Is It Formula 1, Or Is It FOTA 1?

Sam HeganCorrespondent IJune 24, 2009

NORTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 21:  F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is seen in the paddock before the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone on June 21, 2009 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Do professional sports ever learn? When the NFL refused to negotiate with their players during the 1982 season, a player boycott happened that really hurt the sport of pro football. The game itself suffered because players and the team owners could not come to some sort of agreement.

It took a few years before it won back the fans that felt so disenfranchised by the league and the highly overpaid players. If the first walkout didn’t teach anyone how bad things could get between the sport and the fans, they walked off again during the 1987 season.

The owner decided to break the union boycott by using replacement players. The season was a failure and a farce for the NFL and its fans. Now the NFL and Formula one aren’t the same thing, but the FIA and the Formula 1 series has threatened to replace any team that breaks away with replacements for next season. When will these people learn that such stunts only hurt the sport and then eventually them?

Until the 80s USAC ruled open wheeled racing in the United States. Then team owners had a problem with rules and the management of the series. The best teams walked away and formed the Championship Auto Racing Teams, CART. Champ car open wheel racing hasn’t recovered yet.

Last year the two struggling series again negotiated and finally came to a tentative agreement to recombine into one series. Their biggest problem will be to win the old fans back to merge with the new fans.

Apart neither series accomplished anything near the popularity they had before the breakup. So why doesn’t Formula 1 look at American open wheeled racing as an example as what not to do?

As I understand the situation, new rules pertaining to a cap on expenses are the main objection from the Formula One Teams Association, FOTA. If that is the main difficulty, why don’t the FIA and Formula 1 rescind the rule?

FIA head Max Mosley have offered a compromise yet it has been rejected by FOTA. I dug a little deeper and the problems that exist are more between Mosley, Formula 1 Series management head Bernie Ecclestone, and FOTA. The cap rule was only the spark that ignited FOTA’s expressed desire for both FIA and Formula 1 management to resign.

This week will tell the tale if we have one world open wheel series or we will have two. FOTA has already released a tentative schedule for next season that includes tracks here in the US and Canada. F1 left the US in 2007 and Montreal last season. Both had good attendance of over 100,000 fans and many of the team owners questioned why they were excluded from the current schedule.

They have also questioned why F1 will keep Bahrain, China, and Turkey. These venues have non-paying crowds or are virtually unfilled. The new FOTA venues will include ignored countries that have asked for a race and venues that F1 has left, or are leaving this season such as Silverstone, United Kingdom. They include the following places and dates as reported by Yahoo Sports.


Provisional FOTA 2010 schedule:

March 3 - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Last hosted F1 in 1998

March21 - Mexico City, Mexico - Last hosted F1 in 1992

April 11 - Jerez, Spain - Last hosted F1 in 1997

April 25 - Portimao, Portugal - Never hosted F1

May 2 - Imola, San Marino - Last hosted F1 in 2006

May23 - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Current F1 host

June 6 - Montreal, Canada - Last hosted F1 in 2008

June 13 - Indianapolis, United States - Last hosted F1 in 2007

July 1 - Silverstone, United Kingdom - Current F1 host

July 25 - Magny-Cours, France - Last hosted F1 in 2008

August 15 - Laustizring, Germany - Never hosted F1

August 29 - Helsinki, Finland - Never hosted F1

September 12 - Monza, Italy - Current F1 host

September 26 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Current F1 host

October 10 - Marina Bay, Singapore - Current F1 host

October 24 - Suzuka, Japan - Last hosted F1 in 2006

November 8 - Adelaide or Surfers' Paradise, Australia - Last hosted F1 in 1995/Never hosted F1

FOTA wants both Ecclestone and Mosley to resign. Both are strongly entrenched and it doesn’t look like either will leave. FOTA is also looking for a new Concord agreement between the teams and F1 management over how revenues for the races will be divided.

The FIA’s expressed goals are to reduce expenses and allow new teams to enter the series. Ecclestone is the author of this idea and along with his control how this will finally effect F1 is to be seen.

How it could affect such series as IRL, NASCAR is another question. Both may get a new group of former F1 drivers trying to enter them, or they may lose their better drivers when F1 attempt to fill their grids with the new teams. As of this time, there are more questions than answers.