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!

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