Thursday, July 09, 2009

FIA and FOTA fall out again

We may all have been a bit premature in celebrating the formula one peace deal announced 2 weeks ago as it has been slowly unravelling ever since. Within two days FIA President Max Mosley decided that he might just stay on as FIA President after all and it's been gently downhill ever since.

The latest development is FOTA, the teams' association, walking out of a technical rules meeting yesterday. The FIA's statement on the subject was short and to the point, suggesting not surprisingly that it was all FOTA's fault.

FOTA's version of events, however, had more detail and, more's to the point, more credible information.

The FIA is saying, as far as I can see, that FOTA are not entered for next year after all, and that if there are to be changes to the regulations in accordance with the Paris deal, then the new teams as well as Force India and Williams, need to agree them. If that is the case, and FOTA were told they had no rights within the meeting then it was a complete waste of their time being there. The FIA might have cast them as the baddies for walking out, but I can see teams' point.

There was certainly no mention that the Paris deal was in any way conditional in the statement issued by the World Motor Sport Council. Nor was there any figment of ambiguity in the entry list.

This all seems to me like an increasingly discredited Max Mosley stirring it. He clearly went back from the WMSC meeting where the deal was struck, got his hatchet out of the cupboard and has been looking for places to bury it ever since.

Is it a coincidence that the entire autosport press are now talking about this new row and not about the allegations about FIA Chief Steward Alan Donnelly, or about the alleged pressure put on new teams to sign up to an engine deal with Cosworth?? It seems completely bizarre that teams such as Lola and Aston Martin saw their bids rejected. Max had certainly been keen on a big deal with Cosworth at the end of last year.

Not for the first time, I wonder if the fact that the management of Formula 1 is exclusively male contributes to the turbulent and often aggressive nature of its decision making process.

Anyway, this drama clearly has some way to play out. We may yet see a breakaway, although I think the teams would possibly be better advised to quietly set about ensuring that if Mosley should stand again in October, that he has credible opposition. The teams can't do that themselves, because unseating Mosley will require a coalition across all levels of FIA regulated motorsport, but they can play their part in securing a new president with a more pragmatic way of doing things.

Ari Vatanen, the former rally driver and MEP, has had his name put in the frame but his path to the presidency against a truculent Mosley will not be easy as the process for re-election strongly favours the incumbent. While the requirement to have 22 Cabinet members is supposedly to ensure no protest candidates (and why should they be outlawed anyway?), it may be that key figures would not be willing to publicly side against an incumbent in such an obvious way in case they have to end up working with him again.

I think that F1 would be better without Mosley in it from now. He appears to be the main obstacle to a lasting peace at the moment.

You have to have some sympathy for Ross Brawn, one of the few consistently reasonable voices in F1, who apparently said in yesterday's meeting to Charlie Whiting, who was delivering the bad news from the FIA "Isn't this all a bit silly. Can't we just get on with it."

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