The Formula 1 teams seem to be completely incapable of working together over a long period of time to create and maintain a sensible power base in order to bargain collectively with the Formula One group and the FIA. Back in the early 1980s Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley managed to hold the teams together long enough to win concessions from the FIA but then Ecclestone turned the organisation into his own personal fiefdom and Mosley went off to become the head of the FIA. The teams were left quibbling and unable to make much of an impact. The key, as always in Formula 1, was Ferrari. When it served the Italian team’s purpose to ally with the other teams, it did so but once it had achieved its own goals, it went it own way.
The disbandment of FOTA, announced today, underlines the fact that the teams will always look after their own interests before thinking about the sport as a whole. FOTA began life back in 2008, proposed by Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo. At the time he was trying to create a union of the teams to gain as much as possible in negotiations relating to a new Concorde Agreement and to stop the FIA (which at that point was working hand in hand with the Formula One group) from forcing through rule changes that the teams did not want. The teams worked towards increasing the the stability, sustainability, substance and show of Formula 1 and did some useful work, notably talking to the fans – a radical idea in the self-serving world of F1.
In the end, however, Ferrari did what it always does and in December 2011, faced with disputes over the Resource Restriction Agreement, decided to split from FOTA, with Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Sauber (a Ferrari customer) following. Ferrari then did its own deal with the Formula One group, leaving the other teams to scramble for whatever deals they could get. FOTA was seriously damaged but it was kept alive by the enthusiasm of Martin Whitmarsh to build a better Formula 1. Once Whitmarsh was out of the way at McLaren, however, there was no-one willing or able to take the lead. The disbandment comes because the remaining FOTA members had “re-evaluated their requirements in the face of a changing political and commercial landscape in Formula 1”. What this means is that there was no reason to work together any longer as cost control is now a subject which the FIA says it will deal with. Whether this will be possible is an entirely different matter and if the federation goes for too stringent cuts it is entirely possible, given the nature of F1, that the entire cycle will begin again with a new team organisation to control the federation and to negotiate with the Formula One group for the next Concorde Agreement, which will need to be sorted out in around 2020.