Red Bull to blame for F1’s cost crisis – Fernley

2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Formula One’s cost crisis has its roots in the collapse of the Formula One Teams’ Association which was caused by Red Bull, according to Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley.

FOTA was negotiating with Bernie Ecclestone and F1 owners CVC Capital Partners in 2011 for all teams to receive a larger share of F1’s prize money. However according to Fernley it was Red Bull who derailed their efforts by agreeing their own deal separately with Ecclestone.

Fernley said Red Bull’s deal with Ecclestone and departure from FOTA was “where I think the problems started” for F1. Since then two teams have disappeared and a third, Manor, came close to dropping out of F1 over the winter.

“I think that a few years ago we had FOTA operating in a very good way,” said Fernley in a press conference today. “It was a consolidated approach, it was well stewarded by (then McLaren team principal) Martin Whitmarsh, we were in joint negotiations with CVC at the time to obviously renegotiate those contracts and everything else”.

“Unfortunately, and I say that because obviously Christian is here, Red Bull felt the need to take the forty pieces of silver. And that was the downside, I think, for Formula One, and I don’t think we’ve recovered from that particular action.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner denied Fernlet’s claim, saying it was “a little harsh of Bob to suggest that the plight of the smaller teams is all Red Bull’s fault”.

Horner said FOTA was “pretty dysfunctional” at the time and “focusing on the wrong aspect” – and that it was Ferrari who undermined its dealings with Ecclestone.

Ferrari went and cut their own deal,” he said. “Red Bull weren’t the first team to sign an agreement with Bernie.”

“At the same time McLaren were also in dual discussions and cut their own deal. So that’s the way of the world. We all represent out own entities and guarantees had to be given by the companies in order to be eligible for that funding.

“That’s the situation I can understand the other teams’ frustration but it’s not down to Red Bull to decide what the revenue distribution is, or Ferrari, or McLaren. That’s down to Bernie and the board members at CVC and they distribute the money how they see fit.”

Fernley added he is hopeful Ecclestone understands the severity of the financial problems faced by some of the teams at the moment.

“Bernie at the end of the day when things are tough he understands that they’re tough,” he said. “He’s actually shepherded the sport for many, many years, he’s done a great job.”

“And whilst we may have arguments along the way at the end of the day he’s kept it all together and I think when he genuinely sees there’s something that’s not quite right he will address that.”

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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 “Red Bull to blame for F1’s cost crisis – Fernley”

  1. Fernley is right. maybe not by laying the blame solely with RBR, but you can see from Horner’s comments the mentality which has destroyed FOTA and crippled the teams outside the inner circle. He says that it’s down to CVC and Ecclestone, and the teams aren’t responsible, but they ARE responsible. Every team which put its own interests above those of the other teams are entirely responsible. Ecclestone may have dangled the contracts, but the teams themselves had to capitulate and they took the decision that it was better for them to take a big payout than to secure fair payments for every team.

    They share at least equal responsibility for that. If not the majority.

    1. Yep. Its the teams mentality and failure to stick together that allowed Bernie to play them all to get a deal that saw CVC holding on to far too large a chunk of the money and it was Bernie and Todt who handed too much power to the teams because Todt was more focussed on getting a nice incentive to show for his efforts than keeping the rules in check.

      Hearing a team boss like Horner say its not his position to decide, and reading Bernie mentioning he is “powerless” to make the changes needed (I think the changes needed are quite different from what Bernie wants to do though) and Todt claiming he cannot make the rules anymore is pretty upsetting when they all were clearly just thinking of their own when making these deals.

    2. Hmmm, and what about the mentality of those who desperately try to block Manor’s attempt to start this season with 2014 chassis? Is this the kind of mentality that solidifies team’s unity and friendly spirit? If I need a definition of a hypocrite, I need not go further than one Fernley from Force India.

      1. Fernley didn’t desperately try to block them. He explained in quite a lot of detail the reason for not agreeing to them using last year’s car, and it was to do with Manor not meeting the requirements which were set out to them by the strategy group last year.

        1. Well @mazdachris Fernley claimed it was for safety, mostly, which was 99% unconvincing I thought, since the car was safe enough last year. Then there was some righteous procedural angle which Manor said was a communication snafu. If FI were such mates they only had to call.

          Force India deserved the heat they got IMO.

          1. @lockup most of the changes though between 2014 and 2015 were to do with safety. So to run a 2014 car in 2015, it is absolutely correct that the car doesn’t meet the safety requirements, whether they were considered appropriate last year or not. It doesn’t mean the car is unsafe as such, but effectively they were asking for permission to run a car to last year’s safety standards and not this year’s. They were told that they could, as long as certain other conditions were met, and when the group met to decide on it, those conditions hadn’t been met. So why would you then grant them the exception anyway?

          2. Well @mazdachris safety is relative, and it was just the nose height wasn’t it? Still only a 32 mph test speed or so? It would have been allowed with one procedure but not another, so safety wasn’t really a showstopper.

            I listened to Bob Fernley when he was challenged about it and it sounded like waffle to me, first one excuse and then another. To be fair I suspected other teams would have voted that way, or did even, but it all amounted to a lack of goodwill, it seemed to me.

            Which wouldn’t matter if they had proper governance of course, but they don’t. Anyway FI got a kicking so justice was done, and I’m quite happy for Fernley to dish some out to Red Bull in turn :)

          3. @lockup No, safety wasn’t a showstopper. What was a showstopper was a group of administrators approaching the strategy group with a request to run an out of date car in breach of the regulations, without demonstrating how it would support some kind of long term plan to revive the team. That’s the basis for the refusal, nothing to do with safety really. The point is that the changes to the rules WERE safety related, no matter how minor, so by definition the request was for an exception to the safety rules.

            Ultimately it boiled down to this – Manor approached the strategy group asking for something, and they were told they could have that thing on the condition that they did certain other things. Manor didn’t do those other things, so they didn’t get the thing they were asking for. It wasn’t unfair.

          4. Yebbut what your describing there @mazdachris is a technicality. There was an excuse to exclude them and take the money. Some other teams didn’t want them excluded did they? What was the difference? Motivation.

          5. @lockup Considering all the other teams also stood to get an equal share of the prize money, every other team had the same motivation to exclude Manor and take the spoils. If FI were more motivated by this than others, it’s merely because their own survival as an F1 team may depend on it. They’re just as squeezed as anyone, so if it truly did come down to a choice of ‘kill or die’ I guess it’s understandable. But ultimately the responsibility was always with Manor to demonstrate they had met the criteria set out by the strategy group. They didn’t do that, and so they can only blame themselves.

            In the end, it has worked out well – Manor have made their car compliant with the current regulations (as all teams are expected to do) and they have entered this year fairly. That seems to be the best outcome for everyone really.

          6. Well Manor said they were told something else, but I agree things have worked out @mazdachris, it’s just what opinion we hold of FI now, really. Personally I think a bit less of them than before votegate, though I was never a fan of the nationalistic name or of Vijay.

            Anyway think a bit more of them after Bob gave Christian a public kicking in the pc. But Bob still doesn’t quite qualify as a good guy either, for me.

        2. @mazdachris +1
          Although other teams, did not vote, so we never know what they felt.
          Once one team votes negative, then as there is no more consensus, so it fell through.
          Also other teams who would have normally voted negative, for PR purpose claim contrary post voting, so FI was singly not the factor.
          Finally other teams were claiming that they could also save a lot of money by running last years car. Sauber and FI, also Lotus aren’t exactly financially strong either.

          1. Okay @aks-das but FI voted against and their explanation didn’t really stand up, so they don’t get to wear the white hats. This is why Toto was talking about a shark tank afterwards ;)

            If FI had argued for Manor, stood shoulder to shoulder etc etc, then we’d have thought more of them wouldn’t we? So it’s the flipside of that, is all.

          2. @lockup
            For me FI could not support Manor was sort of justified. It’s a grey area i know.
            Because given the financial situation of the various teams, a part of me felt that it was better if that money gets distributed between FI, Sauber and Lotus. FI, Sauber I believe they have budgets same as Caterham used to have. Yet have done remarkable job.
            Also for FI I don’t know where are their money is coming from. Sahara is in jail and court has asked to raise 1 billion dollar to payback. Mallaya has already sold his profitable business and banks are chasing hi for his bad venture into airline. I think their F1 business does not allow them to take high moral ground. Already we have seen what Sauber have done.
            Atleast they did not do a Sauber.
            And we all know F1 does not work with high moral values. In such scenario they have simply taken a legally valid ground if not morally.
            Because if tomorrow the grid further reduces, then F1 in the current form in the current world scenario will soon become history or a spec series. Atleast the heart and mind of FI is totally into racing.

        3. I’m sorry but FI’s ‘safety’ reasoning behind stabbing Manor in the back is as solid as Kaltenborn’s ‘safety’ reasoning for not letting VdG drive. Everyone and his dog know that was all about the money. So my point was very simple – Fernley doesn’t get to throw stones. In fact, he should keep his mouth firmly shut on the subject of teams’ unity.

  2. “So that’s the way of the world. We all represent out own entities” – C Horner

    Precisely the reason the teams should have zero say in how the sport is run and zero say on the regulations.

    Fenley is spot on.

    1. Totally agree; the last thing you need is for people with this kind of bias to be responsible for shaping the sport.

      1. @mazdachris Yeah, they could veto a teams return etc…

        1. @xtwl, the thing is, only three teams are known to have spoken in favour of Manor’s request to reuse a 2014 chassis, which were Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams (McLaren’s position is unclear, but is thought to have been neutral on the matter).

          Whilst Force India was the first to speak against it, Marko is already on record as saying that Red Bull would unequivocally have voted against Manor’s request. Whilst Sauber and Lotus were not present in the meeting, they are both understood to have lobbied the parties that would be present to vote against Manor’s application.

          To be blunt, even if Force India hadn’t done so, it’s certain that another team would have stuck the knife into Manor anyway.

    2. Unfortunately there isn’t much alternative. The reason teams still have influence over F1 is because incompetent rulership from elsewhere without team oversight last decade nearly led to no F1. And if the FIA and FOM decision-making processes of the last few years are anything to go by, there still isn’t a sound place for F1 to put its Plan B (unless it is in all the teams instead of the five/six with most incentive to keep things as they are).

  3. Ha, another slice of just dessert.

    Red Bull, Drink of the Disloyal.

  4. Well played by Bernie. Easiest way to keep control of the teams is put ram a wedge right down the middle of them.

    At present Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams, McLaren and Ferrari get funds from Bernie pre distribution of prizemoney. Do you really think the teams that have the financial advantage are going to vote in favour of a reduction in costs? Fans need to apply heat to these teams and let them know they are a part to play in the deterioration of the sport. As is, the current financial agreement is anti-competitive, which goes against the very fundamentals of sport.

    If you want to look at the day it all turned pear shaped its when Mosley sold Bernie the rights of the sport for 100 years for the equivalent of 1 years revenue.

    That % of the sport which Bernie then sold onto CVC is lost forever.

    1. If the FIA produces a set of rules that make sense and dictate some form of cost cap, it can change the rules in advance without needing the teams to agree. That is what Mosley did with the “two tier budget capped / free budget but restricted rules” thing @bamboo

      Sure, the teams revolted, formed FOTA and started negotiating. But they were the ones who had to act to come up with a compromise proposal they liked more, because the FIA is still the one issueing the rules.
      The only limit is, that they can’t change it one sidedly unless they do it in time.

      1. Heres a better way of looking at it – are you happy with the controlling stake in the sport, which determines where races are held and how funds are distributed, being held by a hedge fund that doesn’t really care about the sport? This hedge fund once done with it will then sell it off to the highest bidder, not he or her who cares most for the sport. Do we just accept that is the way for the pinnacle of motorsport moving forwards? I don’t have all the answers but do we just accept it for what it is?

        I agree a lot with what you say but the governance and transparency is down there with the likes of the IOC, FIFA and numerous boxing councils. The guy in charge the average punter can’t stand to the point where many individuals, companies and governments refuse to send any money his direction.

        The sport is at a cancerous state. Lets put the band-aids away.

  5. “It was a consolidated approach, it was well stewarded by (then McLaren team principal) Martin Whitmarsh, we were in joint negotiations with CVC at the time to obviously renegotiate those contracts and everything else”.

    Personally, I felt Martin Whitmarsh had a wise head on his shoulders and could take over Bernie or a group like FOTA. Bring him back.

  6. agreee with that , bring back martin whitmarsh to replace bernie , he is already a rich man but doesn’t seem to have bernie’s need to be super rich … perhaps because he is not only intelligent but he has the interests of F1 at heart and tried to hold it together before
    the history of F1 shows that teams starting small and working their way up is what is needed …at the moment bernie’s deal with the big teams getting the cream doesn’t even leave any milk for the monnows , only whey ! it must stop

    1. Sorry to say Martin is busy running Ben Ainslies racing team thats looking to challenge the Americas Cup. Funny when you consider the boat is also being designed by Newey.

    2. I always found Whitmarsh to be a spineless man. He’s the man of ‘Ok, I don’t want to upset you with my beneficial decisions so I’ll don’t make them’.

      1. Maybe he is what he appears to be – a nice bloke

        1. @bamboo Which I have nothing against. But to be head of a major organisation you have to be able to settle with people not liking your decisions from time to time.

  7. imo, FOTA was simply doomed by it’s own setup. They should have positioned it with authority and long term commitments from the teams so nobody could chicken out when Bernie slams a deal on the table for individual teams. Blaming RBR and Ferrari for not going along with the nit-picking around resource agreements is a fair argument, but misses the bigger picture that FOTA was a toothless organization born out of desperation, not strategy.

    1. Those commitments were there until Red Bull and Ferrari decided they were no longer convenient to them.

  8. “And whilst we may have arguments along the way at the end of the day he’s kept it all together and I think when he genuinely sees there’s something that’s not quite right he will address that.”

    Thing is the man is so old he can barely see.

    So untill that time we’re just going to point our fingers to other teams and blaim them for something that happend four years ago, little children, all of them…

  9. Things got to a point where no matter what they do, someone is always getting special treatment, or they are going to force the ones giving the money to deal with them because “they need a guarante or they’ll leave”.

    I get the feeling that this all started with Ferrari’s old deals, geting more money “because reasons” back in the day. That left the idea in their heads. “Hey, if they made a special deal, we could do it too”.

    As always, the bigger names, the richest people, pull ahead and leave chaos behind.

  10. What’s up with all this Redbull-hating. Fernley is simply incorrect in only putting the blame on RedBull. It’s commenly known that both Ferrari and Redbull withdrew from FOTA at the same time, for the very reason Horner points out; they were not functioning. And indeed, teams principals are there to make the best possible deal the team can get. Everyone does it, and they cannot be trusted to do anything for the greater good. That part is up to Bernie, CVC and the FIA. But they simply have failed.

    Seems once the Redbull-hating bandwagon got going, everyone jumped on just to get a ride..

    1. pretty much. Self interest is to be expected, not feared or hated. The FIA and other interested parties have done quite a bit of damage to the integrity of the teams and have pushed too much influence towards the manufacturers.

      I love it when they say they are trying to reduce costs, it’s hilarious. Horner smacking down David Croft at the press conference was pretty amusing. One guy comes with the typical, feel good appeal with no basis and the other guy (Horner) slaps him down like a lap dog.

      1. Ferrari have been doing it for years, we know there bad attitude but this time they finally started accepting that maybe teams should put a united from for a fair distribution with FOTA as the pillar but Red Bull when and ruined that. They were the first to break out and take Bernie’s “divide and conquer” money so Fernley is absolutely correct. He not is incorrect at all. After that Ferrari of course followed, i mean it was a battle to get Ferrari stay away from bad behavior and the moment Red Bull went and did it then no way Ferrari could be kept in order.
        After that it was pointless. Those two already ruined it.

  11. Divide and conquer policies that have caused it.

    He set out to and succeeded in dividing the teams because he thought they were taking control from him (And CVC) and they were taking more of the cake, leaving him with less.

    He started with his old friend Ferrari and then his new best friend RBR.

    Bernie needs to go and take CVC with him

    1. going along to get along is what caused it. Unfortunately, the move to pay the lessor teams more money will only encourage more of this stuff. The future prognosis is grim.

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