Friday! Friday! Friday! And every Friday this week! It’s the drag-out smack-down winner-take-all battle between the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (more conveniently known as the FIA) and the Formula One Teams Association (or FOTA for short).
Yes, this very Friday Max Mosley will sit down with the FOTA representatives in a showdown to end all showdowns. The very fate of F1 racing hangs in the balance.
At issue: the 2010 sporting regulations. Good Old Max has implemented a 40-million pound spending cap for next year. I can hear you now, saying “but that’s hardly anything at all, how can anybody run a team on 40-million pounds?” Well, guess what? The budget cap is optional. If you want you can disregard the cap and spend spend spend. But if you do that, you will have to adhere to a much stricter set of rules regarding what you can develop on the car and how you can develop it.
Should your team choose to abide by the spending cap you have much more freedom to play with the car.
In short, you will have some teams playing by one set of rules (the manufacturers who want to spend spend spend) and some teams playing by another set of rules (the budget-conscious privateer teams), leading to a rather unsatisfactory apples to oranges kind of race experience.
Ferrari, Red Bull (and one has to assume Torro Rosso), Toyota, Renault and BMW have all said they will not compete in Formula 1 next year if this two-tiered system remains in place. They will be meeting with Max to try to come to an agreement. If they do not, we could see a very different grid next year. And if Ferrari leaves, I have to think that will be the end of Formula 1 racing.
Everyone seems to be assuming that the FOTA teams will break away from the FIA and form their own racing series. If that is the case then it will be Ferrari vs. Formula 1 and I am pretty sure I know who will win that fight. Ferrari. But I’m not sure starting their own series would be easy, or that they would even do it. In this economic climate I think it’s reasonable to assume some of those teams will just close up shop.
I know many F1 fans out there are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of FOTA walking away and leaving Max and company high and dry. I however am not one of them. I am not a big INDY car fan, so I only know the bare details of the whole INDY-car/CART saga. But even I know enough to know that the split was terrible for American Open Wheel Racing.
Bernie Ecclestone, the commercial rights holder, must be apoplectic right now. I would bet that without Ferrari on the grid it will be very hard to convince the tracks to hand over the multi-mulit-million dollar sanctioning fees he charges. Never mind what it will do to ticket sales and television ratings.
So now we all wait to see who blinks first. This is very stressful for me. I think I need some ice cream.