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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Very Political Season

This really must be the most intensely political Formula 1 season I've ever seen. I never did follow the FOCA-FISA wars of the 80s and was probably too young to understand it even if I did. I've never seen anything like 2005 before.

Funny that it should come at a time when competition on the race track has intensified as well. If you thought that some people were merely being anti-FIA and anti-Ferrari just for the hell of it, then by rights something like this year should have happened during a Ferrari domination period. But that simply hasn't happened to such intensity over the last 5 years. Its actually happened at a time when Ferrari are being given a good waxing by the likes of Renault and McLaren.

But thinking about it, its probably the best time to start a battle against the Axis of Evil (FIA/FOM/Ferrari) because otherwise, the Rebel Alliance would be seen as merely being sour grapes.

Let's start off with the ever combative Paul Stoddart, who in this story has given notice that its either Mad Max or the Minardi team that will leave the sport in the near future. Neither the exit of Minardi or its boss is likely to send many shockwaves into the pitlane but still, his sentiments echo that of the majority of the teams. He is simply fed up with the current FIA president and who can blame him. He adds that "the teams have had a gutful of Max," and "either he goes or F1 as we know it today will go. I think a breakaway series is guaranteed. It doesn't matter who replaces him. He is so bad now that anyone could do it." Anyone could do it but I think I'd prefer if a Scottish former world champion did it. Better him than Jean Todt who is Max's favourite to replace himself.

And clearly, the two have a good rapport because amidst all the protests and acrimony from the teams and even from the drivers, Michelle's hubby has planted the Rosso Corsa flag firmly in the FIA camp. Same story with some commentary from here. And consider the comment made by GrandPrix and I quote: "The interesting thing about Todt's speech is that he felt the need to make it. The other question raised by the remarks is whether or not Todt made them without being asked to come to Mosley's aid. That is impossible to know but it is as much a part of the political games at the moment as the results themselves." Interesting indeed.

But as the Pitpass article mentions this announcement by Todt is "unlikely to be seen as the biggest shock in motor racing history." In other words, everyone knows Ferrari and the FIA are in bed together. But whereas there were just off the record rumours, speculations and analyses based on evidence, Ferrari have never gone on record to state its support of the FIA.

Curious. All the while the Rebel Alliance (read the GPWC) members have alleged a FIA/Ferrari "special" relationship but now they have proof of the pudding. Which is likely to strengthen their resolve further. Surely the FIA know that. At a time when the FIA should be trying to mend the fences with the rebels, instead they seem to aggravate them further.

Could it be that the FIA want to kick them out of the world championship? Even in the rationale for the proposed 2008 rules have mentioned the manufacturers explicitly. And that rationale explains that the future of the world championship lies with keeping the independents alive and make it less of a spend till you drop contest.

Now I like independent teams and I love specialist engine manufacturers (now long gone) but I think a championship is stronger with some car manufacturers involved. Therefore, we can't always bow to their needs but nevertheless they shouldn't be ignored. But the FIA looks as if it wants to beat up these car manufacturers. Big mistake because these are big players. If they leave then the future of Formula 1 would be a mirror of Indianapolis.

Surely the FIA and Bernie can't afford that.

Now before you pro-FIA types go off and say that Indianapolis was simply a show of power by the manufacturers, let me remind you that the issue was unsafe tyres. It just so happens that the manufacturers were using tyres from Michelin. And those tyres were defective. To me it was the FIA who was trying to showing its power. And quite stupidly as well.

An interesting article in states that while the FIA are willing to formulate (2008) rules to improve the show, that is in direct contrast to its attitude at Indianapolis. As the article mentions: "On that occasion the teams did everything possible to make sure that a race would take place. The FIA stuck to the rules to the extent to which it became impossible for the Michelin runners to take part in the race. The philosophy then was to stick to the rules at all costs, even if it was at the expense of the show."

As the GrandPrix article concludes: "When one gets through all the smoke and the mirrors, the clear impression is that this is not about anything other than control of the sport." My sentiments exactly.

And now after a long time being passive and silent the Grand Prix Drivers Association is jumping in. This article on Pitpass discusses the situation. As the article quite rightly points out the drivers individually and collectively are loathe to air any dirty laundry in public. After all, they have sponsors to please and if they are too outspoken and characterful, that is, not acting like a squeeky clean corporate robot, then they could simply replace that driver with an eager to please young punk from the juniour formulae.

Now thats a sad situation. After all, week in week out, its the drivers who risk their lives. So, they should be more outspoken and they should have more say in these matters. But at least the GPDA has spoken up and will be having further discussions with Mad Max this weekend.

David Coulthard speaking to The Times in London draws up some interesting points. He mentions that "all these rules — qualifying, single laps and ten-place penalties — are not designed to wreck races, but the consequence is that they do."

Additionally the article mentions that: "Coulthard believes that changing the rules simply to cope with the success of Michael Schumacher, the seven-time world champion, was a mistake and said yesterday: “It was wrong to do it just because one person is doing the job and others are not. We should applaud success, not handicap it.”"

True. Absolutely true. Michael has been doing the business and I'm the first to say that he deserves it. Introducing artificiality is simply wrong.

But understand that in the world championship, the rules are divided into two very distinct categories. There are the Sporting Regulations and then there are the Technical Regulations. The Sporting Regulations have been made to stop Schumacher. But the then the Technical Regulations simply gives the advantage to Ferrari.

Every time there's a big change as we had this year, the teams with the most money have the best chance of responding. Technical regulation changes are an advantage to the big teams. And as I've said many a time, regulations like the two weekend engine rule gives advantage to a super reliable car like the Ferrari and penalizes the rest of the teams. Ask Kimi Raikkonen.

I'm sure that when the single tyre regulation was announced, many would have thought that it would be advantageous to Bridgestone who at the time were simply head and shoulders ahead of Michelin.

It only just so happens that this year, Ferrari and Bridgestone have made a serious blunder in the design of their package. For the last 5 years they got it right. But happily so, this year its the others that have produced superior machinery.

Really with all due respect to Coulthard, the jungle is neutral and so are the rules. That is to say it applies to everyone whether his name is Schumacher or Freisacher. But of course, I'd prefer to see the abolition of these silly rules. It is artifical and even if they were abolished, Ferrari and Schumacher would still be creamed this year. Again ask Kimi Raikkonen what would have happened if he had started third on the grid last weekend.

Whatever happens, I think all this is going to come to a head when the FIA meet the teams in September. I really hope all this will be resolved soon. Its getting quite tiring. But thankfully, the action on the track is superb this year. And thats really the most important thing, isn't it?

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