News and views on motorsports

Monday, May 15, 2006

Peace In Formula 1?

One of the biggest news over the weekend in Barcelona was the announcement that the GPMA have signed a memorandum of understanding with CVC affirming their commitment to Formula 1 in 2008 and beyond. Perhaps prompted by this announcement, Renault themselves have confirmed their commitment to race at least until 2012.

"Peace In Our Time," declared ITV-F1. GrandPrix.com. "Peace breaks out in Formula 1" ran the proud headline on GrandPrix.com. A sentiment echoed pretty much everywhere in the media. Well, the racing media at least.

If I had a dollar for every MOU I've seen that in the end never amounted to anything..... An MOU really means bugger all if you ask me. In my experience its just a piece of paper that says hey we've met and talked a bit about this venture. It looks interesting so, lets we work together to make it happen. We'll spend time drawing up the legal paperwork and discussing the commercial agreement.

And that's basically it. You can't enforce an MOU in court and the parties can walk away anytime they want. Its a nice gesture but really corporations walk away from MOUs all the bloody time. So I wouldn't be too quick to say that peace has arrived. Not until there actually exists an actual legal document that has been signed by all the parties involved. It seems extraordinarily naive for the racing media to make such claims of peace in the meantime.

However, in related news this weekend was the inaugural meeting of the Sporting Working Group at Barcelona. The group is made up of representatives of all the teams competing in the 2008 world championship. This group includes Prodrive. It was significant because it can be considered a success by the GPMA. The way it works these days (at least for 2008) is that rather than requiring unanimous decision among the teams before a regulation is adopted, nowadays a majority vote is enough.

It should be noted that one of Max Mosley's complaints was that the technical directors can never agree on anything. Not a hundred percent true. I can recall plenty of times when they did agree on a regulation with the exception of a single interloper among their ranks. The guilty party? You guessed it. Ferrari. Take these V8s they run these days. If the teams had their way, it would have been law since 1989 when turbos were banned and engines had to be normally aspirated. But those smart alec boys from Maranello wanted to run V12s so it had to be dropped. Same thing with refuelling. Those V12s are thirsty little buggers. In fact, the teams were all shouting for a single tyre manufacturer not long ago. Only Ferrari dissented.

The majority rule in fact is a real godsend and should pave the way for quicker resolution of technical regulations. And the GPMA teams, joined by Williams used it to great effect last weekend.

First the proposal for increasing the engine homologation period from 3 to 5 years was rejected by a vote of 8-4. The four in support being the "Friends of Max" brigade that is Ferrari, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Prodrive. Nice to see that good old Frank decided to go with the GPMA, despite the fact that he's signed up with Bernie. Surprisingly, Midland also joined up on the side of the GPMA. Perhaps Shnaider is not so useless after all but then again, he's running Toyota engines which might explain things.

Second, the proposal for penalty ballasts in place of the current penalty of grid positions were also rejected by majority vote. Third, everyone agreed on standard ECUs to be used for testing and racing.

Then Ron Dennis decided to propose that engine homologation be trashed altogether. And this was supported by the GPMA teams, Super Aguri, Midland and Williams with the Friends of Max voting against. Now thats a GPMA victory in my book.

But ultimately the FIA have the power, through various commitees such as the kangaroo World Council, to veto any motion that it decides as being against the interest of the sport. Now there's the big catch. I can forsee it now. The teams decide on a regulation. Ferrari doesn't like it and makes a call to Max who decides to veto the whole damn thing. Putting that aside for the moment, nearly everything the FIA proposed has now been washed aside by the SWG. As Pitpass notes, will Max accept that?

Well I think he better. Otherwise the GPMA teams will be the first to rip that MOU up and shove it up his ass. But if he does accept everthing the SWG decides I think the GPMA will fall over themselves to sign whatever commercial agreement CVC, FOM and the FIA come up with. Over to you Max.

1 comment:

patrick said...

Nice summary, but bear in mind that over at www.grandprix.com they're not so convinced a deal has really been done