Why FOTA's Tactics of Fear Must Not Win Out in F1 Row

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Why FOTA's Tactics of Fear Must Not Win Out in F1 Row
(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Oh look Formula One seems to be going through a bit of a power struggle, politics in F1 eh there’s a new thing! Now let, me see where are we as of today?

The FIA have published the 2010 entry list containing all the current teams plus three new, the expected entry of the USF1 project, the surprise pick of Manor motorsport and the Spanish Capos Grand Prix. All FOTA teams have made their way on under various conditions here and there and all looks good in the world.

Except of course it’s not that’d be too easy, this is F1, that’s not the way they do their business; FOTA’s members immediately challenged their entries and renewed their threat of a breakaway series if they didn’t get what they wanted.

Now I’m not going to go over all the details of how we arrived at this point (I’m sure many esteemed writers have navigated that particular issue in the past days). What I do intend to do, however, is explain why FOTA’s threat of a breakaway series must be treated with scepticism/contempt as opposed to fear.

Since the list was released on Friday FOTA have issued a statement in which they attempt to align themselves with the F1 fan saying they would fight the ‘crazy rules’ on the fans behalf, I’d be lying if I said this didn’t get to me just slightly.

The idea that somehow a collection of profit motivated car manufactures will somehow protect the sport you and I love is bordering on the obscene.

What makes this worse is the fact they are trying to scare people with the threat of a F1 world without them in it. Of course it would be better for everyone if a resolution could be reached with them in it, but what if it can’t would it be so bad?

I’ve heard Damon Hill recently saying that F1 must prevent Cart/IRL style breakaway, yet I can’t help thinking why? If the Manufacturers want to have a series which has no budgetary constraints let them.

The concept is utter madness not to mention unsustainable, only a few short months ago Honda ditched their entire F1 program because I assume it was not selling enough Civic’s, not to mention the fact that they pulled out at the very point their head designer was sitting on one of the most complete F1 cars in decades.While of course economics played a big role here, indeed we are living in unique times it cannot be disputed that car manufactures will (and always have) ran from F1 as soon as it stops making ‘economic sense’ recession or no recession.

These are not the people you would want as the custodians of Formula One no matter how crazy you might find Max’s latest plan. The last time I counted there were only eight teams in the FOTA group following the suspension of Williams and Force India. So at the very best that leaves the breakaway series with a mighty 16 cars! Now call me naive, but I don’t think General Motors will be rushing to sign up any time soon or any major car manufacturer for that matter, most car manufacturers, as I understand it, are on life support.

The one thing they do not need is to be rushing to sign up to a brand new series sans all F1 history and prestige with the very real prospect that one of them will end up coming last race after race.

There will be no Minardi or Force India to spare their blushes in the breakaway series. How long before those board meetings become a little too much for someone and FOTA’s series falls to 14 cars eh! That’ll really get the public interested, not to mention the fact that their simply won’t be enough seats for the ‘top drivers’ FOTA say its breakaway will attract, what happens then, maybe they’ll switch!

Now on the other side we could end up having a budget restricted F1, OK it’s missing some big manufacturers and even bigger drivers. But what it will consist of is at least 20 cars, operating within some rather free rules so as to aid innovation and create a real design challenge and exciting racing on most existing F1 venues.

It will have Williams a genuine engineering company with a enviable record and lot’s of fresh new teams who will give the sport a energy and vitality that has previously been priced out of Formula One in recent years, perhaps decades.

Not to mention the prospect of Aston Martin and Lotus named entries joining should the split occur, sounding any good yet?

As for the calibre of team, yes it will lack the odd badge at the start, but these people will be real racers, they will not abandon the sport when they are not shifting enough nondescript saloons in some corner of the globe.

For these teams F1 will be a passion like yours and mine as opposed to an expensive marketing opportunity. Manor motorsport are perhaps risking a very successful operation because the idea of F1 holds such appeal and mystique for them. If they were to fail in F1 their top brass would not be reallocated to another part of the motorsport program within some huge company, they would instead likely find themselves out of work, built up via years of passion and graft.

How dare the FOTA teams’ question their and other new teams’ value and worth to F1 in relation to themselves? I know which group of teams seems to speak for me and it’s not the FOTA group.

With regard to driver’s there is plenty of quality out there of that I am sure, but consider this also; Formula One has of late found it hard to retain the interest of some of its more flamboyant drivers.I am thinking particularly of Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve perhaps they would be tempted to return to a series with a slightly softer corporate edge not to mention drivers in the future who may prefer this style of racing, I can think of one current Ferrari driver who would welcome such a step

That is why dear reader I beg you as an F1 enthusiast/Fan/lover, don’t let FOTA scare you that all the good stuff would go with them, for that is what they want.

The F1 world of the '80s and '90s I grew up with did indeed have manufacturers  but  the core was the engineering companies doing it out of sheer passion with a leg up from a works engine supply when the time was right and I can promise you the racing was not bad at all.

It’s not a time to be afraid of what might happen but instead to be excited, it is not either a case of going back in time and stopping progress; it’s a case of creating an environment in which Formula One can exist through future years to be enjoyed by everybody with a will to watch it and to participate, it's this as opposed to a closed shop of automobile manufactures trying to sell road cars off the back of your loyalty and masquerading as passion.

As I finish writing this I have just read that the FIA intends to push on with the budget cap; having failed to reach an agreement yesterday (15th June) with the existing teams. From a personal perspective I hope the FIA does not cave in at the last and I hope you do too.

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