Thursday, 25 June 2009

Formula One thrown into turmoil once again by Max Mosley

Just a day after a deal was reached between the FIA and FOTA to end the threat of a breakaway championship, the future of Formula 1 has been thrown into jeopardy once again by FIA president Max Mosley who is now saying that his decision to not seek re-election in October now remains open due to what he calls 'deliberate attempts' by FOTA to mislead the media.

Mosley said, in a letter written to the FOTA and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, that the peace deal was reached yesterday after all parties agreed that they believed generally on similar principles and that they will all provide a positive and truthful account to the media. Mosley has reacted angrily to some of the statements made by FOTA on the lines of 'Mosley being forced out of office' and 'FIA Senate president Michel Boeri taking charge until October' and so on. Mosley confirmed that he remains as president of the FIA at least until October, with full authority of that office. Mosley also said that it is up to the FIA member nations, and not FOTA, to decide who is elected as president of world motorsport's governing body. Mosley is furious after FOTA's press briefings and has demanded an apology and correction from the teams, otherwise the deal agreed yesterday may fall through. He is also angry about the fact that some members of the FOTA have apparently called him in the media as a 'dictator', which according to him, is insulting the 26 members of the FIA World Motor Sport Council who all have to agree before bringing in any change in rules and procedures into Formula 1. Mosley also said that the fact that the 122 member nations vote together to elect a president for the FIA shows that it is a very democratic system.

So just when we thought that this long running political saga has been finally put to rest, Max Mosley stirs it up again. The way I see it is the man and his huge ego at work again. While it is quite obvious that pressure from Bernie Ecclestone and CVC Capital Partners forced Mosley to strike a deal with FOTA, the man has too big of an ego to admit that and just move aside for the good of the sport. He will rather be in a position that even if Formula 1 goes down the drain, he has to be seen as the winner against the teams. I personally pray with all my life that whatever happens, Max Mosley does not get re-elected in October. He has done a few good bits for the sport, specially as far as safety is concerned, but this latest action from him just shows that he had his time, and we need a new leader in charge of the FIA now. Hopefully, this situation will be resolved promptly by all sides.

FOTA outline future plans for Formula One

Following a peace resolution struck with the FIA at a World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) meeting on Wednesday, the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) met in Bologna on Thursday to discuss some of their future plans for the sport. After the meeting all the team bosses outlined some of their plans at a press conference.

One thing that FOTA clearly understood from this political row is the value of the fans and the amount of backing all the teams had from the fans. Which is why FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo (from Ferrari), vice-president John Howett (from Toyota) and other FOTA executive members including Nick Fry (from BrawnGP), Christian Horner (from Red Bull Racing), Mario Theissen (from BMW Sauber) and Flavio Briatore (from Renault) all agreed that this row was won neither by FOTA nor the FIA but it was won by Formula 1 and its most valuable asset, the fans. Wednesday's reconciliation was also helped by a sell-out crowd at last weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, because the enthusiasm of the fans caused all parties to re-think what they could be potentially losing had there really been a split. So everyone agreed that this promises to be the start of a new era in Formula 1 that brings stable regulations, guarantee by all the manufacturer teams to stay in the sport for the long term and help the independent teams survive and thrive but most importantly, provide a good show for the fans with the best drivers in the world racing each other in the best and the fastest cars in the world.

Members of the FOTA also demanded for a completely neutral and independent person to take over Max Mosley's role as FIA president. The current president's term expires this October but he has already stepped down from his day to day activities, which between now and October, will be looked after by president of the FIA Senate and the Monaco Automobile Club Michel Boeri. The president is voted in by the 122 member nations of the FIA and although the teams do not have a say in the voting, current president Mosley can provide a recommendation. Some of the potential candidates rumoured to be in the running to replace Mosley's position permanently are Chief Steward (race control) Alan Donnelley, former rally driver Ari Vatanen and former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt. All the teams agree that the post should be taken by someone who does not have any connection with any of the current Formula 1 teams, present or historical. They were of course indirectly talking about Jean Todt's candidacy, although it is all just a rumour. It is worth noting here that Jean Todt was Ferrari's team principal during the time when the legendary Michael Schumacher won his five world titles with Ferrari.

Regarding the regulations for next year, it was agreed that they will stay exactly the way they are for 2009 but the only difference will be that refuelling will be banned and the controversial Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) will also be banned. The refuelling ban was last seen in Formula 1 in the 1980s, and bringing it back means that the cars will need to have significantly larger fuel tanks than they do now and that they will have to last the entire race on one tank of fuel. Pit stops will take place as usual bit will only be used for tyre changes. It was also said that Cosworth, who will be returning to Formula 1 next year after an absence of three years will have to conform to the current engine regulations, which means that just like all the other current engines in use the Cosworth engines will also need to be rev-limited at 18,000 rpm. Max Mosley originally proposed that to ensure their return and help them supply engines to the three new teams next year, Cosworth engines will be allowed to run at 2006 regulations meaning upto 21,000rpm and a higher horsepower than current engines. It will be interesting to see if Cosworth does have the capability to re-tune their engines to meet the new regulations in time for the start of the 2010 season. All three new teams entering next year - USF1, Campos Meta and Manor GP - have pledged to use Cosworth engines for their cars. Although, some people are saying that now that the budget cap has been abolished, it is likely that Manor GP may pull out as they originally were inspired by the £40 million cap. USF1 and Campos Meta, at least for now, seem to be much stronger and genuine entities.

Nick Fry, CEO of Brawn GP, did say that if any one of the three new teams do pull out their entries for next year since the abolishment of the budget cap, some of the other teams that originally applied for next year but had their applications revoked may be invited back in. If there are three new teams on the grid next year, it will mean good news for the manufacturer teams of Ferrari, BMW, Toyota, Renault and Mercedes-Benz as there will be eight teams requiring customer engines.

Some other minor changes in the Sporting Regulations could be introduced next year as well. One of the most important one could be the bringing back of some limited in-season testing. The current in-season testing ban severely restricts a team's ability to catch up after a bad start to the season as new upgrades to the cars cannot be tested out on the track before coming to a Grand Prix weekend. Although the testing ban was introduced to reduce costs, it has not got down well with the teams and the fans. So we could well see the return of test days at Barcelona in April, Silverstone or Donington in June and Monza in August. There could also be changes in regulations regarding wind tunnel use and other cost related aspects. All these will be however defined in due time once the new Concorde agreement, that governs the sport, has been signed by the FIA, FOTA and the commercial rights holder Formula One Management (FOM).

The banning of the highly controversial KERS will be welcomed by most people. The energy recovery system, that captures heat energy during braking and converts it into kinetic energy thus giving the cars an 80bhp boost for about 6.7 seconds per lap, was introduced this season as part of the FIA's initiatives to push the technological boundaries of Formula 1 cars while making them more environmentally friendly. Only 4 of the current teams started the season with KERS fitted on their cars as the running of KERS was left optional in this year's regulations. However, it soon became clear that the extra weight penalty of the KERS system did not leave that much of an advantage from its power boost. This was particularly striking because from the start of the season, all the non-KERS cars were clearly faster than the KERS cars. So once again, the vehicle aerodynamics were proving to be a lot more crucial than anything else to get the best out of Formula 1 cars. Already 2 of the KERS teams have dropped the package for the remainder of the season and are now concentrating developing the aerodynamic sides to their cars rather than concentrating on KERS, which has been known to be unreliable. Only Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes, are still running and will probably do so for the remainder of the season since their cars were designed with KERS in mind, and also the fact that the Ferrari and the Mercedes KERS systems are the best in the field. So that's another area where, thanks to Max Mosley, millions of pounds have been invested unnecessarily at a time when the sport is talking about cost-cutting!

Like I said in my last post, details are now starting to emerge that Bernie Ecclestone and CVC Capital Partners, the company that owns F1's commercial rights, put significant pressure on Max Mosley over the last few days to strike a deal with FOTA and stop them from creating a breakaway championship. One good thing for us fans now is that as part of the FOTA, the teams are really strong and united and hopefully will remain that way in the future. Without a united team front, none of these that have been achieved would have been possible and our beloved Formula 1 will probably have been ruined irreparably. But if you think that all the controversies are now over and everything has been settled and we can all go on enjoying some pure racing for a good couple of years at least, then I have to say that you have not known Formula 1 for very long. Long time hardcore fans will know that the next round of controversies and more political bickering is never too far away in Formula 1, but hopefully it never again gets as bad as it did this time. We are still about two weeks away from the next race weekend when Formula 1 heads off to the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix. Until then, drive safely everyone!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Last minute reconciliation talks between the FIA, FOM and FOTA bring an end to the dispute in Formula One

In an extraordinary meeting at the FIA headquarters in Paris, FIA president Max Mosley, FOM chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari president and FOTA chairman Luca di Montezemolo finally came to a peace agreement to end the dispute that has been threatening to jeopardise the future of Formula 1 in recent days. This meeting took place on Wednesday morning just before a scheduled meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC).

The main points that were agreed upon at the meeting was that all the FOTA teams will commit to the sport at least until 2012; there will be only one Formula One World Championship in 2010 fully governed and authorised by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and no breakaway championship organised by the manufacturers; a new Concorde agreement will be signed by the FIA, FOM and all participating teams that would guarantee clear and stable regulations; the regulations for the next three years will be based on the 2009 regulations only slightly modified to account for cost reductions; there will not be any budget caps but teams will need to bring their costs down to the early 1990's levels by 2011 and that they will be required to help the new entrants next season with engines and chassis development. The FIA president Max Mosley also announced that now the crisis seems to be over, he will not be running for re-election when his term ends in October. Mosley's days in charge of world motorsport's governing body are effectively over because between now and October, he will remain as an honorary president of the FIA and a member of the FIA Senate. His day to day activities will instead be handled by Michel Boeri, president of the FIA Senate and the Monaco automobile club. There are strong rumours going around that the former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt may be a likely candidate to permamently replace Max Mosley.

So the way I see this is the FOTA won this political war, and that for the good of the sport. Now we have the stable regulations that FOTA has always wanted, no fixed budget cap but a systematic implementation of FOTA's proposals to eventually reduce the costs of Formula 1 teams and also a clear change in the dictatorship style of governance that Mosley has been imposing on Formula 1 in recent years. Now we are hoping to see the return of the F1 commission, so that any change in regulation is brought through only after consultation and agreement with all of the teams involved. In simple words, almost all of FOTA's demands have been met and Mosley had to back down on almost all of his fronts. How was that even possible? It is all probably down to some serious pressure on Max Mosley from commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone and CVC Capital Partners. Because they run all the commercial sides of Formula 1, and earn a lot of money in the process, Ecclestone and CVC had a lot to lose if FOTA had gone through with their breakaway plans. For us fans though, it is very good news that Formula 1 will remain as we know it, the pinnacle of world motorsport. On that note it is adios from me but until next time, drive safely!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Sebastian Vettel wins in Silverstone in a hugely dominant weekend for Red Bull Racing

It was 61 years ago in 1948 that on this very Northamptonshire race track, the era of Grand Prix racing officially began and two years later in 1950, the first race of the inaugural FIA Formula 1 World Championship was the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Similarly, there are plenty of other reasons one could find as to why this legendary track is viewed by many as the home of motorsport. Just like in cricket there is the Lord's cricket ground, in football there is the Wembley stadium, in Formula 1 we have Silverstone. Coming into round 8 of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship, it was not a surprise that more than a 100,000 British motorsport fans gathered among a sell-out crowd at Silverstone to cheer for local boys Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. The defending World Champion won this race last year with a brilliant drive in torrential rain. So far this year, the other Briton had been leading the driver's World Championship in his BrawnGP car, and looked hot favourite for what would be Button's first ever home Grand Prix win.

The start of the weekend however wasn't particularly promising for the Brawn team. It was mainly because the Brawn car had been designed in such a way that it is very gentle on the tyres, which means that in extreme hot weather conditions when other cars struggle with graining, the tyres on the BrawnGPs last a lot longer. At the mild temperatures of Northamptonshire though, the BrawnGPs were struggling to get heat into the tyres throughout the weekend. Tyres for Formula 1 cars have to operate within a specific temperature range to give optimum levels of grip, below that range and the tyres will struggle for grip and above the range the tyres will wear out very quickly otherwise known as graining. This temperature range varies from car to car, as different teams' cars have different aerodynamic properties all affecting the balance, grip and downforce of the car. So while the BrawnGPs work better in hot conditions and struggle for grip in milder temperatures, their closest competitor Red Bull Racing's cars work superbly at low temperatures but are known to wear out quickly in hotter weather. On top of that, add the updates that Red Bull brought in for their cars this weekend which include a new nose cone, a new rear diffuser, a new floor and a new wing end plate. All that made the Milton-Keynes based team the favourites to win this race.

So when Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel stormed into pole position in Saturday's Qualifying session, not a lot of people were surprised. His team mate Mark Webber however, only managed 3rd on the starting grid as he was held up a little bit on his last flying lap by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen on the Hangar straight. Local favourite Jenson Button only managed to qualify for 6th position, as a lack of tyre temperature meant he was struggling with understeer and a lack of grip. Although it was not all doom and gloom for the Brackley based team as their other driver Rubens Barrichello qualified on 2nd, alongside Vettel on the front row. Toyota's Jarno Trulli qualified in 4th whereas Williams' Kazuki Nakajima qualified in 5th, his best ever starting position. The two Ferraris of Raikkonen and Massa only managed 9th and 11th.

For Jenson Button to have any chance of a podium finish let alone victory, it was very important that he gets a good start. Although he had a clean getaway, he failed to get past Jarno Trulli within the first lap. Sebastian Vettel in front had a flying start and immediately started to pull away from the rest of the pack at over a second a lap. The two Ferraris, the only cars that ran KERS this weekend as even McLaren decided to run without it, had very good starts as well as within the first few corners they have moved up the grid to 5th and 8th position respectively. But this race was all about Sebastian Vettel, who despite running a heavier fuel load than most of the front runners, was pulling away at over a second a lap faster than anyone else. By the time he pitted on lap 21, he had built up a gap of almost 23 seconds over 2nd placed Rubens Barrichello.

Near the back of the field, in the first stint of the race, there was a very interesting duel between Nick Heidfeld and Lewis Hamilton and between Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso. Heidfeld damaged his front wing a little bit at the start of the race, but despite his team's request he denied to make an early pit stop and stayed on with the damaged wing. He was however understandably struggling for pace, and was feverishly trying to defend his position from current World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Ahead of them, the other BMW of Robert Kubica was holding up Fernando Alonso who despite several attempts, was finding it very hard to overtake the BMW. In the last part of the race, we saw another epic duel but this time between current World Champion Lewis Hamilton and former double World Champion Fernando Alonso. That fight was on for 16th and 17th position, and provided a very good spectacle for the highly enthusiastic local crowds.

One thing that was clear though that a two-stop pit strategy was the way to go here. All the drivers who started lighter than their team-mates finished behind their team-mates. A prime example of this was Ferrari. Raikkonen started with a light fuel load, but due to a lack of overtaking opportunities, he failed to capitalise on that. His Brazilian team mate Massa however, started from 11th with a fuel load heavier than everyone else's in front of him. So while all the front runners went in for their first pit stops, Massa stayed on for a long first stint and coupled with a good race pace for the F60, Massa was up in 2nd by the time he made his first stop in lap 23. Massa eventually finished in 4th position and his team mate in 8th, a pretty remarkable performance from Ferrari seeing both their drivers finish in the points.

When Red Bull Racing's 21 year old German driver Sebastian Vettel took the Chequered Flag on lap 60, the grand stand at Silverstone gave him a standing ovation to congratulate him on his first dry weather victory. It was also the second time this season, the first one being in China, that the Milton Keynes based Red Bull Racing had finished with a one-two position. Behind Mark Webber, BrawnGP's Rubens Barrichello finished in 3rd while his British team mate Jenson Button finished in 6th. The other Briton Lewis Hamilton could only manage 16th, in another dismal weekend for McLaren-Mercedes.

But the day entirely belonged to Sebastian Vettel. When he walked up to the podium, he gave a trademark Schumacher-esque jump to celebrate his victory. It was also a trip down memory lane for someone like me to hear the German national anthem on the podium at Silverstone for the first time since 2004, and back then it was of course played for seven times World Champion the legendary Michael Schumacher. Formula 1 now takes a short break from the on-track action before it returns in three weeks' time at the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix. It will be Sebastian Vettel's home Grand Prix and he will be very eager to continue his winning form in front of his home crowd. Don't miss it but until then, drive safely!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Red Bull dominates both of the Friday practice sessions at Silverstone, as the FIA issues legal threat to 'rebel' teams

Amid all the twists and turns that has been going on in this long running political saga, let us just talk about motor racing for a moment. We have just seen the first and second Free Practice sessions at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, and Red Bull locked out the front row in both practice sessions. Also in both the sessions, it was Red Bull's German driver Sebastian Vettel who posted a quicker time than his Australian team mate Mark Webber.

Red Bull Racing brought a big upgrade package for their cars this weekend which include a new front nose, a new engine cover, some updates to their double-decker diffuser and some other minor aero tweaks. So all eyes were on them to see if they can close the gap with the Championship leaders BrawnGP. The first signs are definitely positive for Red Bull. Although in the second practice the Brawns were no where near the front of the grid, that was possibly more down to the Brawns running a different setup (race configurations, may be) compared to the Red Bulls (they could have been running with qualification setups, thus posting quicker lap times). However, in the first Free Practice session, although the Brawns finished 3rd and 4th just behind the Red Bulls, the Brawns were almost seven to eight-tenths of a second slower. But if we have learned anything from the previous practice sessions so far this weekend, we should know that the practice lap times can be very dubious. So tomorrow's Qualifying session should show us well as to who has got the real pace.

As you can imagine, most people on the paddock were concerned a lot more about F1's future than the actual racing. Journalists were swarming all over FIA president Max Mosley and FOM's Bernie Ecclestone to try and get any answer from them to learn their position on last night's announcement by FOTA to create a breakaway Championship. Although both Mosley and Ecclestone remained tight lipped and all the FIA president said was that they will issue a statement very soon, but that Mr. Mosley would not be talking to journalists. That FIA press release came just as the second Free Practice session came to an end. The press statement said that the FIA is to immediately begin legal proceedings against the team planning to create a breakaway Championship, as these plans amount to breaches of law.

The statement also read: "The actions of FOTA as a whole, and Ferrari in particular, amount to serious violations of law including wilful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari's legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law.

"Preparations for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship continue but publication of the final 2010 entry list will be put on hold while the FIA asserts its legal rights."

So what does this mean? It means that as a final act of desperation, the FIA is trying to force the teams to take part in the FIA Formula One World Championship next year by issuing them legal threats. Is it really possible to force these teams to take part next year against their will? I don't think so. If this legal battle becomes a fight for ego, then FOTA has got the backing of five massive car manufacturers with huge financial resources who can go afford to go on battling in court for months if not years. Formula 1 on the other hand, will probably be bankrupt by then. On top of that, Max Mosley's situation is not helped by the fact that two of the new teams that applied to come in to Formula 1 from next year but were not given initial entries - Prodrive and N. Technology - have now withdrawn their applications as the FIA had kept them on a reserve list, to fill the grid next year in case the manufacturer teams pull out. Now that the big names are setting up their own series next year, these two teams have said that the circumstances in Formula 1 have changed a lot since they originally made the application and that they are not interested any longer to take part in a Formula 1 without the big teams.

To me it looks like Max Mosley's days are seriously numbered now. Either he has to step down from his position as FIA president, or the FOTA teams will successfully set up their own Championship and that will become the real pinnacle of world motorsport. So this is going to be a long weekend at Silverstone and we can safely assume that there will be a lot more statements and counter-statements from both these organisations. Until next time, drive safely everyone!

FOTA teams to launch breakaway championship

Before the the deadline on Friday the 19th of June which was imposed by the FIA for all the FOTA teams to sign up unconditionally for next year, the eight teams within the Formula One Teams' Association met on Thursday night at Renault's headquarters in Enstone. Following a lengthy four hour long meeting, FOTA announced that it is setting up a breakaway championship for next year. The eight members of FOTA - Scuderia Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, BMW Sauber, Toyota, BrawnGP, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso - said that they had grown frustrated with the FIA's stance against the organisation and also the governing body's repeated attempts to divide the teams' association, and because of that the teams had no other choice but to set up their own championship.

The FOTA teams have declined to alter their conditional entries for the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship to ensure that the sport does not lose its fundamental values. FOTA also said that the new Championship will have transparent governance, clear and one set of regulations, encourage more entrants and listen to the wishes of the fans, including offering lower prices for spectators worldwide. According to FOTA, all the major drivers, brands, sponsors, promoters and companies historically associated with the highest level of motorsport will all feature in the new Championship. Earlier in the week many of the current Formula 1 drivers, most of whom are members of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), have voiced their support for FOTA in this political fight between the teams' association and the sport's governing body.

So the race weekend for the final British Grand Prix to be hosted by the Silverstone circuit will be completely overshadowed by this latest twist in this long running political saga. It will be interesting to see if FOTA does actually go ahead with the new Championship because if they do, the FIA will have to bring in lots of third-grade teams to fill up the Formula 1 grid next year. Also all the eight FOTA teams have contracts with their drivers running beyond the current season. So it is safe to say that almost all of the top drivers will follow the FOTA teams out of Formula 1. All this only means that after 60 years of history, Formula 1 will keep going on at least for the short term, but the real pinnacle of world motorsport will clearly be the FOTA run Championship. The first free practice session for the British Grand Prix will be starting in just a few hours' time, so until then drive safely everyone!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

A potential compromise deal between the FIA and FOTA?

After another round of letters yesterday between Formula 1's governing body the FIA, and the teams' association FOTA, it seems as if a compromise deal could be on the cards to end this long political saga that has been going on for weeks. Ever since the FIA published the regulations for 2010 on the 29th of April 2009, the teams have been expressing their grievances over the proposed technical regulations for next year, the controversial budget cap and even the overall governance of the sport. But as the FIA president Max Mosley held his ground firmly, almost all of the current manufacturer backed teams threatened to leave the sport and set up their own championship if the regulations are not changed according to their proposals. The FIA believed that they were doing the right thing to ensure the future stability of the sport in times of a global recession, by restricting the big teams' spending capacity through the introduction of a £40 million budget cap. The teams on the other hand, some of whom spend as much as £400 million a year on their Formula 1 operations, were in no way happy about such a restriction on their spending which would force them to heavily downsize their operations through lots of job cuts, and possibly a much lower spending on research and development of their Formula 1 cars, something that has been the integral part of this sport.

That is what originally created this stand-off betweent the governing body and the teams. When the list of entrants accepted for next year were announced last Friday the 12th of June, five of the current teams - Brawn, McLaren-Mercedes, BMW, Renault and Toyota - were given provisional entries as these teams have applied to enter next year if their conditions are met. The FIA gave these teams a deadline of the 19th of June to remove those conditions and that would ensure that they will be on the grid for next year. However, three of the other FOTA teams - Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso - also entered conditionally for next year, but in spite of that the FIA gave them unconditional entries as these three teams were legally obliged to race in Formula 1 until 2012. Although all eight FOTA teams confirmed their commitment to the teams' association and remained firm saying that they will not take part next year until their conditions are met.

So it was a race against time to come up with a solution before the 19th of June, or risk being left out of the Formula 1 grid next year. That is why FOTA wrote a letter to the FIA president yesterday asking him to agree to a compromise deal and end this political bickering for the interest of the sport and its fans. The FIA president then wrote back to them saying that he would be willing to discuss amendments to the 2010 regulations, only if the teams sign up unconditionally for next year by no later than tomorrow, Friday the 19th of June 2009. Mr. Mosley also said that once the teams have signed up, he would be willing to accept a budget cap of about £80 million next year, provided that it comes down to the originally proposed £40 million figure for 2011. This would give the teams a bit more time to cut down their spendings and restructure their operations. Besides, the FIA president confirmed that all teams will be operating under the same set of regulations for next year and not the two-tier system originally proposed, under which teams not opting for the budget cap would have had a lot more technical restrictions imposed on them compared to the capped teams. However, Mr. Mosley said that engine supplier Cosworth, who will be supplying customer engines to the three new debutant teams next year - Manor GP, Campos GP and USF1 - will be allowed to run their engines in the 2006 specifications. It is worth noting here that Cosworth hasn't taken part in Formula 1 since 2006, when the regulations allowed the engines to be V10 with a maximum rev limit of 20,000 rpm compared to the current V8 engines with maximum revs of 18,000 rpm. Mr. Mosley's reasoning for allowing this advantage to Cosworth is that they did not have the time or the resources to adjust to the changes in regulations due to their absence from Formula 1 over the last couple of years.

So as the Formula 1 paddock heads off to Northamptonshire in England to take part in this weekend's last ever British Grand Prix to be staged at the legendary Silverstone circuit, everyone will be eager to find out if a solution has been reached between FOTA and the FIA so that we can stop talking about politics and get on with the racing. Coming off from the politics, I must mention here that Ferrari are bringing in some more updates for this race which mainly include a new front wing, a lighter KERS system and a new lighter chassis for Felipe Massa. The other Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen has already had a new lighter chassis since Barcelona. As a Ferrari fan, I personally want to see them do well this weekend mainly because after a dismal first half of the season, it's high time that they turned around and also because of the legendary status of the Silverstone circuit. The first ever Grand Prix of the Formula One World Championship in 1950 was held at this very circuit, and on top of that the Scuderia achieved its first ever Grand Prix victory at Silverstone as well in 1951 with Manuel Fangio. So its crucial that Ferrari makes a good last impression at this historic circuit, before the British Grand Prix is taken over by the Donington Park circuit for at least 17 years starting from next year. The race weekend for the British Grand Prix starts tomorrow with Free Practice 1 at 10:00am British Summer Time. UK viewers can watch all three free practice sessions live on the BBC red button service or online on the BBC Sport website. Mind you this is the home Grand Prix of current World Champion Lewis Hamilton and current Championship leader Jenson Button. So the support for the Brits is going to be immense. Stay tuned for all the action this weekend and enjoy every moment of it. Until next time, drive safely everyone!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

FIA confirms budget cap regulations to remain in place for 2010 as originally planned

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) said that its plans for a £40 million budget cap for next year will now go ahead as planned after talks with the representatives from the teams' association FOTA ended without any compromise deal. After a meeting between the FIA president Max Mosley and FOTA representatives on Thursday the 11th of June, it appeared that there have been talks of some kind of a potential compromise deal that could be agreed by both parties. To take those talks further, financial experts on behalf of the FIA met with FOTA representatives again on Monday in London. According to the FIA, that meeting ended without any solution that is agreeable by both parties.

Ever since the FIA announced the new regulations for next year including the controversial budget cap measure, the FOTA teams have been continuously voicing their concerns on the new regulations ruining the spirit and integrity of Formula 1. On top of that, teams have also been concerned about the current governance of the sport and how the governing body have been changing the regulations so drastically without prior consultation with the teams. That is why the teams' umbrella organisation FOTA have been at odds with the FIA and both sides have continuously been in discussions to try and come to a solution to this crisis. Now that this political battle seems to be taking a turn for the worse, talks of a potential breakaway championship - set up by all the current manufacturer teams in Formula 1 - are getting stronger by the minute. In fact Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Mark Webber, writing in his column for the BBC, said that the idea of a breakaway series is very appealing. One of the directors of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), Webber also said that Formula 1 is about the best drivers in the world competing in the best open-wheeled racing cars in the world, but if that cannot happen as the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, it can take place in another form but that will still be the pinnacle of motorsport. What Webber says effectively means that even if the FOTA teams pull out of Formula 1 and set up their rival breakaway championship, the FOTA run series will still be the ultimate prestigious pinnacle of world motorsport rather than a watered down Formula 1.

So it will be interesting to see now how FOTA responds to these developments to this ongoing crisis. The FIA-set deadline for Friday the 19th of June is looming on the five teams that were given conditional entries for next year, and according to the FIA if these teams want to take part in next year's Formula 1 Championship they must withdraw the conditions they put in with their applications. As a reminder, these five teams are Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes, BrawnGP, ING Renault F1, Panasonic Toyota Racing and BMW Sauber F1. Despite the FIA's attempt to split the FOTA by granting the other three FOTA members unconditional entries, the teams remain strong and united. Those three teams which include Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro have all said that in spite of the FIA's unconditional entries, they remain committed to FOTA and will not enter next year's championship if their conditions are not satisfied. FOTA's chairman and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo have consistently said that if this crisis cannot be resolved in the way that FOTA wants, then the teams will lead a breakaway championship. Toyota boss John Howett, who is FOTA's vice-chairman, have also voiced similar opinions regarding the crisis. So everyone will be looking closely at the fate of Formula 1 which now rests in the hands of the FIA and the teams' organisation FOTA. Until next time, safe driving everyone!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Ferrari boss speaks up about the current crisis in Formula 1, while the European carmakers fully back FOTA

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, speaking to reporters in a high profile visit to signal the start of this year's Le Mans 24 hours endurance racing, said on Saturday that this ongoing crisis in F1 is very unfortunate for the sport and the fans as all the political bickering is creating F1 related headlines for all the wrong reasons. Di Montezemolo, who is also the chairman of FOTA, said that there are only two possible solutions to this crisis - either the FIA reforms itself and brings stable governance to the sport, with clear and transparent regulations, or the manufacturer teams lead their own breakaway championship for next year. This came after on Friday evening, the European Car Manufacturer's Association (ACEA) said in a press release that they fully support the stance taken by the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) and that they want to see a change in the governance of F1, so that it brings not only clear and stable regulations but also gets a higher portion of the revenues to the teams rather than the commercial rights holder. The ACEA said that it believes following FOTA's propositions will only ensure stability for the sport, and at the same time will also make sure that Formula 1 retains its integrity. However, if the FIA's stance do not change, the ACEA says that it will fully back FOTA in seeking alternative measures to Formula 1. It is worth noting here that all the manufacturer teams that currently operate in F1 - mainly Ferrari, Toyota, Mclaren-Mercedes, Renault and BMW - have their parent companies as members of the ACEA.

Meanwhile on Friday, FOTA's vice-chairman John Howett, team boss of Panasonic Toyota Racing, also said that if the FIA does not comply with the conditions set out by the teams, they will be looking to set up their own championship. At the same time, as I have said in my previous post already, FOTA also wrote to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) asking them to intervene in this crisis and effectively by-passing Max Mosley, president of the FIA, to try and reach a solution to this crisis. Later on, in a press statement released on its website, FOTA confirmed its position regarding the conditional entries for next year for all eight teams (only excluding the temporarily suspended Williams and Force-India) and that none of them will be taking part until those conditions have been satisfied. FOTA also said that the unity among its members remains stronger than ever before, that they welcome the three new teams into Formula 1 and that they hope to have some constructive discussions with all parties involved to resolve the differences with the FIA. In that same statement, FOTA also said that all this internal politics in our sport is confusing and dismaying the millions of loyal F1 fans, and that it is distracting attention away from the on-track competition and racing, which is what F1 should be all about.

So the situation is pretty clear here, Max Mosley came up with some very controversial rules on his own without consulting any of the teams who make up the sport itself, and because of his ego and hard attitude has taken the sport literally to the edge of the cliff. Now starting from the teams to most of the stakeholders, everyone is challenging the FIA president to back down from this hard stance to ensure the greater good of the sport, which should be the main motive of the governing body anyway! The pressure is on for Mosley, but will he give in? Only time will tell, but as fans, all we want to see is pure Formula 1 racing with all the big teams and the big names racing in some of the best race-tracks around the world, making it the true pinnacle of world motorsport. So much for now and until next time, drive safely everyone!

Friday, 12 June 2009

FIA publishes the list of teams accepted to enter the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship

Formula 1's world governing body the FIA has released the list of teams that have been accepted to enter the Formula 1 World Championship next year. It was eagerly awaited for by everyone, because the recent stand-off between the FIA and the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) regarding the budget cap row and the crisis regarding the sport's governance, meant that the eight FOTA teams submitted conditional entries for next year. Had their entries not been accepted, the Formula 1 grid next year would have only seen two of the current teams taking part, Williams and Force-India both of whom submitted unconditional entries.

As it stands now, that will not be the case. According to the FIA statement released earlier this morning, all of the current teams in Formula 1 have been accepted to enter next year and on top of them three new teams - namely Campos Grand Prix, Manor Grand Prix and US F1 - will be making their debut next season, as the FIA had raised the maximum number of cars allowed on the grid from the current 20 to 26 for next season. But the FIA also states that among the eight FOTA teams, the entries of five teams - namely Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes, BrawnGP, ING Renault F1, Panasonic Toyota Racing and BMW Sauber F1 - remain provisional and will only be made valid if the teams enter unconditionally for next year. Although the other three FOTA teams which include Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso submitted conditional entries as well along with the rest of the FOTA, the FIA said that these three teams are legally obliged to race in Formula 1 until at least 2012 due to an agreement they signed with the FIA and Formula One Management (FOM, the commercial rights holder) back in 2007.

However, all three of these teams, shortly after the FIA press release, have been quick in reiterating their commitment to FOTA and confirming that they will not be taking part next year unless the conditions that were originally attached to their applications are met. The FIA have given the teams until the 19th of June to continue further negotiations and come to a solution with the governing body. Meanwhile, FOTA has written to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) to intervene in the row between FOTA and the FIA, to try and bring a solution to this long running political saga and ensure the future stability of the sport. It is worth mentioning here that the President of the FIA, Max Mosley, had a meeting with the FOTA members yesterday in London to try and bring a last minute solution on the table. That meeting however, ended inconclusively.

The FIA has also stated that it will be in discussions with some of the other new teams that lodged applications to enter Formula 1 next year but are not on the provisional list, should the row with the FOTA fall out leading to the eight current teams withdrawing from the sport. Meanwhile, the three new successful entrants have all said that they will be using Cosworth standard specification customer engines for their cars.

So FOTA has been prompt in reacting to the publication of the 2010 entrants' list, and it will be interesting to see now what their next move is. The good thing is FOTA remains strong and united, and have so far defied all moves by Max Mosley to divide the teams. Will everything be resolved and back to normal in Formula 1 next year, or will the eight FOTA teams actually breakaway and form their own championship? We will find that out within the next few days. Until then, drive safely everyone!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

It's Button and BrawnGP all over again to make the headlines at Istanbul, while the FIA/FOTA crisis gathers pace

So Round 7 of the 2009 FIA Formula 1 World Championship took us to the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey, where one of the most modern circuits on the Formula 1 calendar only hosted its 5th race ever. The inaugural Turkish Grand Prix in 2005 saw Kimi Raikkonen as the winner in his McLaren-Mercedes. Since then, every race on this track has seen the scarlet car of Felipe Massa take the Chequered Flag, making it three out of three wins for the Brazilian on this anti-clockwise circuit. Coming into this weekend, everyone knew that Ferrari are bringing in their first full version of the double-deck diffuser for the F60, and given Massa's great record on this track, it was not a surprise to see many people expecting the Ferrari driver to take pole and possibly victory as well. But that would mean that the runaway Championship leader Jenson Button would need to be stopped first, which in the end would not be the case.

In the practice sessions, it was anything but a surprise to see Williams' Nico Rosberg top the timesheets in Free Practice 1, for the umpteenth time this season. Although McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen did catch everyone's attention by setting the fastest time in Free Practice 2, as did Ferrari's Felipe Massa by posting the best lap time in Free Practice 3. So will we finally get to see a slightly different result in the qualifying sessions, with no Brawn and Red Bull leading the grid? Not really, because reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton could not even go through Q1, and this time it was not due to any crashes or any other mistake, but was purely down to a lack of pace from the MP-4/24. Both the Ferraris did make it through to Q3, but at the death of the qualifying, Jenson Button did another storming lap to take provisional pole, but the Briton was surprised to see himself moved down to 2nd after Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel came home a tenth of a second quicker. So the front two rows for Sunday's starting grid was Vettel from Button from Barrichello from Webber, a Red Bull and BrawnGP lockout. Ferrari's Massa managed P6, while his team mate Raikkonen was just behind him.

So even before the race had started, Massa's chances of making it four out of four at Istanbul were looking increasingly slim. Although to realistically challenge at least for a podium finish, it all depended on getting a clean getaway off the start line, make good use of the KERS, and after that Massa could still have his hopes up because it would be 58 laps round the Istanbul Park circuit, which always offers plenty of overtaking opportunities.

How did the beginning of the race actually go? It went like this - starting from third, BrawnGP's Barrichello once again had a terrible start as his car went into anti-stall and it took him a good couple of seconds to really get going; meanwhile Vettel, Button, Webber, Trulli and Rosberg from 9th all had a great start. Williams's Rosberg particularly had a flying start and within the first few corners, the German driver had managed to overtake both the Ferraris and Renault's Fernando Alonso as well. At the front, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel had a clean getaway, but going through turn 10 on the first lap, he almost lost the rear end of his car a little bit and went wide on the exit. This opportunity was taken up by BrawnGP's Button with both hands as the Briton then took the race lead, and then never looked back for the rest of the afternoon.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa had a decent start, but his Finnish team mate Raikkonen had a pretty poor start. As Raikkonen was then pushing hard over the first few laps to try and make up some of the lost ground, his front wing touched the rear-left tyre of Alonso's Renault while attempting an overtaking move. This meant that Raikkonen had to change his front wing on his first pit stop, and the time it took put him pretty far back when he rejoined the race. Overall, the Ferraris still looked to be lacking a little bit of downforce when compared to the Brawns, the Red Bulls and the Williams.

Most of the cars on the track were on a two-stop strategy for the race, the only exception being Red Bull's Vettel who was on a three-stopper. This was surprising given that once he made that mistake on the first lap, Red Bull could have changed him to a two-stop strategy to try and overtake Button on the pit-stops. Because he started lighter than the Brawn, he made his first pit-stop before Button, so if his team had then put him on a long middle stint, he could have made his last pit-stop after Button's last stop and that would have given the German a chance of victory. But for some reason, Red Bull stuck with his original three-stop strategy, which meant that Mark Webber in the other Red Bull overtook Vettel on strategy and finished one place higher.

While BrawnGP's Jenson Button was in a class of his own up front, his team mate Barrichello was struggling at the back after the poor start. Although Ferrari and McLaren were the only team running KERS this weekend, Barrichello found it really hard to overtake Kovalainen's McLaren, thanks to the wonderful Mercedes KERS system. In the end though, Barrichello could not finish the race because he was also facing a gearbox problem, because of which he could not select 7th gear and was hitting the rev limiter early (Formula 1 cars are limited to 18000rpm this season). So BrawnGP had its first retirement of the season in Turkey.

Another fight in the midfield worth mentioning is the brilliant overtaking manoeuvre by Renault's Piquet on McLaren's Hamilton. Nelson Piquet Jr. had anything but impressed his team boss Flavio Briatore this season, but his overtaking move on defending World Champion Lewis Hamilton was really impressive indeed. It happened just about three laps after Piquet made his pit-stop, so was on fresh tyres that were already up to temperature. Hamilton on the other hand, was on his outlap having made his one and only pit-stop for the race (the McLaren driver was on a one-stop strategy). So the McLaren was fuelled quite heavy and was on new tyres that were not quite up to their operating temperatures yet. So Piquet understandably had more grip and could push harder than Hamilton. Although Hamilton tried to defend aggressively, and held off well all the way until turn 10, but then trying to cover the inside line, Hamilton forced Piquet to go wide over the chicane. The two of them then went almost wheel to wheel before Piquet managed to sneak past on the exit of turn 12. It was a brilliant piece of driving from the young Brazilian.

Apart from these, there wasn't much of a challenge for Button who simply cruised to victory. Red Bull's Webber and Vettel came home in 2nd and 3rd respectively, followed by Jarno Trulli for Toyota. That was a very welcome result for the Stuttgart based Panasonic Toyota Racing, who had a dismal weekend at Monaco. Williams' Nico Rosberg finished in 5th, once again some very crucial points for the legendary marque. Ferrari's Felipe Massa finished in 6th while his team mate Kimi Raikkonen could only manage 9th. So unlike in Barcelona and Monte Carlo, where the Ferraris looked to have some good race-pace, here in Istanbul it was the story of BrawnGP and Red Bull all over again. What was particularly stark in contrast though was the fact that how little overtaking we got to see on a track that is known to provide ample overtaking opportunities. I mean Formula 1 never had lots of overtaking unlike in MotoGP for instance, and its because the cars are designed in such a way that in terms of performance they are very close to each other, and on top of that the aerodynamics of a Formula 1 car makes it stick to the ground due to high downforce and that in turn makes it difficult for the cars behind to overtake due to the turbulent air. But the drastic changes in this year's aerodynamic regulations, coupled with the KERS system, were meant to increase overtaking, or so thought by Max Mosley (President of the FIA) anyway. So if we cannot see cars overtaking in places like Istanbul, what on earth was the point of all that changes in regulations? What was the point of making the teams spend all this money to design the cars conforming to the new regulations - at a time when Mosley keeps talking about cost-cutting - when it would have been much cheaper for the teams to just develop on last year's cars and not have so much of a drastic change in regulations? Only Max Mosley himself can answer that question.

Talking about Mosley, apparently he has written to the eight FOTA teams this weekend asking them to sign up for next year's championship unconditionally, and then the FIA can sit down with all the teams and discuss a possible re-writing of the rules published for next year. Basically the FIA President is saying to the FOTA that 'sign up for next year, and we will change the rules to your liking'. So does that mean we will not see that dreaded budget cap after all? Only time will tell. By the way, I say eight FOTA teams because Force-India have been suspended from the FOTA because of the team breaking ranks and joining Williams in lodging an unconditional entry for next year. FOTA is supposed to reply to Mosley's letter by today, and it will be interesting to see which are the teams that will be on the Formula 1 grid next year, as the FIA will publish the list of accepted entrants for next year on this Friday, the 12th of June.

Meanwhile, it has been rumoured that FOTA is now actively contemplating a breakaway championship if their row with the FIA is not resolved. Some of the media are even saying that FOTA representatives have been in discussion with Dorna Sports, which holds the commercial rights of MotoGP. So next year, will we see Formula 1 as we know it? Or will it be full of teams hardly anyone has ever heard of (apart from Williams and Force-India of course), while our favourite teams with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, BMW, Toyota, BrawnGP and Red Bull arrange and run their own championship? The answer will probably be known on the 12th of June. Until then, it is going to be a very crucial few days for Formula 1. And after that of course, the following weekend Formula 1 returns to Britain for the last ever race at the historic Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire. From next year, the British Grand Prix will be staged at the Donington Park circuit, which is currently being refurbished. Given that the Silverstone race has always been a very special one for British Formula 1 fans, and on top of that this year the Championship is being led by a Briton so far driving for a British team, it is anyone's bet that we will see a sell-out crowd. Guess which supporters we will mostly see among that crowd? It's going to be Jenson Button's fans, cheering for him and his Brackley based team. Until next time, safe driving everyone!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Budget cap crisis seems to be far from over, while former driver Alex Wurz hints a return to F1 as team boss

After all 9 of the current FOTA members submitted a joint but conditional entry for the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship last Friday the 29th of May 2009, everyone thought that the budget cap crisis is coming to a compromising solution from both parties involved. Although now it seems that this crisis is far from over. When I say 9 FOTA members, I am leaving out Williams who were suspended from FOTA early last week when they became the first of the current teams to enter next year's championship, breaking ranks with the rest of the FOTA members.

The big news on Friday was that after all the threats and political posturing, all of the current teams have submitted entries for next year's championship. The only problem was that the 9 FOTA teams submitted some conditions with their entries, which I have already talked about in my last post here. Later on, Ferrari's team principal Stefano Domenicalli clarified their position by saying that if the FIA does not agree to those conditions, the joint entry submitted by all of the 9 FOTA members will be invalidated. In that scenario, Williams will be the only one of the current teams to be taking part in next year's championship. What was not clear on Friday was Ferrari and the others' stance on the budget cap as they seemed to have agreed on a provisional £85 million cap for next year, to be followed by a £40 million cap for 2011. But Mr. Domenicalli has said that the FOTA is not willing to accept any kind of fixed budget caps as they believe that the teams should have the freedom of regulating their own costs, which is backed up by the fact that many of the cost reductions seen this year have been first proposed by the teams and that they have made proposals of even further cost reductions to be made over the next couple of years. Because of that, the FOTA believes that there is no need for a budget cap. Instead the FIA and the FOTA working together to implement several of FOTA's cost reduction proposals will not just ensure stability in the sport, but will also ensure that Formula 1 remains as the pinnacle of world motosport. Mr. Domenicalli said that if the FIA does not agree to their conditions, none of the FOTA teams will be taking part in Formula 1 next year but instead could possibly be looking at other alternatives.

FOTA set the FIA a deadling of the 12th of June, because that is the day that the FIA is supposed to announce the teams taking part in the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship. So that is also the date when we will all find out whether the sport's governing body have caved in to FOTA's demands, or have stood firm on their own ground and in the process causing all but one of the current teams to leave the sport. So that dateline of the 12th of June 2009 could potentially be the day when the FIA wreaks havoc in the world of Formula 1, or brings an end to a political saga that have been damaging the sport in every corner.

Among other news, former Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz, who last raced for Williams in 2007, has confirmed that he intends to return to Formula 1 as team boss of new Austrian outfit Team Superfund, backed by Austrian businessman Christian Baha. Wurz said that Team Superfund has submitted an entry to the FIA for the 2010 World Championship, and plans to use Cosworth customer engines. Team Superfund joins the line of small and new teams such as Prodrive, Lola, Campos Meta Racing, Litespeed GP and USGP Engineering, all or most of whom have been induced by FIA President Max Mosley's controversial and unreasonably low budget cap proposal. But looking back at these new teams, does anyone honestly want to see all these unknown names racing against each other in what is supposedly the ultimate form of motorsport in the world? Or do we want to see the likes of Ferrari, Renault, McLaren, BMW, Toyota and others pushing the technological limits of an open-wheeled racing car and the world's best drivers fighting it out on the track to deliver some truly awesome racing?

So while we head towards Turkey for yet another exciting Grand Prix weekend, all these issues are going to be on everyone's minds as Formula 1 has never been in a more uncertain and unstable situation. Hopefully though, the FIA and specially it's President Max Mosley will come to his senses and realise that it is the teams who should have the greater say in the sport, and that all their proposals are not only reasonable but also ensure the future stability of the sport without watering down the true essence of pure Formula 1 racing. Until next time though, drive safely everyone!