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!

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