F1’s political seas are looking unusually calm after Indy’s storm. But how long will it last?
July was a busy time for everyone in grand prix racing as four races were squeezed into a single calendar month — the first time that’s ever happened. Somewhat against expectations the month also featured a sudden outbreak of peace off the track.
Matters appeared to be building to a head around the time of the British Grand Prix, but in the aftermath of the London bombings the team bosses, to their credit, agreed that it would be sensible not to do their dirty washing in public. Usually the appearance of Max Mosley in the paddock would guarantee controversy, but a spirit of co-operation seemed to take hold that weekend. Apparently his informal conversations with team bosses were generally constructive, and as a result at least one key contentious issue was quickly resolved.
Four days after Silverstone Ron Dennis (representing six teams) and Christian Horner (as boss of Red Bull) met with Mosley in Monaco, and the matter of the US GP was discussed further. The earlier guilty verdicts imposed on the teams by the World Motor Sport Council were quashed as a result of ‘new evidence.’ The significance was that this change of mind by the governing body made it harder for interested parties Stateside to sue the Michelin teams for failing to put on a show. It also released a lot of pressure from the whole ‘them and us’ situation.
In subsequent weeks this positive force appeared to gain momentum. The manufacturer teams outlined their ideas of what direction the F1 rules should take, while the FIA, buoyed by the results of a survey of the public, revealed more details of its package. There was much common ground, along with key differences, mainly in terms of how much free rein the teams would have in employing their own technology.
At least both sides were talking, and significantly there was little public bickering after meetings. It was as if all parties had had a serious think about Indianapolis and its messy consequences, and finally realised that unless everyone works in the same direction, and the threat of a split is averted, the sport will implode.
There will have to be compromises, and exactly where we’re heading is hard to determine at this stage. We can but hope that from the current rapprochement a sensible rules package emerges for 2008 and beyond, and that in the shorter term from next year we finally have a qualifying system that the wider public can relate to.
The more cynical view is that Mosley, bruised by the US GP saga, has adopted a conciliatory, low-profile approach in the run-up to the FIA elections later this year — and that there may yet be surprises in store for the teams once the voting is out of the way. Only time will tell…