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GP Week : Issue 38
FOTA stands firm over new regs, T he Formula One Teams’ Association has shown it is ready to stand its ground in its dealings with the FIA, following a week in which the unity of the still young organisation was severely tested by the controversial decisions of the World Motor Sport Council. A raft of changes, including a new-for 2009 points system and the introduction of a voluntary budget cap for the 2010 season, were agreed by the WMSC, although both came against the advice of FOTA and the proposals which the body had submitted to the Council. One of the biggest and most instant changes was to be a Formula 1 points system for the 2009 season in which the driver with the most wins would become World Champion. This went against the recommendation of FOTA to introduce a 12, 9, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points system for F1. Suggestions of a ‘medals system’ to decide the Drivers’ World Championship had first been raised by Bernie Ecclestone at the end of 2008, and a public vote on the adoption of such a system was opened to F1 fans via the official Formula 1 website. The outcome of this vote is believed to have been so damning of Ecclestone’s idea that the results have never been made public. And yet it was a version of this concept which was passed by the WMSC last week for immediate adoption, in a move which many commentators saw as a brandishing of political clout by the Council. Second was the announcement of a voluntary budget cap for the 2010 season in which any Formula 1 team which agrees to a £30 million (US $42 million) spending limit will be allowed relative technological freedom, whereas those who impose no limit on their budgets will have to adhere to strict limitations on design and utilise standard parts. FOTA’s reaction was to declare its “concern”over the manner in which the decisions were made. “The framework of the regulations as defined by the FIA, to be applicable as from 2010, runs the risk of turning on its head the very essence of Formula 1 and the principles that make it one of the most popular and appealing sports,” a statement from FOTA President Luca di Montezemolo read. FOTA went one step further however and, following public outcries from a number of respected F1 drivers over the new points system, made a public statement that it believed the FIA had broken its own rules in the changing of the system so close to the start of the F1 season without the consent of the F1 teams. The FIA was subsequently forced into an embarrassing backtrack, agreeing instead to defer the new system’s introduction until 2010. FIA President Max Mosley, however, immediately went back on the offensive in the British press, telling the Daily Telegraph on Saturday that FOTA, in its reaction to the voluntary budget cap, had given a “weak response.” Furthermore he claimed that both Williams and Force India had been consulted on the proposals and were in favour of their introduction; a statement which once again threatened to rock the hitherto steady boat of FOTA unity. The lines have thus been drawn in a political power-struggle which is set to continue throughout the upcoming Formula 1 season. The strength of FOTA, and the unique position of unity amongst the teams which its creation represents, has been tested in recent days. But rather than divide the composite members, events of the last week seem to have merely solidified the body’s resolve.