News and views on motorsports

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No Peace In Our Time

Ah, the murky world of Formula 1 politics. Rather than having a public display of the issues surrounding various commercial and governance issues, everything these days is kept behind closed doors. Many publications out there are actually in support of this. The usual suspects,, Pitpass, Autosport et al. But then a headline like this one comes along and the rest of us are left wondering what the hell is going on between these the teams, CVC/FOM and the FIA.

Apparently now, a major stumbling block is in the way preventing a commercial agreement between the GPMA teams and CVC/Bernie. But given how unhappy the GPMA are with the 2008 rules and rule making processes, was there really any chance of a peaceful accord between the warring parties?

The press is very much party to it all as well being led this way and that by the factions involved. Prior to Imola, Autosport was reporting Flavio Briatore's comments that a deal was seemingly on the verge of being signed by all parties. Flavio has been trumpeting peace ever since Bahrain but really it was never in any danger of coming true. Not until the GPMA members agree to the 2008 regulations and they are still very much against it.

Case in point was the Maranello meeting a few weeks ago attended by the FIA, Ferrari, Renault, Cosworth and others, where a 5 year homologation was discussed, put forward and attendees seemingly pleased by it. One could be forgiven into thinking (especially after reading comments in the media) that Renault were there as representatives of the GPMA but clearly this is not the case as reflected by Otmar Szafnauer of Honda during the Friday Imola press conference where he declared: "We didn't attend the meeting so we only know what was written in the press." Errmmm.... does that mean that the rest of the GPMA aren't speaking with Renault?

Furthermore, according to Szafnauer, Honda "believe an artificial engine freeze would not be beneficial to Formula One and to racing in general. We can appreciate the engine freeze and cost reductions, but how we do it though, we think there are ways alternative to an engine freeze." Honda, like Toyota three weeks ago aren't very happy with the way things are looking. One would also imagine the two German manufacturers are in agreement with their Japanese counterparts.

Now, even if the attendees of the Maranello meeting were in favour of the homologation rules, it was quite obvious that some, okay one of them, was not happy with the rule making process a.k.a. the governance of the sport. And it wasn't a manufacturer or a supposed "independent" engine maker who makes premium sports cars. It was Cosworth. As Bernard Ferguson remarked at Imola: "What I'm altogether unsure about is what the mechanism is now for discussing and modifying the 2008 regulations. Whilst they are a draft proposal, they are not a modification in the 2008 regulations." But he quickly added that "this doesn't really matter." Then why did you bring it up Bernard?

Governance is at the heart of the argument from the manufacturers' standpoint. Whilst Max is a busy little bee trying to win back rule making powers for the FIA, the GPMA members have long stated their desire for transparency in the sport's governance. A good reflection of that comes from this article in the New York Times.

The latest headlines on Pitpass brought to us by the UK's Sunday Express (the self styled World's Greatest Newspaper) is yet another twist in the tale of the sport's future. Bernie Ecclestone is insisting that the manufacturers themselves (the parent companies) and not their racing team subsidiaries sign the agreement with CVC. Failing which, Bernie would take back his offer of 60% revenue share to the GPMA teams and leave just 50%. That 10% difference means half a billion bucks over 5 years.

Pitpass notes that the manufacturers could, if they chose to, easily disolve their racing subsidiaries and leave CVC for dead. Then it really makes their statement in this article a couple of weeks ago about world championship entries being legally binding with "no excuses" totally redundant. As I said before, if the manufacturers want to leave there really is nothing the FIA or anyone else can do about it.

The latest threat from Bernie means a loss of about 20 million dollars per GPMA team per season. I don't know, perhaps that means a lot to Renault. But to the rest of them? I'm not so sure if they're not laughing about it. These stupid regulations that Max has been throwing at everyone for the last few years (last minute V8 and aero regs) have cost them a helluva lot more and all for very dubious reasons and made in a most dicatorial fashion.

Back to the headline at hand, apparently the manufacturers have apparently based their commitments and agreements on the 60% offer and this latest threat represents a major stumbling block to the deal with CVC. But hang on. If Bernie is offering the GPMA teams 60% of the revenues then how much will teams like Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and Midland receive? And how much is left for CVC itself? This doesn't make sense at all unless there's some mistake in the Pitpass and/or Sunday Express news article.

Nah, something's not right here. I think the real issue is still the 2008 rules and how those rules are made. But neither you nor I will know the true issue because most of it is behind closed doors. Before I leave, do you know how much revenue the teams receive at the moment? Just 23 percent. Yup, despite it being the teams that are throwing the most amount of money putting on the Formula 1 show they get a paltry twenty three. How little from the man originally charged back in the 1980s to ensure the teams get their fair share. Oh how he screwed them all over for his own personal gain. You suck Bernie.

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