits are opposing FOTA, stating categorically that FOTA are not listening to the fans.

    1. Karen,

      You are getting a little carried away here. The circuits as a group do not exist, so let us not mislead people into thinking that they are.
      I know that this is what FOM wants people to believe, but if you are going to represent the views of FOM, I think you should change your tag from Karen to FOM Lady, or something more suitable.

  57. Yes this will never happen, but I for one would love to see an IndyCar round in Europe again. Terrific racing and affordable tickets. With IndyCar sanctioning costing only 15% of an F1 race, circuits could actually turn a profit even if the crowd was significantly smaller.

  58. to quote Mike Cooper – Blimey, if you dig any deeper, you’ll have to start checking underneath your car each morning . . !

    and what about your paddock pass?

    As lots have said great article.
    I would add two probably naive observations;
    Surely FOTA with or without Ferrari – are the show – their only problem is finding the alternative circuits and organising themselves – which surely cannot be beyond them.
    Formula One may or may not be the ultimate name – but it’s much more the show (and as an aside I’ve always wondered if the current crop of Formula One drivers all driving identical cars (which had sufficiently low aerodynamic force to make passing easier) might not be a better show ( (although A1 GP maybe counters this viewpoint)) – although it might prove some very hyped points very quickly as to the relative merits of them all – which under the present system gives all of us so much amusement and interest in speculating)
    Finally (I know that’s three points!) If Formula One ceases to be free to air it will become even more of a niche sport than it currently is. The BBC does a bloody brilliant job and so far as the UK is concerned in my view Bernie fiddles with this at his peril

  59. Ridiculously interesting article. Unbelievably petulant and immature opening salvo. Please do stick to the former; anyone can bitch and whine like a spoiled child.

  60. Great investigative reseach joe but well we all seem to forget , this is what big buisness is all about, out psyching your parners and convincing your investors on a rocky road possibly to riches, and that is all they care about.Forget the well being of the sport and the fans, they dont come in to the equasion, for mr Eclles its also about on tv is make the sport look good for further investors and how the money pit grows….the more money, more power, but he needs the key people at his disposal, flavio, agnelli family and his old pal max then he needs no one else, todt is old news, he is not an old hand as eclles or as a skilled mover……..

  61. Time to get Ecclestones’ head on the block – who needs him ?

    The teams and the circuits should establish a management body that controls all matters F1.

  62. Machiavelli eat your heart out.

    I know Ferrari is the global force in F1 but is Fiat (combined with Chrysler or not) any sort of power anywhere else?

    And CVC/Ecclestone own a gossamer cobweb of a commercial entity that could implode at any time. The FIA Formula 1 World Championship wouldn’t be anything with just Ferrari and a couple of satellite teams. Thinking down the list, most of the current ones are evolving other business models or could walk away. The more I think about it, the more Ferrari needs everyone else and the more Fiat/Exor needs Ferrari.

    This could get really interesting.

    1. Jessica,

      the point is that it hasn’t imploded. Bernie is an expert at treading the line between profit-making and keeping the sport healthy enough. I guess one would call it good business (ie not klling the goose that lays the golden eggs) but that is not much consolation for those who see what the sport could be with these machinations. Mr E would argue that the sport would be nothing but for him because they would spend their time arguing – and he’s probably right – but those who want a better sport can always hope.

  63. Karen, or FOM lady as you can now be known. So Silverstone for example… they are against FOTA? Not true, as you probably well know. They think that the teams aren’t listening to fans? Are you kidding me? Most of these circuits including silverstone are populated by people that do not know what they are doing. They wouldn’t even know that FOTA have done basic research etc up to this point.

    I wonder quite what your motives are.

  64. Joe, where does Audi fit into all of this?

    With Newey’s recent claim that the i4 engine regs were effectively written to attract Audi, at which point Audi retracted its interest, is there a link somewhere in the background to Audi being a pawn of Bernie’s too?

    Audi seemingly must fit into your theory somehow, otherwise Newey is lying? And if so, then why would he do so?

    This is probably my favourite post of yours over the last 18mths. Sensational!

    1. Fil,

      Obviously Audi does not fit. I don’t know if Adrian’s theories are correct but there is no reason to have made that up. And it is not his style at all. Perhaps that is what the sport was angling for VW (aka Audi) is the obvious big player missing form F1, always has been and getting them on board would have been good. F1 needs to attract more manufacturers.

  65. oh my god… one of the best analysis i ever read…
    thank you for this post…
    this should really be an eye opener to everyone involved in f1.

    and also to those lame BBC journalists…

  66. Intriguing stuff, as ever and you won’t find it on any other F1 website. Great job Joe!

    One question that has always interested me, and it’s been impossible to find an answer to, is what happened to the F1 tv revenues before the concorde agreement was put in place? How did the teams make money before the system we have now (other than sponsorship)?

    Considering the massive interest this column has generated, I think other people would appreciate the info as well 🙂

    1. Ahhijeet,

      The revenues did not really exist. In one or two cases (notably Monaco) the circuits kept the money.

  67. the teams earned their money from starting the race, e.g start money paid by the promoter to the most attractive drivers and teams.

  68. Great article Joe thanks.
    Explains perfectly the machinations and politics in or around F1 and slam dunks the bedroom-bloggers from PP at the same time.

    Keep up the good work!

  69. Great article Joe. I love this blog and want you to know that we love reading what you write!

  70. Joe, revenues didn’t really exist because there was no TV coverage or because the coverage wasn’t worth very much due to low viewing figures? I got the impression that F1 was pretty popular in the UK with Lotus, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart etc. being F1 stars.

  71. Fantastic work Joe. Truly!

    Why do you thing Bernie has started a war with Todt? Even had all the blame for the Bahrain fiasco fallen on Todt, I don’t see how it would have done much more than put some temporary cracks in his facade.

    As it happened, Todt was canny enough to release documents implicating Bernie in much of the Bahrain mess. Clearly, Todt will not be an easy man to bring down, FIA presidents rarely are. I just don’t see Bernie being able to oust him; certainly not in the near term, likely not in the long term.

    As for a Mosley return, it will not and cannot happen. The teams forced him out once, they’ll never allow his return. Just the recent hints of such have probable convinced the teams into putting another “No Mosley” clause into the latest Concorde agreement.

    So why start a war with a man who has a good deal of control over your business interests? Why start that war with a piddly little skirmish that couldn’t have possibly pushed him out?

    Perhaps it was just the first of many coming blows. Though I think it’s a lot more likely Todt will see the back of Bernie than the other way around. One of the two is over 80 and has a closet full of skeletons, the other doesn’t.

  72. Coming late to this due to having been ill the last week or so…

    Superb article Joe, as many have already said. Really really classic Joe Saward investigative journalism of the type I remember from years back, and that you can get absolutely nowhere else. The insight you bring into what’s really going on behind the scenes is unparalleled. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I hope to have enough funds by the end of the year to get a GP+ subscription whether back in employment or not, it’s the least I can do!

  73. What happens when Ecclestone dies? After all, he’s already 80 years old. Must happen sooner or later. How will the balance of power shift then?

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