F1 2009: Year of controversy (Part 2)

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Mosley's budget cap demands drove F1 to the brink of destruction

It was the year F1 almost split in two: the summer of 2009 was dominated by the row over budget caps.

When the FIA and the teams finally reached an agreement on reducing costs it briefly seemed F1’s season of scandal might be over. But then came word of some extraordinary allegations from Nelson Piquet Jnr

Budget caps and the FOTA crisis

F1 went into meltdown on the British Grand Prix weekend

Max Mosley’s attempts to force the teams to stick to a spending limit in 2010 briefly threatened to destroy F1 entirely, and ended up costing the FIA president his job.

The F1 teams’ association, formed last year, were almost entirely united in opposition to the budget caps. They also criticised Mosley’s governance of the sport and demanded a greater say in how it is run.

Wiliams and Force India broke ranks to support the FIA. They joined three new entrants, Campos, Manor and USF1, who are set to race in F1 next year.

The FIA selected the trio after inviting new entries to the sport – but there were complaints that only teams that toed the FIA line and agreed to use Cosworth engines were given approval. This row is still going on: yesterday N.Technology’s court case against the FIA was dismissed and another potential entrant – Zoran Stefanovic – has taken action against the governing body via the European Union.

Mosley resorted to increasingly desperate tactics in his efforts to break FOTA’s resolve. At the beginning of June he urged the teams to split from F1 and form a breakaway championship. Two weeks later, on the Friday of the British Grand Prix, it looked as though the teams were going to do just that, as they withdrew their offer to compete in the 2010 championship. A poll on this site showed 83% of fans supported the teams.

At the 11th hour, FOTA and the FIA struck a deal. Mosley agreed not to stand for election again, and to rescind the budget caps proposal, providing the teams agree to much greater cost reductions. Inevitably, Mosley quickly tried to abandon the agreement, firing off a letter to FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo complaining about being referred to as a “dictator” and threatening to go back on his promise to stand down.

Mosley never carried his threat out, but he got his way when it came to choosing a successor. Jean Todt, long favoured by Mosley as the man to take his place, duly won the FIA president election in October, after claims the FIA rigged the election in his favour.

Since the FIA-FOTA deal the loss of BMW and Toyota – and the threatened loss of Renault – has re-opened the debate about whether the teams were quitting F1 over Mosley’ belligerent governance or because they couldn’t justify the expense. Todt has already hinted the budget cap proposal could return.

Budget caps

Ecclestone and Hitler

F1 was back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons after Bernie Ecclestone voiced praise for Adolf Hitler in an interview with The Times:

In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people able to get things done.
Bernie Ecclestone

Ecclestone’s remarks prompted outrage and he eventually retracted them. Martin Sorrell, board member of F1 owners CVC, was among those who criticised Ecclestone:

I am appalled by what he said about Hitler. His comments were disgusting. He issued a full apology after taking advice. Any other CEO in any other business would be gone.
Martin Sorrell

Read more: Ecclestone & Mosley under fire

Singapore scandal

Renault's 2008 Singapoe win was tainted

During the Belgian Grand Prix weekend rumours began to surface in Brazil that recently-fired Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jnr had an explosive story to tell.

The claim that Piquet had crashed on purpose during the previous year’s Singapore Grand Prix – causing a safety car period that helped team mate Fernando Alonso to win – had been voiced jokingly as a conspiracy theory at the time. But that only made the revelation that this really was how Alonso had won the race even more shocking.

The telemetry traces from Piquet’s car made the charges irrefutable, and Renault chose to take the McLaren route of sacking those responsible – in this case Flavio Briatore at Pat Symonds.

The FIA decided that was sufficient to let Renault off without any meaningful punishment. But many were left wondering how the team which had committing one of the worst acts of cheating seen in any sport could be allowed to keep their ill-gotten win and not even suffer a points deduction.

Many suspected the decision was a sop to Renault in an effort to keep them in the sport. But the French team is still considering withdrawing before 2010.

Briatore and Symonds received lengthy bans and the former has taken the FIA to court in an effort to have it overturned.

The Renault Singapore scandal

Donington Park and the British Grand Prix

Last year the news that Donington Park had been given the contract to hold the British Grand Prix was widely greeted with scepticism. We’d seen this routine before – Eccestone had previously tried to move the British Grand Prix to Brands Hatch, to no avail.

Simon Gillett’s company succeeded in getting planning permission at the beginning of the year and construction work began at the track, causing some disruption to its schedule of race. But last month he conceded defeat in his effort to get the money in place to fund the development.

Ecclestone had originally said he would not offer the race to Silverstone if Donington couldn’t hold it. He changed his mind offered them a deal, albeit a very expensive one.

Once again the British round, one of only two events to appear on the F1 calendar every year, is threatened. Will Ecclestone finally give it the chop this time?

Donington Park and the British Grand Prix

Read the first part of this article: F1 2009: Year of controversy (Part 1)

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “F1 2009: Year of controversy (Part 2)”

  1. Thanks for this Keith-I’m amazed you managed to condense it down so much as you could have easily wrote 5000 words just on one of those controversies!
    I even forgot about some of them to be honest. Just shows how much drama there was all year

  2. More controversy = more fun = more business for everyone

    We are going to miss Mosley, Ron and Flavio as we enter the Dark Age of the Todt & Tilke regime

    1. I don’t find the prospect of losing the British GP as ‘fun,’ especially since the main cause is a greedy little imp like Ecclestone.

      1. Of course I am very upset about the possible loss of the British GP, and I wish Ecclestone did not have anything to do with F1. It would be great if F1 were run by people that loved historic race tracks and cared for the fans and good racing.
        In the absence of this, I´m just saying that we are going to miss some colorful characters, and that controversy and disputes are interesting to follow and create a lot of news, specially in the off-season.
        Cheers !

        1. It’s not just Bernie though the BRDC have a part to play too

      2. Oh god… get over it already, no one but the brits give a crap.

        1. Ask all the drivers in F1 (most of whom are NOT Brits )what THEY think about losing Silverstone. Not one of them wants to lose
          one of the most challenging circuits in F1

          Same goes for all the teams, engineers, everybody. The atmosphere at every British GP is electric. You should try it sometime.

        2. yep…pony up the dollars England….for goodness sake you have most of the F1 team based in your country yet the ‘best’ f1 track is a shambles….FIX IT OR LOSE IT.

          Every other country has to live by a set of standard and monetary input..well except for the Brits, who think the are above all.

          Like I said pony up or show me the money…And please if you want Silverstone to stay…please fix the crumbling aging relic.

          1. bernification
            12th November 2009, 2:23

            Every other country has to live by a set of standard and monetary input..well except for the Brits, who think the are above all.

            Well, and Monaco, where the run off area’s, track width and pit space are all whoefully inadequate. And they pay no money.

            If the greedy b***ards who orchestrate the sport are intent upon driving a stake through the heart of the sport, and losing all support from the people they are supposed to be entertaining, then they have perfected their formula.

            This year for me marks one of the lowest points in F1, and i’ve been watching since 1976.

          2. ok we get rid of Monaco for Silverfallapartstone….

            yer right

            Look I like the track, I just get sick of the moaning…British Gp this and that and how hard done by the Brits are….

            Get the useless prat Damon Hill off his backside and raise the $$$ need to cement the track into the calendar for good.

            Yes we all know Burnie is a greedy little man, etc, but ok we get it…do you want the GP or not?

    2. I didn’t think I would see anyone say they would miss Mosley, besides we don’t know if he will be involved with the Todt regime in anyway yet.

      1. we don’t know if he will be involved with the Todt regime in anyway yet.

        Of course he’ll be involved. He is Todt’s mentor.

        1. Agreed mp4, I’m afraid we haven’t seen the last of Mr Mosley.

  3. Why does every single picture of Max Mosley make him look so evil? Even when he smiles he looks a bit creepy

    1. Even when he smiles he looks a bit creepy

      … especially now that we know what makes him smile! The dirty old perv. An entire series could be written just on the Moseley controversies.

      1. Scroll down this page. You’ll find one of Max’s best photo :P

        1. Looks like the evil Gran Moff Tarkin from Star Wars.(Peter Cushing character)

  4. Nothing wrong with a bit of controversy in sport, just shows how keenly the whole thing is being contested.

    On the British GP, I wouldn’t cry if it were axed. Silverstone is a dull circuit, Donnington would be better but I’d prefer Brands Hatch to be honest.

    1. Bear in mind that if it did get axed, it wouldn’t be replaced by a Spa or Interlagos type track, but rather a new flat, lifeless Tilke borefest. Silverstone is not by any means a boring track when you take into account the constraints imposed by the FIA.

      1. True it would be very disappointing but f1 would survive. We’ve lost many decent tracks before and even if we don’t have Silverstone next year the chances are something will be sorted for the future. I doubt the Brit GP would be permanently gone

  5. ***
    C* (.)(.) *?
    * U *
    **(=====)** < Max Mosley
    ********* is such a prat!!!)
    / \

  6. Everyone picks on Max when the issue of controversy comes up, but IMO Max, Bernie, CVC, Todt and Ferrari are all the same thing, and these controversies are orchestrated in a way that it seems like there is a lot going on, when it is all theatre.
    In any case I will be happy, most of all, if we return to historic venues.

    1. I think right now it’s a bit unfair to pick on Ferrari. They did help lead the way with the breakaway threat but I was completely on FOTAs side however, Ferrari are no longer with Todt, Renault had the last scandal, BAR had scandals every team on the grid has! Just how it is. Looks like Ferrari will take years to shrug off the negative image which surrounded them for so long despite the fact that Todt, Brawn and Schuey have left…

      1. despite the fact that Todt, Brawn and Schuey have left…

        Schuey hasn’t left Ferrari. Infact he has just had his contract renewed as a consultant or something. Schuey will never leave, cuz he has no where else to go. Benetton, his old team are defunct & his old boss Flavio is in hiding

        Maybe he’ll be able to get some job at Ferrari’s sister organization, the FIA. Schuey’s got his father’s backing. Surely it will help him secure a job at FIA, simultaneously working for Ferrari. A dual citizen:P

        1. Yes sorry slip up by me. But he’s just an adviser so he can’t do anything on track :p anyway I do believe Stefano D has a different way of doing things…

          1. Looks like Ferrari will take years to shrug off the negative image which surrounded them for so long

            Damn right. I don’t like them in any way and doubt I ever will.

  7. It seems like such a long time ago that the “breakaway series” threat was circulating. It just shows the amount of big new stories/controversies that have happened since then alone!

  8. Thanks Keith for summarizing so well those controversies. At the end, you have pointed out 8, but, the protagonists are just 4:

    1) B Ecclestone: (Medal system, Twilight races, Hitler declaration, British GP)

    His conditions for tracks are untenable for the traditional (and not subsidized) ones, so lets go to the Far East… those countries paying transmission rights don’t want that schedule? No problems, change the hour for the show, and put some lights on! I would not be surprised if tomorrow Bernie came to us with a new GP in Sinaloa (Mexico) or Medellin (Colombia) with those guys walking around the paddock just because they can afford a GP.

    And his declarations about Medal or Hitler is better not to comment…despite the big efforts everybody have to make in order to stop him. What a waist of time!

    2) M Mosley: (Double diffusers, Budget Cap and FIA/FOTA row)

    Double diffusers row is an indecent manoeuvre (IMHO) to demonstrate to the public opinion, budget cap was a good idea. Brawn represented a “modest” team with “low budget” succeeding, at least in his world of “everybody is an ignorant”.

    Manufacturers are focus today in Maximum Performance per energy’s unit consumed. Social responsibility, environmental compromise, recyclability, efficiency compromise are common expressions in corporate values of current manufacturers, quite difficult to match that with words like:

    Sex, opulence, wastefulness, opportunism, cheat, insider trading, revenge, conspiracy, short term focus, improvisation, dictatorship… those are the common words we use when talking about FIA or Bernie.

    So the solution will be “independents”?

    How can we call them “independents when they will be Bernie’s Salves?

    Williams is the 3rd most successful team in F1 history, and now still exists thanks to Bernie’s tips.

    3) McLaren: Hamilton’s disqualification

    At least this one was a “racing scandal”… quite useful for fulfil personal revenges, btw.

    4) Renault: Crash-Gate.

    Another racing scandal, but for this case, this has been the biggest one in many years (IMHO). The novelty was, we have been able to see (and read) all the “forensic” analysis with most of the evidences and declarations. We’ve been able to “touch and feel” how low a group of men can go… and again quite useful for fulfil personal revenges.

    In the last three years we’ve seen many huge scandals and we were thinking at the end of each one: “Next year will be better and we will be focus only in racing”…

    This season, I will no longer expect “full racing focus” for next year. In this moment I’m asking myself what new “surprises” will shock us next season….

    Maybe Keith, you could make a poll.

    1. Maybe Keith, you could make a poll.

      Its Here

      1. I was not asking for voting on the latest scandals.

        I was suggesting Keith could ask us which ones will be next season!!!

        1. Are there any possible scenario’s for scandals left? I’d say F1 has covered just about everything off in the last few years.
          About the only thing left is for one of the drivers to be caught engaging in some *ahem* man love, so that get’s my vote for the scandal of the season for 2010 !

          1. What? A season with scandals where Ferrari WASN’T involved??? THIS IS MADNESS!!! :P

            Next year: Ferrari, Alonso vs Massa, watch the fireworks…

          2. Perhaps it’s not far from happening… Take a look on this.

          3. I think the only scenario for a scandal that could top what we have had so far, would be if proof came to light that the Ecclestone and/or the FIA have tried to manipulate the Championship in previous years so either it went down to the wire or their preferred driver and team won.

            I know there are people who believe this has happened, but even if it did Ecclestone and Mosley wouldn’t be dumb enough to leave behind any evidence that it did.

            Some of the biggest scandals in recent years have only come to light because people involved made stupid mistakes.

            Ferrari were only supposed to have found out McLaren had a copy of their dossier because Coughlan’s wife used a public copy shop to copy the documents.

            McLaren and Hamilton saying they didn’t tell him to let Trulli past in Melbourne earlier this year was not only wrong but stupid considering the Stewards had access to the radio transmissions.

            And if Briatore had treated Piquet better and didn’t sack him halfway through the season he probably would not have come forward and revealed what really happened at Singapore last year.

  9. That that crashgate had really damaged the sports than any other controversy.

  10. one of the worst acts of cheating seen in any sport

    Come on Keith that’s just ridiculous.

  11. For as much as I love this sport, scandal after scandal was indeed disappointing. The people who get ripped of fthe most in such situations are us- the fans. Obviously you are bound to have some controversey in any sport, but it was just so excessive this year, and that seems to be the norm for each of the first three seasons I have been watching it.

    Some people enjoy the glitz and glamour and all the scandal and gosspi…I’m not one of them. For me, make F1 more like MotoGP- great racing, colorful and fun personalities, celebrations on the victory laps, and races here in the USA as well as Britian, France, etc…

    1. @ GMan

      “Some people enjoy the glitz and glamour and all the scandal and gosspi…I’m not one of them. For me, make F1 more like MotoGP- great racing, colorful and fun personalities, celebrations on the victory laps, and races here in the USA as well as Britian, France, etc…”

      You said Brother….agreed

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