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Just after tensions had seemed to calm in Monte Carlo, the battling Bickersons, also known as the powers of Formula One, are back to their war of words in advance of a June 12 deadline meant to determine the sport's makeup -- teams and rules -- for 2010.
Team principals gathered in Istanbul for Sunday's Grand Prix of Turkey might barely have noticed the grandstands are empty -- holy day in a secular nation notwithstanding -- because they are again embroiled in a standoff with the International Automobile Federation (FIA) over the way forward.
The teams, who formed Formula One Teams Association last year to fight their corner, are opposed to the 2010 introduction of a 40 million pound budget cap even as an optional measure insisted upon by FIA president Max Mosley. Reduced running budgets -- and 40 million ($64 million) is a severe reduction -- would allow new teams to afford to enter the sport. FOTA members want more time to reach that cap, preferably three years.
Once united, the 10 teams currently contesting the sport have lost unity now that first Williams F1 and, on Friday, Force India have declared their intent to race next year. Both those teams have been suspended -- albeit temporarily -- from FOTA. The other eight teams declared their sign-up by the FIA's May 29 deadline to be conditional; they say they will race only if a new Concorde Agreement and a three-year plan to reach the 40 million figure are adopted by June 12.
Mosley says a Concorde Agreement, the confidential governance scheme agreed among the FIA, teams and commercial rights holder Formula One Management, run by Bernie Ecclestone, is a 500-page document that cannot possibly be prepared by June 12. The previous agreement expired at the end of 2007.
Drivers say none of this argy-bargy is good for the sport, nor is running F1 without Ferrari, the trumpiest of cards in FOTA's deck and the team most adamant about the budget cap. At a news conference in Turkey, Toyota motorsport president John Howett, FOTA's No. 2 to chairman -- and Ferrari preisdent -- Luca di Montezemolo, told reporters that FOTA are sorting through scenarios, the most extreme of which would be to boycott FIA proceedings to run a separate series.
"We believe that common sense will prevail," Howett said. "We need to sit down and discuss the next steps."
Mosley, writing a letter to the teams for expected Friday delivery, suggested in remarks to Swiss magazine Motorsport Aktuell that teams not wanting to follow FIA rules could run their own series. Mosley's telling teams they are free to go their own way blows the legal pins from under the reasoning of Williams F1, who cited honoring a contract valid through 2012 for throwing in with the FIA.
Renault boss Flavio Briatore sought to cool the climate by announcing, "It is not a war. We don't want any war."
The Italian said FOTA do not want a war "with Mr. Mosley especially. We don't want a war with Mr. Ecclestone. We want a better Formula One, a better show, and better entertainment. If there is a war, everybody loses."
As many as 10 new outfits are reported to have lodged entries for the 2010 season. They include a US-based start-up, a Spanish Formula Three team, an English F3 team, an Austrian-capitalized team organized by former driver Alex Wurz, F1 veteran David Richards' Prodrive, and teams with familiar F1 names, Lola and March, Mosley's old F1 team.
Another well-known name, Brabham, is at the heart of wranglings over use of the name for an F1 entry. The F1 team started by Australian Jack Brabham was sold to Ecclestone in 1972 and sold on to a Japanese company in 1988. A German businessman bought the team from the Japanese and wants to compete. The Brabham family disagrees. Brabham is a three-time world driving champion, twice with Cooper (1959, 1960) and as the only driver to win the title with a car of his construction (1966), at age 40. He won constructors titles in 1966 and 1967. He was the first Formula One driver to be knighted. All three Brabham sons, Geoffrey, David and Gary, race.