May 15, 2009

As at the time of writing this article (14th May 2009), the world of motorsport is in total disarray, as the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile – or the FIA – stands fast by its decision to introduce a controversial measure to reduce the cost of F1 for all, by placing an arbitrary cap on the competing teams budget from 2010.

The background to this devastating scenario started when FIA president Max Mosely stated his belief  that there would be a mass exodus of teams from F1 due to the ‘credit crunch’, and started to instigate plans to introduce a fairer and more sustainable way forward for the sport.  Lofty motives indeed, yet the teams, represented by FOCA, do not appear to concur.

There was, and still remains, a general consensus amongst even the larger teams, that measures were needed, not only to weather the impending economic crisis, but to encourage competition and participation in the sport.  However, as the details of Mr Moselys plan unfolded, growing consternation amongst those initially for tighter financial controls, has seemingly turned into outright rebellion, as the teams fear that the new rules will split the field into a two-tier system – a situation nobody supports.

In short, the FIA’s plan for the beginning of the 2010 season, is to place a voluntary spending cap of US $40 million on each team.  Those teams that choose to remain within that guideline, will be rewarded with greater technical freedom.  Certain expenses such as drivers wages, fines and marketing and hospitality will not be subject to the cap.  The FIA’s statement on the controversy is as follows:

“Applications to compete in the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship are to be submitted to the FIA during the period 22-29 May 2009. Teams must state in their application whether they wish to compete under cost-cap regulations.

The maximum number of cars permitted to enter the Championship has been increased to 26, two being entered by each competitor.

The FIA will publish the list of cars and drivers accepted on 12 June 2009, having first notified unsuccessful applicants. “

As it stands today, there are four teams that have stated they will not be submitting applications for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship.  And weighty names they are.
•    Renault
•    Ferrari
•    Red Bull
•    Toyota

Despite the FIA’s determination that these new regulations will be the salvation of F1, many observers, drivers included, are aghast at the idea that Ferrari could leave the sport.  With F1 heavyweights like Renault, Toyota and the rapidly improving Red Bull teams behind them, Mr Mosely’s adherence to his stand, far from saving the sport, is serving to tear the sport apart forever.

The gist of FOTA’s complaints are that, whilst there is a need to agree on the rules that affect the financial future of the sport, it feels that the FIA have adopted these rules without proper consultation, or agreement with the teams that will be beholden to them.  This is born out by the very fact that, with two weeks remaining until applications have to be received, 3 teams are for the cap, 4 are looking like they will not be competing, and the others are generally miffed at what to do.

2010 will come and go, but whether or not F1 will be consigned to the history books, depends largely on what happens in the following fortnight.