The Silverstone media centre was busier than usual this morning and of course, the talk was all about FOTA’s announcement to form a breakaway series.
We knew that both parties were serious when they named their terms for the future of the sport, but what we didn’t expect was for FOTA to go public on plans to split when they did: just after midnight today. Yesterday a compromise deal with the FIA looked a distinct possibility.
FOTA released a statement that said, “The wishes of the majority of the teams have been ignored. Furthermore, tens of millions of dollars have been withheld from many teams by the commercial rights holder, going back as far as 2006. Despite this and the uncompromising environment, FOTA has genuinely sought compromise.
“It has become clear however, that the teams cannot continue to compromise on the fundamental values of the sport and have declined to alter their original conditional entries to the 2010 World Championship.
“These teams therefore have no alternative other than to commence the preparation for a new Championship which reflects the values of its participants and partners.”
Strong words. The threat of a breakaway is as serious as it gets.
The FIA’s response was just as to the point and read, “The FIA is disappointed but not surprised by FOTA’s inability to reach a compromise in the best interests of the sport. It is clear that elements within FOTA have sought this outcome throughout the prolonged period of negotiation and have not engaged in the discussions in good faith.”
So what to make of it all? The teams have all the aces in their hand. The likes of Ferrari, McLaren and the manufacturers at some of the circuits which have been removed from the Formula 1 calendar over the last few years is an exciting prospect. Imola? European Grand Prix at Silverstone anyone?
However, so much has yet to be played out. The talk in the media centre here is that the move by FOTA is a way of putting pressure on Mosley to step down. Of course, he won’t go without a fight, but if he did a new president would be appointed who might be more sensitive to FOTA’s needs. If that happened then perhaps all would be forgiven and we’d just have one series next year instead of a splintered sport.
But right now, anything can happen…
The FIA has just released the following:
“The FIA’s lawyers have now examined the FOTA threat to begin a breakaway series. The actions of FOTA as a whole, and Ferrari in particular, amount to serious violations of law including wilful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari’s legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law. The FIA will be issuing legal proceedings without delay.
“Preparations for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship continue but publication of the final 2010 entry list will be put on hold while the FIA asserts its legal rights.”
Ross Brawn, Christian Horner, Adam Parr and Martin Whitmarsh attended the FIA press conference in the media centre.
Although the FOTA teams (Brawn GP, Red Bull and McLaren) were keen to point out that the situation they’re in at the moment was the only option they could take – as they had to either stop racing, or find an alternative – they also talked candidly about their desires to ensure the future of Formula 1 racing in whatever form it takes.
“We effectively reached a stalemate,” Christian Horner commented. “It’s been a busy 24 hours, but it goes back a long time before that. The fundamental issue is that we cannot enter a Championship without the rules being decided. They have to be sorted, clear and concise for every member.”
Ross Brawn added, “The teams’ ambition is not to take over Formula 1. F1 belongs to all of us, it’s not owned by anyone. In that way it is like the Olympic Games or the World Cup. I don’t think anything that’s happening at the moment is good for the sport, and everyone knows that.”
Adam Parr, when asked to comment merely replied, “Williams is a Formula 1 team”. Asked whether that was all he had to say he continued, “that’s all there is to say.”
When the subject turned towards the new breakaway series Martin Whitmarsh pointed out that already, the Championship was gathering pace. “Formula 1 has not done a good job of developing new teams. We have already had quite a lot of interest from other teams who want to be part of this new series.”
However, after 40 minutes of questions and answers Parr, after reminding us that Williams had no other option but to enter the FIA World Championship due to their financial position, admitted that he found it reassuring that FOTA had the best interests of the sport in mind and the chance of a reunion was by no means extinguished.