The news that the nine remaining FOTA-aligned teams (Williams excluded) have submitted applications to contest the 2010 F1 championship ahead of the May 29th deadline has been given a warm reception.
But this is not a white flag from FOTA. They are demanding that their teams can compete “on an identical regulatory basis” in 2010 (i.e. not under a ‘two-tier’ rules system), want a new Concorde (commercial) Agreement signed by June 12th and, most significantly, have not accepted the FIA’s demands on budget capping.
This appears to be an attempt to call Mosley’s bluff and dare him to exclude them from the championship. At the same time a small number of new entrants have publicly confirmed they will enter in 2010. So what will happen next?
Among the teams which have declared they will compete under the FIA rules in 2010 are USF1, Lola, Prodrive (later to become Aston Martin) and Campos. Plus, of course, FOTA renegades Williams.
Other racing outfits previously linked with future F1 entries under the new rules, which have not publicly confirmed their plans for next year, include Racing Engineering, Ray Mallock Limited, Formtech, iSport, Epsilon Euskadi, Litespeed and Nick Wirth’s team.
FOTA’s opposition to the FIA’s proposals and, as much as anything else, its method of governance, gets a lot of symnpathy from me. Here’s how Toyota’s John Howett explains it:
We’re all looking to working collaboratively and proactively with the FIA and to really stop all of this political positioning and focusing on improving the sport. That’s what FOTA is really proven to do this year, with more availability of drivers, trying to improve TV coverage, more telemetry data.
We just want to compete on an even playing field, we are all capable of managing our businesses constructively, we’re all open to discuss on how we can integrate new entrants in a professional and correct way. The one thing that’s always missed is that we need to grow the cake and we need to understand how much of the remainder of the revenue is re-invested in the sport.
There are a lot of rumours at the moment that manufacturer teams such as Toyota and Renault will be forced to give up their F1 teams by their boards as the pressures of the recession continue to mount. FOTA’s offer of a commitment from its teams to participate for the next three seasons (until 2012) appears to undermine those rumours.
Viewed at its most pessimistic, this is a situation where the fault lines between two warring factions have cracked further apart. The likelihood of a destructive split in F1 is arguably greater than ever.
But if Mosley thinks FOTA have gone far enough to meet his demands of a long-term commitment to the sport, an easing of F1’s political tensions is in sight.
Either way, now the ball is in Mosley’s court. What will he do?