Formula 1 Insight

The FIA, FOTA and Maxwell's Silver Hammer

I have deliberately said little about Mosley's proposed standard F1 engine since he first introduced the idea in mid-September 2008. It was immediately obvious that it was not something that the manufacturer teams would accept and there was a strong likelihood that Max was using it as a bargaining counter.

Mark Webber, Turkey 08
Clouds over Formula One

When representatives of FOTA, the teams' alliance, and the FIA met on October 28 and agreed on a number of cost-cutting measures, it seemed that the standard engine had gone away, having served its purpose. Certainly, the teams seemed to think so, judging by their optimistic statements after the meeting.

Then, on October 29, hardly a day later, the FIA repeated its insistence on the standard engine, confirming that they remained open to tenders for the contract to design and build such an anathema to F1. The manufacturers were quick to react, both Toyota and Ferrari declaring that they would leave the sport if standard engines were introduced. BMW and Mercedes are also reported to be strongly against the idea, understandably, since it attacks the main reason for their presence in F1.

Now the FIA has responded with a statement that is typical of their high-handed methods and apparent desire to force through their own ideas against all reason. Their point is that the teams must choose from three options, only one of which is the standard engine, the others being an engine from a single supplier (which amounts to the same thing) or the supply of customer power units to independent teams for less than 5 million Euros per season.

It is one sentence buried within the statement that really gives one pause for thought, however: "It is now for the manufacturers to agree one of the three FIA options or themselves produce concrete proposals to reduce costs to a sustainable level." My immediate reaction is that I thought the meeting in Geneva had done exactly that and the teams appeared to be under the same impression - hence the immediate and angry threats to withdraw from Toyota and Ferrari after the FIA re-introduced the standard engine.

It looks very much as if the FIA think they have found a magic wand that they can wave again and again to force the teams to endless streams of cost-cutting measures. It is clear now that, whatever agreement with the FIA may be reached, Mosley will just wave the wand to extract even more concessions.

It is well known that the threat of outrageous rule changes is a favorite ploy of Max's when seeking to get agreement to the measures he really wants taken. This has worked repeatedly in the past, mainly because the teams have not been unified in their response to him. But there is unity this time and I suspect that the FIA are inducing a crisis in the sport that will result either in the mass departure of the manufacturer teams from F1 or the complete re-organization of the governing body.

Obviously, Max wants the manufacturers to agree to supply engines and drive trains to the independent teams for less than 5 million euros per year. That is the one vaguely sane proposal in the options available but it is still not something the manufacturers will like. Effectively, they are being forced to contribute financially to their competitors, since the design and development of engines costs a good deal more than the target figure. So the manufacturers are being asked to make up the difference between reality and Mosley's dream of a cheap F1, whilst giving up a major aspect of their marketing strategy in competing in the first place.

The prime argument of the independent teams against customer teams being allowed was that such teams would have the benefit of advanced research and development without having to pay for it as all the other teams do. Under Mosley's proposal and ironically enough, the independents suddenly stand to gain from the availability of cheaper engines while the manufacturers continue to foot the bill. One can see how Max intends to divide FOTA by introducing conflicting interests into the equation.

I cannot see the manufacturers putting up with such a system. Their budgets are already threatened by the credit squeeze on the parent companies and it would make no sense for them to add to their commitments in the way proposed by the FIA. No doubt they will continue to negotiate in the hope of securing a more equitable solution but, considering how resistant to reason Mosley is, there remains a strong possibility that he will throw everything away in a fit of pique and impose the standard engine anyway.

Whoever is chosen to represent FOTA in future meetings with the governing body should be aware that it may not matter what is decided. As the FIA has demonstrated, they are quite prepared to agree to some things and then wave the wand to extract even more. That is no way to do business and gives the lie to all the FIA's talk of consultation with the teams to decide the future of F1. When the man you are negotiating with can take everything you offer and then act as if you had given nothing, it seems that he is intent only on his own agenda and you are merely there for show.

It is not how an international sport should be governed. The manufacturers have shown that they can achieve a unity of voice in spite of their differences; any governing body worth its salt should be able to work in concert with that, rather than to persist in Mosley's bully boy tactics. For the good of the sport and everyone concerned, Max must go, even if it takes a revolution to get rid of him.


Steven Roy
The engine manufacturers should get together and agree a statement. All they need to do is state this is what we are prepared to do on engine and drive train supply. Take it or leave it. If you introduce either of your other proposals we will quit en masse.

I suggested something similar for the traditional circuit owners recently. It seems the only way anyone can take on Max and Bernie is to group together and threaten them. It is the only language they understand.

Now if the teams, engine suppliers and circuits got together they could own the sport and there would be nothing Max and Bernie could do about it. I know there are various contracts and agreements in place but they all end in 3 or 4 years time. If all interested parties could get together they could get control of the sport into the hands of someone sensible.
Date Added: 29/10/2008

Quite right, Steven - unity is power. But can you see even the engine manufacturers doing it? They seem so cowed and unaware of their potential to influence the sport. Perhaps Luca can whip them into shape, if only he can remain true to the cause long enough...
Date Added: 29/10/2008

Steven Roy
You hit the nail right on the head there Clive. Ferrari will as they always have done stab everyone else in the back and renege on the deal. They have a history of doing exactly that.

They stabbed the other manufacturers in the back and ran back to Max and Bernie and did a deal that sees them better paid than any other team in the sport. A bit ridiculous for a cost cutting administration to give more money to one of the highest spending teams than to the poorer teams. Joined up government? No.

And then there was the infamous 'International Tobacco Products Marketing Standard'(ITPMS). The original site which had the full text no longer exists but anyone who is not aware of this agreement can find more info on it @ and @

ITPMS was a document signed by all tobacco sponsored F1 teams and all the relevant tobacco companies. The main clause of the deal was that all tobacco sponsorship and all logos and liveries would disappear at the end of the 2006 season. Everyone who signed it stuck to the deal except Ferrari and Marlboro. The document was instigated by Max saying that tobacco advertising would be banned as of the end of 2006.

So as of the start of 2007 Ferrari have been in breach of both the ITPMS and FIA rules but its Ferrari so they are allowed to continue. There are two unwelcome side effects for F1 as a result. First Marlboro have no rival tobacco companies present so it looks like a monopoly and second there are companies who should be sponsoring F1 who simply don't want to be associated with tobacco. So one of the richest teams is keeping sponsors away from the poorest teams.

The teams if they maintain unity have power but Ferrari are only interested in Ferrari and will drop the others as soon as it is expedient. Unfortunately their history says that they are liars and untrustworthy.
Date Added: 29/10/2008

Nick Goodspeed
There is no sense in trying to deal with a madman. The sooner the manufacturers, the racetrack owners, the drivers and anyone else involved realize this, the sooner F1 will be on the mend. Unfortunately Ferrari is a lose cannon at best and a traitorous undermining scab at worst so it will be in the other teams best interest to plan for the worst that Ferrari are capable of.
After all the cash saving plans have been put into effect, are the teams going to go to their respective sponsors and say, "Please! A little less money, to keep Mosley and Ecclestone happy?" As long as the money is there, it will be used. The only real cost cutting that will happen will come from the top, when deemed necessary. Otherwise those in R+D will find plenty of ways to spend money to make the cars faster and every year or race, Mosley will add a new chapter to the rule book. Look at the Olympic drug problems. Every year a new, expensive way to cheat that calls for new expensive testing to try and catch the perpetrators. F1 is basically the same game. Don't get caught and win. It's where the gold is.
Date Added: 29/10/2008

Alianora La Canta
The teams are stuck in F1 until 2012, because they are signed with Bernie for a commercial agreement and also signed the Concorde Agreement in 1998. There is provision in that agreement for an extension of its cover in the absence of any alternative arrangement. No alternative arrangement has yet been agreed, therefore the 1998 Concorde Agreement technically still holds.

The teams and Bernie (to the best of my knowledge) have complied with the Concorde Agreement throughout 2008. The FIA signed the same Concorde Agreement and has reneged on it. They have not discussed rule changes through the channels stipulated by the Concorde Agreement nor change the Agreement through unanimous agreement. Instead, they have made completely new instruments without reference to the Agreement and attempted to generate new regulations without the unanimous agreement of the teams. In fact, the FIA has broken the Agreement with the introduction of the homologated engine (which it did because it couldn't force a regulation change through the Agreement's channels).

The teams would be legally within their rights to walk away from the FIA right now, as long as they kept Bernie on as commercial chief. The FIA has clearly broken the Concorde Agreement. Granted, the breakaway series could then be mired in several years of arbitration if Max doesn't opt to lose a civil court case in revenge (because the Swiss Court of Lausanne proved itself completely useless with regard to making swift decisions in the 16-month customer court saga). However, the only things truly stopping the teams from leaving is their own fear and disorganisation. And if Ferrari thinks that leaving is to their advantage, it won't even try to defend the FIA's point of view.

The more Max threatens and forces the issue, the closer he comes to the day when the teams pick up the pluck and organisation to remove the FIA out of the equation entirely.
Date Added: 30/10/2008

Nick: I agree - there is no point in trying to argue with Max Mosley. But it seems to be taking the teams a long time to realize this and, in the meantime, all we can do is sit and watch. Nemesis is coming but it may take a little longer than we expect.
Date Added: 30/10/2008

Alianora: Yes, the day is coming when the teams throw off the shackles of the FIA. In a way, we should be grateful that Max is so drunk with power that he cannot see this - his continued pressure towards a spec series just hastens the day when he will have nothing left to be president of. I do get impatient with the teams, however; they have tried so hard to work with the FIA and are still so reluctant to call its bluff.
Date Added: 30/10/2008

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