Friday, 29 May 2009

All FOTA members submit conditional entries for the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship

According to a statement released by the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) just a few hours ago, all of the current Formula 1 teams have lodged entries to the FIA to enter the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship. Earlier this week on Monday, Williams became the first of the current teams to enter for next year's championship. While the rest of the FOTA members were still planning on what should be their next move on the budget cap standoff between FOTA and the FIA, team AT&T Williams decided to somewhat break ranks with the FOTA and become the first team to enter next year's championship. Team owner Sir Frank Williams argued that he had no other choice because his team's core business is Formula 1, which means that Williams has a big obligation to all its financiers and sponsors. So although most of the other FOTA members understood Williams' reason, they still temporarily suspended Williams from FOTA while they carried out negotiations with the FIA regarding next year's regulation. At the same time, FOTA also warned all its other members that if anyone else broke ranks with the organisation, will also find themselves suspended even if temporarily.

Then on Wednesday, the FOTA members met again in London to plan their next move ahead of the Friday deadline to enter the 2010 Championship. Although not much of a news came out of this meeting, this afternoon FOTA released a statement saying that all its members have jointly submitted entries to the FIA to enter the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship. The statement also said that this entry is conditional and will only hold if the FIA agrees to delay the introduction of a £40 million budget cap at least until 2011, have a budget cap of £85 million for 2010, have one clear set of regulations for all the teams and base the 2010 regulations on this year's regulations and update them according to the FOTA proposals. In return, all the current teams in Formula 1 will sign the Concorde Agreement pledging their commitment to Formula 1 at least until 2012. The FOTA members also said that they realise that in the current economic climate, it is necessary for the sport to cut costs dramatically, and at the same time bring in new teams and give them the chance to succeed. They have all agreed to help any newcomer team in their first year by supplying them cheap parts and also by sharing certain technical information with the new teams. The idea of this is that the new teams, in their first season in Formula 1, can keep up with the existing well established teams and then continue development on their own accord in the following seasons. The FIA have already said that the maximum number of cars on the grid will go up from the current 20 to 26 next year. That makes room for at least three new teams, on top of all the ten current teams. Among several interested parties, five teams have already submitted entries for next year's championship. The FIA will review their applications and choose three teams out of Prodrive, Lola, USGP Engineering, Litespeed GP and Campos Racing.

So after all the political upheavels of the last few weeks, the good news is that this crisis created by the controversial budget cap proposal has finally come to a solution. Although the question remains on the future governance of the sport, because traditionally new rules have been brought in to Formula 1 after consulting with the teams and then reviewing them over through an F1 Commission, before being finally approved by the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC). But recently, the FIA have tried to write its own rules without first consulting with the teams, and that is why the teams want this system of governance to change. What is also interesting is the fact that the President of the FIA, Max Mosley, is up for re-election this summer. So after almost a decade and a half at the helm of world motosport's governing body, it will be interesting to see whether he runs for another term and if not, who takes his place.

Hopefully, the politics have been put behind us now and we can look forward to enjoying more of the on track action in the coming months. Scuderia Ferrari have made a remarkable turnaround after a disastrous start to the season, by finding more than a second a lap of performance within just about 4 weeks. So the Italian marque will be going into Istanbul next week knowing that their future in Formula 1 is secure, the fact that they finally have a car that is able to fight for victories this season and most importantly their biggest motivation will be that Felipe Massa have won all the last three races at Istanbul. If Massa can win it this year as well, he will join a very exclusive drivers' club of winning four or more races consecutively on one track. Only four other drivers- Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher- have accomplished the feat of winning four consecutive races at the same venue. In the entire history of Formula 1, only one driver has been able to win more than four races consecutively at the same track- he is of course the legendary Brazilian Ayrton Senna, who won in Monaco every single year between 1989 and 1993 making it 5 out of 5. Although if current Championship leader Jenson Button can win in Istanbul next weekend, he will have snatched Michael Schumacher's record of best start to a season ever by winning six of the first seven races. In 2002, Schumacher won five of the first six races on his way to win his fifth world title.

So it promises to be a very exciting race next weekend and like I have said, everyone's eyes will be on Ferrari's Felipe Massa and BrawnGP's Jenson Button. Of course Red Bull will be eager to make a come back after their bad weekend at Monaco. Stuttgart based Toyota will also be looking to make some sort of an impression at Istanbul, which hosted its first race in 2005 and is known to be one of the most modern and fastest tracks on the Formula 1 calendar. There has been lots of rumours going around that Toyota might pull out of Formula 1 at the end of the season if the team does not deliver some decent races this year. There has also been rumours of French car giant Renault, following falling sales in their road car division due to the recession, pulling out of Formula 1 at the end of the season as well, although the team could be salvaged by current team principle Flavio Briatore. So the race weekend for the Turkish Grand Prix starts next Friday the 5th of June with first and second free practice sessions. For UK viewers, all three practice sessions will be broadcast on the BBC red button service or the BBC Sport website live from the Istanbul Park Circuit in Turkey. So until then, drive safely everyone!

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