News and views on motorsports

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hang The Traitors

While the world waits for Max Mosley's next move after exhibiting temper tantrums over some otherwise truthful snipes about him, lets consider the two treacherous teams who were expelled from FOTA in the last few weeks.

One of them, Williams, have stated that they wish to be reinstated into FOTA. I am absolutely disgusted by the audacity. I'm certain Vijay Mallya, the loathsome maker of the world's worst drink, incorrectly called a beer, the awful Kingfisher, is probably in a state of wishful thinking that his team would be welcomed back into the fold as well.

I do not see any reason whatsoever for the treachery to be rewarded. Whilst the teams showed uncommon solidarity in facing up to the tyrant Mosley, these two sold their souls to the devil, blissfully agreeing to be led by the nose by Max and Bernie. In the case of Frank Williams, he plainly admitted that money (and of course some lucrative Formula 2 design contracts) was the main motivation. In the case of Mallya, he gave some pitiful excuse about banking convenants that supposedly forced his hand.

Very well, if these apostates were so adept in saving their selfish skins, the let them now stand alone. FOTA had fought hard to gain concessions and whatever benefits should be theirs to share amonst themselves. Williams and Force India walked out by their actions, akin to deserting your comrades in battle. Why should they not face the firing squad now? And why should the be allowed to share in the spoils of (any) victory?

I say allow the new teams USF1, Campos and Manor into FOTA for they are indeed taking a bold step. But disloyalty should be rewarded in kind. Let Williams and Mallya stand alone and negotiate with Bernie and see how far that gets them. More revenue for the teams certainly. But none for these bastards.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Dream Ends

For the record, I am bitterly disappointed by this outcome. This is only going to lead to more wars over the same issues in the future. Whilst Max has promised to leave, this is not getting rid of CVC. And given the regular and quick u-turns Max has made over the years and even over the last week, how can we be certain that he will indeed leave and go some place to die?

Grand prix racing needed a fresh start, a reload as I had been arguing for the good of the sport, not some grand peace deal and rehashing of ideas and compromises that has always happened. We needed to get rid of all things wrong with the sport and now like cowards they have all decided to sleep with the devil you know.

Will the teams get more of fair revenues of the sport?

And what about running in all those classic circuits that is not only makes more pleasant viewing? What of the fans as demonstrated at Silverstone last weekend? Would you really believe Bernie will not take away the British GP? The US, Canada and France will not now get a grand prix. Now more GPs will move to god forsaken despot run countries in the East. Oh god. There's probably going to be a grand prix in poverty stricken India. All the while Bernie and CVC reap the harvest paid for by taxpayers in countries that do not need grands prix and only offer the most sterile and artificial environments for racing attended by no one.

In my mind, there was far more to lose by staying with the FIA than to breakaway. So much for a bold new future.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Givin Em What They Want

Just finished reading this great piece by Martin Brundle who recounts his experiences of the Silverstone circuit through the years. There's a great anecdote from Brundle about his first test of a Formula 1 car in a McLaren. Also present was Ayrton Senna and Stefan Bellof. Ayrton as ever in single minded pursuit of being the fastest ended up tanking the engine but still had the gall to ask Ron Dennis for a the lap time to which Dennis replied : "I find it very difficult to remember to press the stopwatch when I’m watching one of my cars blowing up." Absolutely priceless.

Like many over the weekend, Martin laments the departure of the British Grand Prix away from Silverstone. And like everyone else, he's right. As a driver's circuit, it ranks up there with the likes of Spa and Suzuka (although I still think Brands is better). I myself can vouch for this (not that it means much, mind) having driven the full Silverstone grand prix circuit on a cold winter's day in a borrowed BMW M3 (the original made-to-race Mk 1 mind you, not the pimp mobile you find today). To drive quickly, its fast and hard. Bridge its still absolutely scary, never mind what the commentators say. And there are lots of tricky bits like Becketts, Chapel and Abbey. Well, Abbey was tricky to me, I completely messed up my braking more than once through there! My favourite corners is still Copse. In the M3, you simply hurl it in and feel that car leaning hard underneath you. The Becketts complex would be great if I could have nailed the line through there. But it was extremely tricky to get it right through all those transitions. I just didn't know how and in the short time I had at the track day, I couldn't find it. Oh well, someday I shall return, hopefully to do it right.

After we had completed our runs we drove up to Becketts complex at the point where the track turns to form the National circuit. We watched the other cars go by and looked at lines before leaving. You have indeed a healthy respect for these grand prix drivers. Watching from trackside, the fastest supercar of the day seems like its moving at a snail's pace compared to how fast a grand prix car speeds around that complex. At that point, you are truly amazed at what those cars can do.

Watching the British Grand Prix over the weekend, absolutely everyone was raving about it. It was fabulous to see Mark Webber pulling no punches and taking a swipe at these new bore-a-dromes Bernie insists on putting the cars on. Heck, I even learned something new from the normally horrid Star Sports commentator, Steve Slater, who gave a history lesson on how some of the track's corners were named. Maggotts for instance after famer Maggots who gave his lands for the facility. Stowe Corner after the school. Abbey after a 13th Century monastery. Of course, Hangar is easy enough, named after the hangars used by the USAAF in World War 2.

The point is Silverstone reeks with history and heritage. The trophy presented to the winner of the grand prix goes back to the 1930s. One could say its hallowed ground almost. All this would count for bugger all if it wasn't such a great place to drive. But as a driving facility its absolutely fantastic. Alright, the race didn't produce the necessary overtaking but seriously, watch the cars carefully. Watch them go through Copse and see them lean hard. Its something you see much less of these days. The only other place you'll see it happen regularly being Spa. Watch carefully and you will see exactly what these cars were designed to do.

For years Bernie has had it in for Silverstone. You could say he's had it in for the British Grand Prix event itself. And that is complete bollocks. See the huge crowds that come by every single year come rain or shine.

I remember as a child, my dad taking me to the Malaysian Grand Prix (pre-Formula 1) at the old Shah Alam Batu Tiga circuit way back in the 1970s. I sat on a hill on the grass from morning till 6 in the evening under the baking sun with only a newspaper for cover. I didn't utter a word of complaint cause I was just enjoying watching the cars. And we went again year after year. My dad and I are die hard race fans and car enthusiasts. So what if there weren't covered stands or proper seats or any form of air conditioned luxuries? We still had a great day out and what was important was seeing the cars race.

And so in England where motorsports is ever present and prevalent I completely understand why the fans attend race day braving the traffic and the elements to watch the cars. They're die hard fans and nothing's ever going to change that. What does it matter that there are no towering grandstands and fancy pit complexes? Bernie can complain all he wants. He can raise excuse after excuse in order to rape as much money for himself and the CVC dogs by running races in the middle of the desert but there will never be that same passion and loyalty.

Up until the time when FOTA announced a breakaway championship, Bernie simply refused to get it. He refused to give these die-hard fans what they really want. As I mentioned, for years he's given all hell to Silverstone and even the idea of a British Grand Prix. But suddenly he realises he needs to give the fans what they want because you can bet FOTA would otherwise be doing the same. Suddenly Bernie is guaranteeing a British Grand Prix and in the (most likely) event that Donington doesn't deliver, it'll be run at Silverstone instead. Even if FOTA does nothing else, at the very least they have done this service for grand prix fans worldwide.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why I Think Its Not The Same

Many fear that any breakaway series will see the death of grand prix racing. Many point to the CART/IRL situation in America and say that Formula 1 is doomed to head in that direction where neither series had any clear advantage and in fact, both series suffered in the long run with lower aggregate viewership.

When the IRL was formed up until year 2000 or os, I believe CART was still the dominant player in single seaters in America. I know I was following it very closely up until then, although I did miss watching the Indianapolis 500 once the IRL largely closed its doors to the CART teams from 1996 onwards. Nevertheless, the loss of that signature event to me was minor. It was just a lot of branding to me. CART had all the great teams, the engine manufacturers and the better set of drivers. There was Penske, Ganassi, Newman-Hass, Green riding on Penske, Reynard and Lola chassis powered by multiple different engines from Honda, Toyota and Ford. To me it was absolutely brilliant and I even kept wondering why Formula 1 cold not be more like this. The variety of different chassis-engine combinations was a big pulling factor in CART.

After year 2000 when Ganassi started competing in the Indianapolis 500, things started to change. During this time, CART had demonstrated some incredible mismanagement that started sending teams over to the IRL. And the biggest mistake of all was then that both series went spec. A single specification series absolutely killed it for me. It was absolute nonsense. To me, any attempt by Formula 1 to head down the spec route would be the thing that kills it. Look at GP2. A very interesting curiosity in its first year and kept alive only by the fact that it runs during grand prix. But because of the lack of variety I simply got tired looking at it. I'd rather be watching a good F3 race like Macau.

Adding to the single seater woes in America was the inevitable march of NASCAR, something grandprix.com is exceedingly good at letting us know about. Two things about this though. First, to my mind, NASCAR is only popular in the States. I simply do not find any evidence of its popularity anywhere outside it in any large number (Yes, yes, I could be wrong). Speaking for myself, I hate it and simply do not see the point of it. Its just too American. And that is a sentiment I repeatedly hear from people the world over. Second, there are no equivalent series in the rest of the world to compete against grand prix racing. Sportscars and Touring cars are simply too weak and unpopular at this time, although I wish that wasn't the case.

As far as the racing is concerned, I believe FOTA holds the advantage over the FIA. It simply has better teams and the variety needed to hold the interest of fans worldwide. Do you really want to watch the entire grid powered by a 2006 Cosworth engine? Please. The best teams and drivers are what racing's pinnacle should be about. And here, FOTA holds all the cards. In addition, FOTA are now free to choose the best tracks in the world something Bernie has been ignoring being consumed by his (or CVC's) greed.

What it does lack at this moment is the organisational infrastructure and for the lack of a better word, distribution. And by that I mean airtime and television. The former can easily be solved rapidly. Especially if they align themselves with someone like Dorna, MotoGPs organisers. The latter is the potential killer not only for FOTA but grand prix racing itself. The FIA through FOM have television broadcasters in their pocket. It will be very hard for FOTA to negotiate with those same broadcasters (although alternative ones are available). The broadcasters could be tied to FOM due to contractual obligations and thus shutting out FOTA.

If this is the case, we could have a situation where the FIA's championship is shown on the telly but nobody wants to watch it. And then there's the FOTA championship where everyone wants to watch but they simply can't do so. A lose-lose situation and not good for grand prix racing.

If FOTA could get their breakaway championship on the air and more importantly on the terrestrial channels, then I would definitely say that it will be successful. This is the key to it. What will help is if FOTA organises more races in its most important markets that is Europe and North America. As Bernie pushes more races to the East, FOTA stands ready to recapture all those European audiences at the tracks. As far as North America is concerned, FOTA are in a position to lock out the FIA and FOM from the long suffering North America grand prix fan if they act fast enough. Since Bernie left both the US and Canada in the cold without any contracts, Tony George at Indianapolis and the folks at Montreal are free to choose. And you can bet, they'd rather choose the FOTA series with all the great teams and drivers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

So They DO Have The Minerals

I woke up happy this morning. Still in a slumber I stumbled straight to the laptop and lo and behold. A new breakaway series was announced. My eyes lit wide, I thought I was dreaming. I had been fully expecting the teams to cave in to Mosley's demands. They always do. But as I stated in my last post, there was just no way they would sign up to race under a set of regulations that as it stood today, would allow the FIA to walk all over them.

Simply put: The FIA want the teams to sign up unconditionally and then a satisfactory governance structure would be put in place (or so the FIA says). This even though an unconditional entry would mean they are obligated to race without proper governance and the FIA would under the entry be under no obligation to change such structures.

The teams on the other hand wanted such governance structure in place before signing up. As well they should. I mean how could you trust the FIA president who could at any point after the signature change his mind and decide any which way simply on his whims? The teams would be negligent in their duties to safeguard their operations if they did so. Yet, that is what Max was asking him to do.

Speaking of governance, here's what the FIA had to say:

"Formula One needs a strong and impartial regulator because of the nature of the sport, the high stakes and the competitors - people who want to win (literally) at any cost."

This is true but over the years the FIA have not been impartial in dispatching its duties as a regulator. Furthermore, strong arm tactics as deployed by Mosley and the FIA do not consititute strength. Its bullying and that is not good nor fair governance.

"Good governance does not mean that Ferrari should govern. "

Huh? Thats pure smoke and mirrors to confuse the public. FOTA are not suggesting that Ferrari govern the sport. In fact, through the veto, this was something the FIA had in a way allowed Ferrari to do. As many commentators point out, this is not sporting and certainly would not be allowed in other sports. Who let Ferrari have the veto? Why, it was the FIA and further demonstrates how dubious and facetious their governance has been.

"Ferrari now claim that the procedures followed by the FIA are contrary to their agreement with the FIA, but in reality they never objected to these procedures (indeed they voted for them)..... "

Again, more finger pointing to Ferrari and more distractions. The fact is the FIA have failed to demonstrate in this or any other statement, how great and how well their current governance structure is or ever has been. Pointing to Ferrari's failures in fact incriminate the FIA and provides more evidence of their mismanagement.

".....until they were not happy with the decisions themselves. Ferrari has been officially (as well as unofficially) represented on the WMSC since 1981 and never objected to the process or decisions until April and May this year"

So you have actually allowed them special privileges this long and let them get away with it? Again, how does this prove the FIA's ability to properly govern Formula 1?

And on the subject of commercial revenues, the FIA only claim that the teams wish "to expropriate the commercial rights for itself" Even if they did, so what? They deserve it. As it is, the FOM have for years denied the proper share of revenues to the teams. Bernie Ecclestone, that crook, who was supposed to look after these rights on behalf of the teams, took all of it for himself and up until a few years ago, gave only 25% of the revenues back to the teams. Most of which went to Ferrari.

So now, without waiting any further the teams have announced their own breakaway championship. Will they really go through this? Max doesn't think so. Well, he would wouldn't he?

Make no mistake, the FIA and FOM are losing a lot here. What I am surprised to see is that the FIA, instead of trying to make ammends actually came out with the hideous press release and following the breakaway announcement have announced plans to sue FOTA for trying to organise their own series. I mean, thats a helluva way to make peace and attract these teams back to the FIA championship. Whilst FOTA attempted a compromise with the FIA, the FIA have so far only responded with hostility, typical of tyrants and despots.

So what would a breakaway championship look like? Much the same as now I would imagine, for now. I should think in order to provide stability and therein save costs, they would probably adopt this year's rules. And really, that is fine by me.

Circuits are plentiful and much as I would miss seeing the FOTA teams in Malaysia (assuming they can't get to or won't race in Sepang) nevertheless I am glad they'll be pulling out of hideous places like Bahrain and this new stupid Abu Dhabi circuit. Hopefully, they'll never arrive in India, too. Bernie can have his race among the impoverished on the streets.

Here's where I hope they'll do races: Imola, Magny Cours, Estoril, Sachsenring or the Nurburgring (where else in Germany?), Indianapolis, Montreal, Jacarepagua, Suzuka (of course!), Spa (its a must, they somehow must get this one), Silverstone (the drivers admittedly love this one and having driven on it, so do I), Brands Hatch, Portero de los Funes (wishful), Jerez, Adelaide (always fun over there), A1-Ring (I wish it was still the Oesterreichring), Monza or Mugello, Hermanos Rodriguez and Kyalami to name a few. There, enough venues to make a nice 16-17 race championship. Its a pity Bernie owns Paul Ricard in France but that would have been a fantastic venue to be in as well.

I was always a believer in a breakaway championship having written about the possibility even back in the cowardly GPMA days. There will be difficulties but there is nothing to fear. FOTA will have the best teams and the best drivers. They will have the choice of visiting all the classic fast and challenging circuits I grew up watching in front of passionate fans who really care about the sport rather than silly Arab circuits full of sand.

And what of attracting new, independent teams? Well, if only they would relax the customer car rules, there could be more of them particularly with a more equitable distribution of the commercial revenues of the sport. Its interesting to note that poor N Technology have withdrawn their application to enter the FIA championship based on the fact that the manufacturers will not be present. How much longer before the rest do the same and leave the FIA with nothing?

What have the FIA championship got? Has-been Williams and wannabe Force India. And a whole bunch of teams unheard of. Where will they find the sponsorship to finance their racing? I find it hard that all of them will successfully procure the necessary funds.

For now, we should not get too excited. Lets see what happens. With Brawn still insisting on negotiating with the FIA and Bernie yet to play his hand, things could still change. I do hope though the breakaway series does happen and we can get rid of tyrants like Max and parasites like CVC and Bernie.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No End In Sight

"You do prefer it this way, don't you, as it was meant to be? No peace in our time" -- General Chang

Now take a look at the latest press release from the FIA:

"Indeed, [FOTA] were not prepared to discuss [financial] regulation at all."

"In default of a proper dialogue, the FOTA financial proposals were discussed but it became clear that these would not be capable of limiting the expenditure of a team which had the resources to outspend its competitors. Another financial arms race would then be inevitable."

While FOTA talks about governance, the FIA are still pressing on about budget caps. As I understand it, FOTA works towards cost reductions through technical measures but the FIA still talks about imposition of absolute limits to budgets. Something that the FOTA teams are absolutely against.

The point is subtle but therein lies the loggerheads. And lets not even discuss the matter of governance, something that the FIA, barring a passing mention of reverting back to the 1998 Concorde Agreement, still has not been properly addressed at all by the FIA.

Put it simply. The FIA says agree to the 2010 rules including the budget cap and we'll all then sign the Concorde Agreement. FOTA's position is sign the Concorde Agreement that governs the sport (including how the rules are shaped and made) then we'll talk about rules.

Max of course does not want this because then he'd have a very very hard time imposing the budget cap. In fact, with the Concorde in place the only way the FIA could bulldoze any rule is on the grounds of safety.

Meantime of course, Max has sent his thug, Alan Donnelly to try and break the unity between the FOTA teams which met with some stern retaliatory statements from FOTA. The fact that Mr Donnelly is also chief steward, seriously calls into question his ability to remain impartial in applying the rules at races.

Essentially Max there trying the divide and conquer strategy once more. But the teams aren't buying it. Thank God.

The differences between FOTA and FIA are subtle in form but huge in substance. And as it stands, I fail to see how this will be resolved unless one of the parties compromise.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Funny Stories

Max Max Max. You're so predictable these days its hilarious mate! So now there's a new press release from the FIA. And in this press release the FIA claim that:

"The FIA believed it had participated in a very constructive meeting with a large measure of agreement. The FIA was therefore astonished to learn that certain FOTA members not present at the meeting have falsely claimed that nothing was agreed and that the meeting had been a waste of time. There is clearly an element in FOTA which is determined to prevent any agreement being reached regardless of the damage this may cause to the sport."

Ok so given that in that Thursday meeting the ones present were Toyota, Ferrari, Red Bull and Brawn GP, the "element in FOTA" could be one or more of BMW, Mercedes or Renault. But strange that following this meeting on Thursday you had Ferrari, Toyota and Red Bull voicing out strong opinions against the FIA particularly on the issue of governance. Seems that those present in the Thursday meeting weren't pleased with the issues as well, never mind some strange "element in FOTA."

And to this, a FOTA spokeman has responded:

"FOTA, whilst reserving its position on the specific issues, does not intend to comment the FIA press release issued on the 15th of June and to be involved in a prolonged series of polemical statements that generate confusion and does not help create a positive environment for the ongoing contacts"

Max Max. Still trying your best to divide and conquer? Are there no other strategies in the play book?

The FIA have also seen fit to respond to the ACEA statement, again driving the issue of costs and how the FIA proposals would save the manufacturers a ton of money (should be nice after years of screwing the manufacturers with constant rule changes). No mention of the FIA poor governance though. But again, Max simply couldn't resist the good old highlight on the one dissenting voice in ACEA. In this case:

"The FIA understands that Porsche did not support ACEA’s Formula One resolution and has instructed the ACEA secretariat to make this clear in response to any press enquiries"

You just couldn't resist it eh Max?

Meanwhile, Bernie has urged calm and restraint: "I would just ask everyone, instead of throwing mud at each other in public or behind each other’s backs, to just be quiet and let things settle down a bit."

In other words, help help! You are ruining the free lunch for me and my CVC Pedigree Chums. Yeah, its been quite a funny weekend alright.

The funniest story so far must be about poor N Technology who had their application for a spot on the Formula 1 grid rejected by the FIA. According to N Technology's Mauro Sipsz : "The applications have been used by the Federation as pawns to move in the fight against the teams."

Wha.. What the f...? You just knew this now? You mean you really thought the FIA would take you seriously? You poor sod or should I say cannon fodder. Autosport goes further : "Sipsz and Codignoni reveal that they were informed by the FIA about having missed deadlines for submitting financial and technical details of their teams - even though they are adamant such information was sent in on time."

Reminds me of when you send an invoice to your customer who doesn't want to pay up. But we never did get your invoice... could you please send it again? Oldest trick in the book except in this case its oops sorry you can't enter now.

Max, what sort of joint are you running here?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The State Of Play

As of today, the situation is:

1. The FIA have published the entrants for 2010. Unconditional entrants include Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Conditional entrants include the remaining 5 FOTA members.
2. Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso have stated that their entry is still conditional upon the FIA agreeing to terms to their satisfaction and have thrown support to FOTA.
3. FOTA have declared that they will release certain information detailing why they think the FIA's 2010 regulations stink.
4. FOTA have implored the FIA WSMC and Senate to step in and help resolve this issue, bypassing Max Mosley.
5. The ACEA i.e. the European Automobile Manufacturers Association have thrown in their support firmly behind the FOTA teams. In a statement they have called for better governance of the sport, more equitable share of the sports revenues and at the same time warned that FOTA will have to breakaway if these conditions are not met. A clear slap in the face to Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone.
6. Max and Bernie have so far been silent.

I am glad that the FOTA teams are showing solidarity and unity on this issue and furthermore, I am pleased to see the ACEA stepping in and hitting it where it hurts. One trump card that Max have repeatedly used thus far for his draconian measures is his claims that the board of directors in the manufacturers would be in full support for his budget cap. Well, both the ACEA and Renault's Carlos Ghosn (Le Cost Cutter himself!) have stepped in and clarified that this is not the main point. The point is his governance of the sport and the share of revenues from the sport that is in question. Processes to govern and set the rules must be transparent and clear to all and it is this that is most important to them at this time.

I wouldn't put it pass Max to get himself out of this one but it certainly would be very interesting to see how he could. His professional credibility is now called into question in the most public manner possible by some very heavyweights.

With attacks from all side, including previously cowardly journalists, Max finds himself in isolation, something that is not unknown for him. Remember the whole sex scandal thing last year? In that case he could and successfully did defend himself on the grounds of privacy, this time its about his professional competence. And that is fair game.

The Manufacturers' Voice

Well, the standoff is most definitely on. And in the wake of yesterday's published FIA entry list, the ACEA i.e. the European Automobile Manufacturers Association has issued a statement in support of the FOTA teams. The statement reads:

"Today, the members of the Board of the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association discussed the current situation prevailing in Formula One, and have concluded that the current governance system cannot continue."

Max Mosley, please leave.

"ACEA has come to the conclusion that the FIA needs a modernised and transparent governance system and processes, including the revision of its constitution, to ensure the voice of its members, worldwide motorsport competitors and motorists are properly reflected."

That is to say, screw you Max Mosley. We're tired of you shoving arbitrary rules down our throats and not listening to us. And furthermore:

"The ACEA members support the activities and objectives of the Formula One Teams Association to establish stable governance, clear and transparent rules which are common to all competitors to achieve cost reductions including a proper attribution of revenues to the F1 teams, in order to deliver a sustainable attractive sport for the worldwide public."

In other words, screw Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone and CVC dogs. Give us a proper share of the revenue.

"Unless these objectives are met, the BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Toyota along with the other teams are determined to find an alternative way to practice this sport in a manner which provides clarity, certainty of rules and administration, and a fair allocation of revenues to the competing teams."

If Max doesn't leave then we will.

"The European automotive industry is key to the strength and competitiveness of Europe. The ACEA members are BMW Group, DAF Trucks, Daimler, FIAT Group, Ford of Europe, General Motors Europe, Jaguar Land Rover, MAN Nutzfahrzeuge, Porsche, PSA Peugeot Citro├źn, Renault, Scania, Toyota Motor Europe, Volkswagen and Volvo. They provide direct employment to more than 2.3 million people and indirectly support another 10 million jobs. Annually, ACEA members invest €20 billion in R&D, or 4% of turnover."

Oh yeah. Look who we are bitches!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stand Off Continues?

After much anticipation, the list of competitors for the 2010 championship has been revealed. All the FOTA teams are in (some provisionally) plus 3 new teams. These being Campos, Manor (?!!!) and Team USF1, all running Cosworth engines. The exclusion of Prodrive and Lola are very surprising to me since they have been among the loudest to shout out their intentions.

Of the 8 FOTA teams, 5 of them - McLaren, BMW, Renault, Toyota and Brawn - have been marked as provisional with further disucssions to be held and concluded no later than June 19th. Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Red Bull are marked as confirmed. Whether this is due to contractual obligations (as asserted by the FIA) or the teams themselves have submitted unconditionally is not known at this time.

Not sure about Red Bull for some reports indicate that they have submitted unconditional entries but I'd be surprised if Ferrari have succumbed to the FIA and bought out with vast sums of money and privileges. Well assuming for now that Ferrari are still with FOTA, all this tells me is that the FIA still consider the FOTA teams to be indispensible (as well they should be) . The real result we have been waiting for (race or break) is postponed for another week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

While Max Appeases, Bernie Threatens

Well, seems like we're looking at some role reversals here. It usually Mad Max who brandishes the iron rod, whilst Bernie Ecclestone becomes the calm voice of compromise and reason. But now its Ecclestone thats pulling the threats to the FOTA teams. In this article in Autosport, he warns the teams that any attempt to organise a breakaway series will be met with stern action.


He warns the teams to stay away from sponsors, venues, television broadcasters lest they face punitive action in the courts. But I like this statement: 

"That money flows back to the teams and they spend it. It would be different when they have to provide all the venues, hire their own race people, find their own television companies – and we have the best – and promote it."

Err Bernie, I think we're all smarter than that. Some of the money flows back to the teams. Collectively we know its 50% to all teams. Then the rest is in all but legal form, stolen for you and those dogs at CVC.

As for having the best broadcasters, well many, many folk will take issue to that. In Malaysia, if we want to catch the European races live, then the only option is Star Sports (which is basically Sky Sports in the UK and elsewhere). If you thought that James Allen was piss poor you should hear the morons they have commentating. And whilst the BBC broadcast provides roaming reporters who provide inside updates from the teams, those idiots at Star Sports are absolutely clueless. Long after you can spot whats happening from the timings provided by Formula1.com, they're still mumbling inane blabber on the mike. Really, the only star in current available broadcasts is Martin Brundle and I think the FIA would not mind if he left after his scathing remarks in an article in the Times last year. So thats a bit of nonsense from Bernie right there.

Even more silliness comes from Bernie when he says: "As for the drivers, they want to win the FIA F1 world championship or some of them would be elsewhere getting more money to win a title that means less. I don't think they will get a series going."

Clearly in contradiction to statements made by the likes  Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Filipe Massa, Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber. I think a driver is interested in racing in the best series no matter what its called. Nothing like some good mis-information to really confuse the casual viewers and sponsors there eh Bernie?

And finally nothing like telling the teams its all their fault with this little gem: "The teams had a chance to sign the 1998 Concorde Agreement which would have protected them from Max's technical changes, but they said no.

Thanks for pointing that out. And therefore now Bernie thinks they should commit another mistake by signing up for Max's ridiculous new rules. 

Poor Bernie. He's really so desperate now that his accounting skills seem to be affected. He warns the teams, particularly the manufacturers that their board members won't be best pleased with them spending money to set up a new series. Well Bernie, any bean counter worth his salt would argue the equation is more complicated than that. Its all about net gains. If the net gain to be had from starting a new series outweighs the net gains from joining the FIA series, guess which one the bean counter would recommend. Particularly since if they ran their own series the teams would be entitled to 100% of the commercial revenues rather than the 50% handout they receive now. Add to this, the costs of Max Mosley's constant rule changes that would now be saved by some stable rules, then you get the true picture.

I follow MotoGP from time to time. I must say, entertainment-wise on average year on year it beats F1 hands down. I just happen to prefer cars to bikes which is why I follow F1 more closely. But the rules in MotoGP are determined by the teams not by the FIM, the governing body for motorcycle racing. And look how spectacular it turns out to be. And to this end FOTA have contacted Dorna Sports SL, the MotoGP organisers to possibly run the new series. I can think of no better group of people. 

Ironically, Dorna is or was owned by CVC. After buying up the commercial rights to F1 they have had to dispose of their holdings in Dorna. If they haven't already, they most certainly will be required to by EU anti-trust regulations. What a great way of getting rid of the CVC cancer and sticking their commercial rights up their arses.

Bernie and Max's defence of their position is looking increasingly desperate. Upon examination, their arguments sound increasingly senseless. I hope FOTA are not buying the absurdity Max and Bernie are selling. Come on guys, have a backbone for a change. Just do a breakaway series already. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Load Of Bollocks

Max Mosley has recently written to the FOTA teams in what seems like a kindly worded reconciliatory gesture urging them to sign up unconditionally to compete in 2010. He assures the teams that should they submit, they will be invited to discuss new proposals to modify the 2010 rules (including the budget caps) in consultation with the FIA.

But first of course they have to submit unconditionally. Bind themselves in a legal contract with the FIA with no guarantees whatsoever that their voices will be heard. After all, is this not the same person whom last week told the FOTA teams to take a hike? And furthermore, the FIA have been writing the rules for the last 60 years and if they didn't like it they can form their own championship.

Remember also, that these are the words of a man who have repeatedly time and again forced rule changes down the throats of teams in contravention of the FIA's own rules and procedures in making such changes. And why should the teams now trust this Hitlerian dictator? He respects not his own rules and why should he respect the views of the teams.

Henry Ford (wasn't it?) used to say that you can have any colour (for his Model-T) as long as its black. Well, to Max the teams can have all the say so long as in the end the rules conform to his view.

FOTA have yet to respond but I hope they tell this bastard to in turn take a hike. And as Chris Balfe in this article in Pitpass has said, enough is enough. Max has gone on for far too long. The teams should stand firm and bring an end to his tyranny and greed.

Update: Whilst Mosley suggests that FOTA sign up to shape the 2010 rules, it can only be changed by unanimous decision. Whilst the FOTA teams do not agree to a budget cap, these tiny newcomers are absolutely depending on it. It goes without saying, there will be no unanimous decision to drop or increase the budget. Game over.

Hear Hear!!

I love it when the general press (as opposed to cowering racing journalists) hits hard, as did the UK Guardian in this article by Richard Williams today. Highlights:

"Those who watched the Turkish grand prix on television might be interested to learn that the people in charge of the transmission were instructed to focus their cameras tightly on the cars in order to disguise the paltry attendance.

Not everything can be obscured by green sheeting, cunning camera angles or Jenson Button's dazzling smile. Button's success ....is just about the only thing formula one has going for it during a year in which the corrosive effects of Mosley's political machinations and Ecclestone's insatiable greed have become fully apparent."

Brilliant opening salvo but there's more:

"By imposing a wholesale set of rule changes at the beginning of this season, rather than introducing alterations gradually, he made himself look like a reformer while actually forcing the teams to incur huge additional costs, not least through the addition of his vastly expensive and troublesome KERS system, already abandoned by most of the teams."

Where were articles like these years ago before the introduction of the rubbish KERS. Instead we even had some blogs and press supporting its entrance. But the article goes further and this part I like:

"So far only two teams – Williams and Force India – have switched to his camp, suffering expulsion from Fota as a result of choosing self-interest over the long-term health of the sport. The association's eight remaining members – Ferrari, Renault, BMW, Toyota, McLaren-Mercedes, Brawn, Red Bull and Toro Rosso – might very well take the view that grand prix racing can exist perfectly well without one team that won its last championship in 1997 and another that shows little sign of doing anything other than making up the numbers."

Finally someone else says these things I've been trying to get across!

"Whatever Mosley may say, his objective appears not to be making formula one cheaper, greener or more competitive. It is to retain control of the sport first by dividing and ruling the existing competitors and second by threatening the introduction of a bunch of new teams whose loyalty to him and to Ecclestone has been bought by the rewriting of technical regulations and by the promise of financial assistance."

The article concludes:

"How much better the world would seem if formula one returned to Silverstone next year and Mosley and Ecclestone did not."

Amen to that Mr Richard Williams!

And so to the wannabe racing team boss Vijay Mallya. Why don't you quit being a wannabe and take your billions elsewhere instead being a nuisance in grand prix racing? Giving it to help the hardcore poor in your country who live on the streets eating scraps off garbage would probably be more beneficial to yourself and your nation in the long run.

Led By The Nose

An interesting Q & A with Frank Williams is published here on Autosport. Frank Williams have indicated that the Williams team have been expelled (and not even temporarily) from FOTA, despite headlines claiming that the suspension was temporary.

But more interesting is the fact that Williams admits that he'd rather be in a series organised by the FIA and Bernie than anything else anyone else comes up with. And of course, its all about the money admits Williams. Money from Bernie. And also not forgetting money for designing Max Mosley's new Formula 2 championship.

Strange. First this pre-supposes that only Bernie can bring the money. I am certain the FOTA folks could do a pretty damned good job of it as well. Second, he forgets that teams combined gets only 50% of the money. The rest are raped out of the sport by CVC. Assuming that someone else makes a good job at organising a championship, Williams would get more out of it then sticking with the leeches.

And lastly, I hate to say it yet again but here is the man who, along with Ron Dennis and Ken Tyrell, found himself ripped off out of their fair share of the F1 commercial revenues by none other than Bernie Ecclestone. And yet by his own admission would follow Bernie wherever he now went.

The sad fact of the matter is that Williams Grand Prix Engineering are no longer the force on the track that they once were. So pathetic have they become they have to resort to low fuel flash laps in practice to get any attention. They have not won a race since 2004 and judging by things they won't be winning anything unless half the teams don't finish the race. They are a firm mid-fielder and sometime bottom feeder. It is no surprise that the other bottom feeder (but extermely wannabe) team have also followed them into Max and Bernie's arms.

How does Willaims feel about competing in a Formula 1 championship devoid of the best teams? His reply is simply : "That's tough shit. We've made our choice" Well I guess the temptation to go back to the top whilst all the big boys are away was just too much for Williams. Its rather like Ferrari at Indianapolis in 2005. They finished first across the line. But it was a most hollow of victories.

Years ago the word piranha was being thrown about to describe some of the Formula 1 team bosses. Increasingly I feel this label belongs firmly with Frank Williams. I wish him the all the worst.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Budget Cap

I hate this idea of a budget cap. I really do. Maybe because it radically changes the face of grand prix racing and I hate the idea of racing changing even further because of Max and cohorts. Perhaps I hate the fact that to my mind, its just a deceitful way arguing that the teams should not need to receive more money from Bernie and the CVC dogs. Maybe I hate the fact that Max argues there are is no technical innovation in grand prix racing and yet it was he who framed the current rules so tightly that innovation is not permitted. There are even provisions in the sporting regulations that state that any innovative advantage a team has will be removed after a year! Yeah, perhaps I just hate the disingenuousness of it all and I really want to see the end of Max, FOM and CVC.

Putting all these other bigger issues aside, I do wonder whether the budget cap in and of itself is such a bad idea. I have to agree with Mosley on one thing. If applied, it is at least ensures fairness (though I think fairness can also be achieved by other means). But whatever, on the face of things, those folk from Norfolk who want to revive the Lotus name, could theoretically be fighting on the same terms as Maranello. If you ask me, I think Maranello is afraid of this. For if everyone is on equal footing, then its down to creativity (if this is allowed as well, but I'll come to this later). Time was when Ferrari were getting beaten by so-called garagistes using only Cosworth DFV engines and old Enzo hated that. And so would Luca di Montezemolo. Ferrari builds its brand on grand prix mystique and here's a chance that the myth would be destroyed. Not good. And I would say it also applies to a lesser extent but still significantly to other car manufacturers in Formula 1.

However, we should not let ourselves get carried away. As I said before, this is only in theory. Whilst a budget cap allied to greater innovative freedom seems like a great idea here are some reasons why it would not work in the long run.

Budget caps are impossible to police

Seriously, do the teams or anyone for that fact want a bunch of FIA people to rummage through their books? And even if they were allowed, so what? Auditors have been rummaging through people's finances for ages but still you had things like Enron happening. Sarbanes Oxley? Pffft. Such regulations simply creates more loopholes for hanky panky.

When they implemented currency exchange controls, banks simply created currency swaps and derivatives on those. When it comes to money, there are very creative ways of ensuring that it gets where it needs to go and of course there are creative accounting techniques that have been practiced for hundreds of years.

Whats to stop Mercedes for instance to place their CFD and wind tunnels under Mercedes trucks or AMG for instance? In return, Mercedes High Performance Engines could do some "research" work for those divisions. After all engine expenses are spared from the scrutiny of the FIA. Whats to stop Mercedes HPE from transferring the results of such CFD and wind tunnel work back to McLaren? Nothing would stop McLaren from claiming that they innovated and "discovered" this all on a miniscule budget because of the genius of their engineers. Are the FIA going to send auditors to the entire Daimler Benz empire?

Likewise, are the FIA going to send auditors down to Nissan in Japan to investigate possible Formula 1 chassis work? In fact, whats to stop Nissan doing it out in the open? If Nissan wanted to build a grand prix car simply for pure research purposes, there would nothing the FIA could do to stop them. Nissan are not competing. Its the Renault Formula 1 team that does so. And if Renault "inherits" or is simply allowed to "view" the results of Nissan's research, does this in and of itself constitute a breach of regulations?

Both McLaren and Ferrari have road car divisions separate from their teams. In the case of McLaren this goes even further to encompass other vehicle and technological enterprises. There's no stopping either of these teams parking grand prix development expenditures to these other operations.

Such things are not confined only to the large manufacturers. Any team can practice such creativity. Lola for instance builds racing cars for other formulae and series. Who's to say what expenses are incurred for the grand prix team and what expenses are attributed to development of chassis in other formulae? Only Lola's accountants know and you can bet they ain't saying. Other teams could also set up similar situations very easily. They could for instance sell engineering services to other entities and organisations for non-financial consideration.

I'm certain the FIA will look into all of this. Max is quite a clever bastard. But he should know that budget caps will exist only in name. Teams will find even cleverer ways to cicumvent these caps. In the end, I feel that the so called cap will simply be abandoned, the way horsepower limits (300 bhp) were abandoned in rallying.

Technical Innovation Causes Safety Issues As Cars Get Ever Faster

As I said before, the only reason why there have not been any innovations in grand prix racing lately is because the regulations are framed in such ways as to prevent these innovations from happening. Max has long argued that this is for cost and safety reasons. History will show that the cost savings never materialised much. But Max could always count on safety as the reasons for killing off technical creativity. He would argue (and he would be right) that the cars would be going too fast for their own good.

As it stands, despite ever tightening regulations, engineers have found ways of making the cars go even faster. Any limits placed on them have been temporary. Eventually development catches up and cars go even quicker than ever. I suppose the FIA can argue this is possible because of the hundreds of millions that go into 24 hour development. And so they want to place this budget cap. In exchange teams get more liberal regulations.

However, if Max is correct, that with such freedoms, engineers and teams would not need the close on half a billion dollar budget to go faster, then in the end, the FIA would still need to curb their creativity and thus the speed of the cars for safety reasons. How are the FIA going to achieve this? Tighter budget caps? Would it still be considered grand prix racing when teams are limited to only say 5 million dollars or less per season? That would just be ridiculous. Sports car teams spend more. The only practical way would be for the FIA to write ever tighter technical regulations and all this will do is curb creativity. Once again, whatever monies are available would simply be spent refining existing technology rather than producing new ones.

Lack of Rule Stability Will Raise Costs Anyway

Lets face it. One of the reasons why budgets in Formula 1 have gone sky high is because bloody Max has changed the rules according to his whims every couple of years. In some cases, he's changed it year on year. Such rule instability forces teams to deploy massive amounts of financial resources for development. Now who's to say that if Max gets his way and teams sign up unconditionally, he would settle down and stabilize the rules. Especially given safety concerns. He'd keep on changing the rules and I argue that even the little teams will be complaining. What would happen I feel is that teams would argue that the budget cap be relaxed in order to properly respond to these rule changes. And there goes the farm on budget capping.

Conclusions

I believe the FOTA teams are looking to make massive cost reductions to their operations. And I believe they are in a better position to suggest more practical and economical ways on how these can be achieved. For this to happen in the long run, there must be rule stability. And this is the thrust of the FOTA argument. That rules are managed and constructed in consultation with the teams and not simply on the whims and fancies of an ego-maniacal FIA president.

If you ask me, I don't think the FOTA teams are worried about these budget caps, or at least they shouldn't be. Better spend their time in finding not only new technical innovations but also financial innovations and creative organisational and commercial structures to circumvent such nonsense. Who's to say that they aren't doing this right now?

However, as the loud mouthed Flavio has recently said, what FOTA requires is transparency and rule stability. This is an essential ingredient to cost savings and is something that Max doesnt seem to understand or realise. And if those traitors Williams and the oh so wannabe Vijay Mallya and his Force India team had the foresight they would see that unconditional surrender to Max will in the end be folly and detrimental to them in the long run. I argue that all these hopeful new entrants should also place stability and transparency conditions not just on the FIA but also the FOM on whom their lives will depend on.
I am surprised that Williams, Force India and others seemingly take such a short term view of things. In the long run, they will be back on the table arguing against the FIA once more.

As for Max, it would seem that here is a man who wants and needs to be in complete control and be able to dictate the regulations as he pleases. I do believe though that a lot of the motivation for it is commercial and even political. Commercial pressures come from Bernie and the CVC dogs. Political pressure would perhaps come from environmental lobbies and governments. To satifsfy these pressures, I think he doesn't at all mind to be seen as the ruthless dictator and perhaps he even enjoys it. In the end I feel that he simply wants to satisfy his ego as being the man who changed and "saved" grand prix racing. There cannot be any doubt that he himself is engaging in legacy building.

And so the practical way forward is to perhaps to let Max be seen in public as the victor in this standoff. After all, car manufacturers and teams are in different businesses and not in the business of politics. FOTA should perhaps capitulate and be seen to have been humbled by the great dicatator, Premier Max. Then, work with Bernie to come up with a new Concorde Agreement that this time guarantees rule stability. I'm not sure how they would get more money out of Bernie and CVC but thats a different story. In the meantime as I mentioned FOTA teams can simply restructure their organisations to circumvent these silly budget caps. In the long run they should realise that budget caps will (in substance but not form) disappear anyway. And all that would remain (if they played it smart) is rule stability guaranteed by a new Concorde Agreement.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Battle Lines Are Drawn

To the press Max Mosley has made known that there will be no compromises. And for good measure he has reminded the FOTA teams as to just who has been setting the rules for the last 60 years. And if they don't like it, they can eat shit and start their own championship. Well that would be interesting. Personally I'd prefer to that they did. What better way to rid themselves of cancerous CVC and corrupt dictatorships? But somehow I have a feeling this isn't going to happen.

What I do think will happen is that we'll have like Brawn and Force India getting really nervous and caving to Max pressure. I reckon even Red Bull and their two teams will follow. This leaves the five manufacturers Toyota, BMW, Mercedes (via McLaren), Renault and Ferrari. Rumour has it Renault and Toyota want out if given the chance. So this leaves BMW, Mercedes and Ferrari. Of these, only Ferrari have been extremely hardcore.

Some have suggested that the remaining 5 manufacturers run 4 car teams to make a 20 car grid in a new championship. Sure why not? Or how about allowing customer cars and allowing private entrants to purchase their cars, perhaps with the condition that the customer cars be co-identified with the manufacturer. As I have said numerous times, Red Bull has proven that the concept can work. And perhaps Red Bull can persuaded that a new championship is a good idea and that they should put all 4 Red Bull Technologies racing cars in there.

In prosperous economic conditions, I would say a new FOTA run championship would have a better than even chance of succeeding. But the reality of it is that in these turbulent times, they will not have the collective will to do so. And that would be the end of FOTA. The members will either cave in to Max or they will leave the sport. The only question is which option will Ferrari choose? I doubt if Luca would want to lose face over this affair but what are his choices? Ferrari have signed up with the FOM to 2012. If they leave now, they are facing a massive lawsuit from the likes of the dogs, Bernie and CVC. Could they afford to do so? Profitable as Ferrari are, it would be in their best interests to do so. Luca may just have to eat humble pie over this entire affair.

The rest have not gone to such lengths as Ferrari and therefore caving in to Max will not be such a loathsome option. For those manufacturers that choose to remain, you can be assured there will be reconciliatory gestures all round. Lots of back slapping and all that with Max and Bernie.

So for those that sign up to the FIA championship what would be their future? More of the same. Whilst teams want rule stability and governance transparency, they will have neither of this. And faced with this budget cap, they will wonder how to respond to Max when he keeps changing the rules ever so often to his own whims and fancies. Some people never learn the lessons of history and this folly will continue on.

In short, I'd love to see a new championship but I seriously doubt if this is going to happen. Nice try FOTA.

PS: Please prove me wrong

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Why They Tolerate Ferrari

Lets be clear about one thing. Ferrari may sneer at all these new entrants trying so hard to get into grand prix racing. But they themselves were once the newcomers. When Ferrari entered the world championship in the 1950s it was a young team facing up to established names like Alfa Romeo and Mercedes. Enzo was at one time himself a garagiste, as he would call the FOTA teams in the 80s.

In time and over the years Ferrari have continued to compete and win from time to time and have built up the romance and legend surrounding the team, playing on the fantasies and emotions of fans worldwide. I confess to being caught up with this legend. Its hard to resist. Though I despise the dirt behind the legend, nevertheless the cars are so beautiful and more importantly, so characterful. Of course if the basis of supercar choices is based purely on logic, you'd choose a Porsche or even Nissan's latest R35 GTR. But frankly none save perhaps McLaren or Lamborghini arouse the senses so completely.

The revelations of secret vetos (by Ferrari's own admission in arbitration) reveals the advantages afforded to Maranello. Its something non-Ferrari fans have always known and Ferrari fans in turn have accused us (and anyone daring to challenge Maranello, most notably Ron Dennis) of whingeing. Well its not whingeing motherf****ers, its the goddamned truth! Excuse my outburst but I'm ever so sick of idiots.

Ok putting that aside, why would the other teams tolerate all this? The extra monies given to them, the right of veto bestowed on them and even the disparaging remarks made by this most unsporting of teams? The teams actually want to go up against the odds. Perhaps it makes victory against Maranello even more satisfying. But perhaps there's another more practical reason. Particularly where it comes to the big manufacturers.

Think about it. Ferrari have the largest following of all the teams. Some of these fans border on pathological fanaticism, following grand prix racing religiously to see their beloved prancing horse. Most of these fans will never be able to afford a Ferrari road car. Ever! Guess which cars they would be able to afford? Renaults, Toyotas and Hondas of course. Some who are a little smarter and more affluent will be able to afford Mercedes and BMWs in their lifetime. Ferrari fans are captive audiences for these manufacturers. Competing against Ferrari gives them exposure. And, if in the case of Renault, you beat Ferrari, you are even able to shout this out louder to the world.

OK, so the manufacturers are increasingly demanding more revenues from the dogs CVC and Bernie Ecclestone. However, the airtime and the association with the world championship gives manufacturers the reach they desire with their potential customers.

If Ferrari were to leave, it would from a marketing standpoint, devalue grand prix racing. Sure, there would still be fans but a lot of them would be lost. With lost fans, other sponsors would leave as well. Of course I disapprove of all this. But its a fact. The problem of course is that the entire grand prix racing ecosystem has become so corrupted. Its become all about the money and nothing about the sport.

If you aren't sickened by all of this, you should be. There simply must be a better way!