F1 faces split as eight teams break away
By Roger Blitz
Published: June 19 2009 08:32 | Last updated: June 19 2009 09:43
Formula One was plunged into its worst crisis in its 60-year history on Friday after eight teams announced they would set up a rival championship, saying Max Mosley, the head of motorsport’s regulator, had ignored their demands over his controversial budget cap plans and had tried to drive a wedge between them.
The dramatic decision, announced in a lengthy statement from the Formula One Teams Association (Fota) came on the eve of practice for Sunday’s British Grand Prix and a deadline for entries for next year’s championship.
Mr Mosley, president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, demanded a £40m budget cap on teams to prevent what he called a ”financial arms race”. But the plan, which involved two sets of regulations for teams, depending on whether they spent above or below the budget cap, threatened the business models of leading teams such as Ferrari and McLaren.
In its statement, Fota said it had ”genuinely sought compromise” with the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s commercial supremo, against a backdrop of a ”campaign to divide” the Fota members.
”It has become clear, however, the teams cannot continue to compromise on the fundamental values of the sport and have declined to alter their original conditional entries to the 2010 world championship,” Fota said.
Its rival championship would have ”transparent governance” and a single set of regulations, as well as offer ticket prices lower than those in F1.
Fota claimed its series would attract ”the major drivers, stars, brands, sponsors, promoters and companies historically associated with the highest level of motorsport”.
Though many in the sport have reservations about the ability of the teams to run a rival series, few would question how entrenched the positions of the two sides have become.
The negotiations have been plagued by a series of leaks of correspondence between Fota and the FIA and rows over whether or not the teams were already legally committed to next year’s championship.
Fota’s members are Brawn GP, Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, Toyota, BMW Sauber, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. Williams and Force India were thrown out of Fota after they signed unconditional terms with the FIA.
Three new teams will join F1 next year, though several more will now look to fill the gaps left by the Fota members if they follow through with their breakaway plans.
FIA said the deadline for 2010 entries expired on Friday evening and the list for next season would be announced on Saturday.
”We are disappointed but not surprised by Fota’s inability to reach a compromise in the best interests of the sport,” the FIA said in response.
”It is clear that elements within Fota have sought this outcome throughout the prolonged period of negotiation and have not engaged in the discussions in good faith.
“The FIA cannot permit a financial arms race in the championship nor can the FIA allow Fota to dictate the rules of Formula One.” Copyright
The Financial Times Limited 2009