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GP Week : Issue 51
F1 crisis deepens as split looms Wednesday WMSC meeting the next focal point T HE British Grand Prix weekend was dominated by the political fallout over the future governance of Formula 1, as the FIA and FOTA took their battle of wills to the next stage. It was on Thursday evening, on the eve of the FIA’s final deadline for FOTA to drop its 2010 entry conditions, that the bombshell was dropped, with FOTA announcing to the world that it had been left with no choice but to establish its own championship, outside of FIA control next year. The FIA wasted little time in formulating a response, and on Friday released an incendiary statement. “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.” With lawyers now heavily involved, both sides went relatively quiet for the rest of the weekend, as nobody could make much further comment. FIA President Max Mosley, however, reiterated on Sunday morning that, in his opinion, the two sides were close to finding a solution to the sport’s problems. It is widely understood that FOTA is pressing ahead with its plans for its own championship, and that far from being ready to negotiate a truce with Mosley, it is more determined than ever to see through its threat. For as long as the FIA, and more particularly Mosley, refuses to make any realistic concessions, the split will remain a reality. Much will hinge on this week’s meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris. It is expected that Mosley will make an announcement over his future at the meeting and if, as expected, he uses the current crisis to go back on his earlier commitment to stand aside and run again for President, there seems little way for this situation to be resolved quickly. “I think FOTA’s position is very clear,”FOTA Vice-President John Howett told GPWeek at Silverstone. “We wait to see whether anything significant happens at the World Motor Sport Council meeting on Wednesday. At the moment we’re meeting next week to progress very aggressively on the development of the new series.” This FOTA meeting is expected to take place on Thursday, after the WMSC meeting. It is understood that FOTA has been approached by a number of teams who initially wanted to enter Formula 1 in 2010 but who were turned away by the FIA, amongst them Lola, Prodrive and N. Technology. Perhaps the biggest question in all this is the role of Bernie Ecclestone. As a pragmatic businessman, he will hope to end up wherever the biggest teams, drivers and thus fan base goes. Although becoming part of a FOTA championship would see him forced to take a huge percentage cut in his revenues, this may be essential if he wishes to maintain an element of commercial leadership in the future of the sport.