Formula One: Rien ne va plus

Formula One: Rien ne va plus

Rien ne va plus No further bets please, teams and wannabe teams can no longer submit their entry for the FIA Formula One 2010 championship. All we can do now is wait until June 12 when the FIA will reveal which teams have been selected for the...


Rien ne va plus

No further bets please, teams and wannabe teams can no longer submit their entry for the FIA Formula One 2010 championship. All we can do now is wait until June 12 when the FIA will reveal which teams have been selected for the 2010 season.

Rien ne va plus, the deadline for the 2010 entry has expired.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Williams F1 is the only team of the existing teams who submitted an 'unconditional' entry for next year's championship. Last week Williams CEO Adam Parr announced they had submitted their entry for the 2010 championship to the FIA, but as Parr stated, this does not mean Williams doesn't support the demands of the FOTA any longer. Unfortunately, Williams doesn't have to support the FOTA at all for the time being, as a reward for their solo action, the FOTA temporarily suspended the Williams F1 team from their organisation. Frank Williams said he regretted the FOTA decision, but said his team has contracts with FIA and FOM until the end of 2012, and therefore had no other choice than to enter the 2010 season.

Last Friday the existing FOTA teams, minus the suspended Williams team, have also send their conditional entry for the 2010 season to the FIA. In this case, 'conditional' means that the teams agreed to join if they can operate under the 2009 regulations, and therefore once again refuse to submit to any FIA imposed budget cap. The nine dissident teams also want a new Concorde Agreement signed before June 12, and after that they are prepared to commit to Formula One until the end of 2012.

New F1 teams are already waiting in the wings, sofar USF1, Campos Racing, Prodrive, March, Litespeed, Lola and Superfund have confirmed they have send the necessary paperwork for the 2010 championship to the FIA. Although the FOTA also stated they would help newcomers, some team principals have recently made not so very flattering remarks about those newcomers. Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo said these new teams would turn Formula One into a GP3 like series and Renault's Flavio Briatore said they would devalue Formula One and hurt its prestige. Well, gentlemen, I would like to remind both of you that after six races in 2009, your 'prestigious' teams have sofar delivered little more than GP3 like results, so look who's talking.

So, what are the possibilities for the 2010 season? To speculate about this, we first should determine who the players at the Formula One roulette table are. The foremost players are the "triple F" players, the governing body FIA, the FOTA teams association and the FOM, the commercial rights holder. But let us not forget the circuits, the sponsors, the media and the Formula One fans, they also play an important part in this game. Unfortunately they are not organized like the triple F players are, perhaps they should consider doing so, it would make them a lot stronger, and make it easier to defend their interests. Let's take a closer look at all the players at our roulette table.

The players

The FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), the governing body, presided by Max Mosley since 1993.The FIA provides the rules and the technical regulations for Formula One, and are responsible for enforcing the regulations. The FIA is not a financially independent organisation, they get a lot of money from the FOM organisation, they are so to speak, a player receiving money from F1, but they don't bring any money to F1 themselves. Without the money from F1 (and also from other motorsports), the FIA would probably not exist.

Luca di Montezemolo, chairman of the FOTA organisation.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The FOTA (Formula One Teams Association), was founded at a meeting in Maranello, Italy on July 29 2008 and the current president is Luca di Montezemolo Its primary task was to negotiate a new Concorde Agreement on behalve of the teams, but today, negotiating the new 2010 rules and budget cap with the FIA has become their priority. As you can imagine, teams who compete in Formula One play the most important role in this game. The teams build the cars, employ the designers and drivers, and provide us with exiting F1 races, and thus are the reason why F1 is such a popular and highly profitable sport. Financially, the teams depend on sponsor monies, and their share of the Formula One revenues. Without that money, even big manufacturers like Ferrari, Toyota, Renault and BMW would not survive.

The FOM (Formula One Management), is the F1 commercial rights holder. This means they are the treasurer of Formula One, they receive money from circuits hosting a Formula One race and get a share of the ticket sales, money from the media, television networks and also from selling all kinds of F1 merchandising and racing memorabilia. And believe me, Formula One is big business. And when we talk about Formula One and money, the name Bernie Ecclestone keeps popping up, and he's of course the boss of the FOM organisation.

And last, but certainly not least, we have the circuits, media, TV networks, sponsors and the fans. Without these players, the Formula One commercial rights would be worth nothing. If the fans - for whatever reason - didn't want to watch a Grand Prix anymore, circuits wouldn't host a F1 race, sponsors wouldn't invest money in F1, TV networks would not pay Ecclestone to broadcast a race, and the media wouldn't report about F1 anymore. It is that simple, in any sport for that matter, the fans can make or break the sport. And it all to often appears both FIA and FOM still don't realize that their very existence depends on the popularity of the sport.

The stakes

The privateer teams Williams F1, Force India and Brawn GP, really have no other option than to agree to the new cost cap regulations and race in 2010. Unlike the manufacturers, the core business of the privateers is racing in Formula One, they have no other activities. If they don't race, their very existence is at stake. Williams is sofar the only privateer who agreed to the cost cap regulations for 2010 as defined by the FIA. It seems Brawn GP and Force India try their luck with the FOTA for the time being and have also submitted a conditional entry.

Bernie Ecclestone, still the captain on the FOM ship.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The revenues of Formula One, estimated to be worth over one billion dollar annually, are also at stake. The commercial rights holder FOM will do anything to make sure they won't lose any of the revenues, even if it means Ecclestone and FOM have to invest many millions of dollars to keep Formula One alive. FOM's financial partner CVC has borrowed a lot of money to buy their share of the F1 revenues, if the revenues dramatically decrease, or worse, if the commercial rights would be worth nothing, they can't payback the money they borrowed, and CVC could ultimately go broke.

The existence of Formula One is also at stake. If manufactures would decide to boycott F1, or start their own race series, the question arises whether the public will still be interested in F1. Everyone on this planet knows what Formula One is, it's an institution, the pinnacle of motorsports, with the best drivers and teams there are around. And let's not forget, many thousands of people work, directly or indirectly, in or for Formula One. They could lose their jobs, and for each one of them that would indeed be a personal tragedy.

Max Mosley's term as FIA president expires in October 2009. He wants to be re-elected as FIA president, but if the FIA members are not satisfied with the way Mosley handles the FIA/FOTA stand-off, or worse, if the FIA and FOTA don't find a compromise before October this year, they could decide to vote for another candidate, someone who will perhaps be more successful in striking (future) deals with the triple F players.

The FIA decides

If we take the recent statements made by Max Mosley into account, it seems very unlikely the FIA will accept the conditional entries from the dissident FOTA teams, so the FIA/FOTA stand-off is far from over. Max Mosley is a firm believer in the proposed 2010 budget cap, whether teams like it or not, and has also expressed that Formula One needs new blood. And Mosley is a very determined man, I don't expect him to give up. If Mosley would surrender to the demands of the FOTA, the budget cap would be binned and that would pose another problem.

The new teams have submitted their entry based on the 2010 regulations, including the budget cap. They will probably feel the FIA didn't keep their word, misled or even betrayed them, and could simply withdraw their entry for the 2010 season if the budget cap is not maintained. So the FIA really has no other choice than to impose some sort of a budget cap for all teams.

The FIA and Max Mosley will decide about the future of Formula One.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Should the FIA decide not to accept the entries of the FOTA teams, Mosley would have even more problems, a public relations problem and a financial problem. Most Formula One fans feel it is unthinkable if the sport would lose the existing teams and would continue with just Williams and the new teams. Together they could put 16 cars on the grid, but would that really be a Formula One competition?

We should also keep in mind that circuits pay many millions of dollars to host a Grand Prix, TV stations pay many millions of dollars to broadcast the event, and sponsors want to see their money is well spent. It is even possible they want their money back, and will sue Ecclestone and FOM for every penny they have if the FIA doesn’t succeed in attracting enough serious candidates for the 2010 season. On the other hand, some of the FOTA teams also have contracts with FOM, and they can be sure Bernie Ecclestone will remind them of their obligations when the time has come.

So, there is really one option for all the parties involved, and that is to negotiate the new 2010 rules and the budget cap. All parties, including the new teams, should sit around the table and talk until they find a compromise which is acceptable for all parties. The budget cap could be introduced using a 'glide path', for example 80 million in 2010, 60 million in 2011 and ending with 40 million in 2012. Both Ecclestone and Mosley have recently said they were prepared to bin the two-tier regulations if all parties would agree to a cost cap of some sort. They have plenty of time to achieve this, they have almost nine months before the 2010 season starts.

There are a few things that would help Formula One's future. Formula One needs stable regulations, the unprecedented changes in the 2009 regulations and the introduction of KERS, didn't really contribute to the cost capping measures the FIA had in mind. All teams had to design a car from scratch to meet the new 2009 technical regulations. If the FIA wouldn't change the rules every year or so, teams could concentrate on developing their car. Unfortunately the refuelling ban in 2010 could again force teams to design a new car.

Ross Brawn, very successful as a designer in 2009.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Formula One has been the pinnacle of motorsport for the last 59 years, and it should stay that way. Introducing standard engines, gearboxes, KERS devices, chassis' and wings might help to overcome the financial problems in Formula One, but at the same time would make it not very interesting from a designers point of view. If Formula One wants to be the pinnacle of motorsport, there should be enough room in the technical regulations to allow designers to come up with new ideas, of course without spending huge amounts of money. What would Formula One be without Charles Cooper, Colin Chapman, Gordon Murray, Mauro Forghieri, John Barnhard, Harvey Postlethwaite, and more recently Patrick Head, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Sam Michael and Adrian Newey?

The manufacturer teams should be prepared to commit to F1 beyond 2010, but this also depends on the outcome of the negotiations about the new Concorde Agreement. Ferrari threatened to leave F1, but will only do so if the FOTA and FIA fail to find a compromise. And to be honest, although many people believe that F1 needs Ferrari, Ferrari needs F1 just as bad. The legend of Ferrari is not only build around the beautiful sports cars they make, but is also the result of the successes they had in F1.

I already said it in previous comments, more democracy wouldn't hurt Formula One at all, I still believe it is the best way to go. In the future our triple F roulette players should meet on a regular basis, to evaluate the current status of Formula One, and talk about current matters before they become a problem. But above all, they should respect each other, and the bounty would be a trouble free, financially healthy and attractive Formula One competition.

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Luca di Montezemolo , Ross Brawn , Patrick Head , Flavio Briatore , Frank Williams , Bernie Ecclestone , Adrian Newey , Adam Parr
Teams Force India , Williams , Campos Racing , Brawn GP