Former triple Formula 1 World Champion Niki Lauda has accused the current FIA-FOTA budget cap war of turning the sport into an embarrassment – as it emerged that Max Mosley has refused the teams' call for an extension to the deadline of 29 May for entries to be submitted for the 2010 world championship.
With the stalemate between the governing body and the top flight's competitors in the guise of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) showing no signs of reaching a conclusion – despite 'constructive' talks in Monaco at the weekend and a further FOTA reunion set to be held in London today (Wednesday) – it has been revealed that the teams asked FIA President Mosley for between two and four weeks' extra time. It is a plea the Englishman has rejected.
“We asked and we had no luck,” Renault F1 managing director and leading FOTA representative Flavio Briatore told Spanish newspapers. “Every year it (the entry deadline) is in November, and this year it is in May. I do not understand why.”
Ferrari has been one of the most vociferous opponents to the controversial £40 million cost cap Mosley intends to implement next year, arguing it would engender a 'fundamentally unfair and perhaps even biased' two-tier championship of haves and have-nots, with those larger and better-funded teams – some of whom currently spend as much as £150 million to £200 million a year – likely to lose out in being unable to sufficiently reduce their expenditure in time for the 2010 campaign and therefore liable to miss out on the 'technical freedoms' that will be granted to their capped rivals as an incentive to adhere to the lower limit.
team principal Stefano Domenicali has admitted that he anticipates some 'very long' days this week, but with time running out the cracks appear to be showing through FOTA's surface, with Williams having become the first team to break rank and sign up for next season, disrupting the organisation's unity. Moreover, Mosley is understood to have met with McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug in Monte Carlo – a sign that the multiple world championship-winning Woking-based outfit could be set to follow suit, meaning fellow Mercedes-powered operations Brawn GP and Force India would surely swiftly do likewise.
It is believed that the progress made in Monaco involves the teams having agreed to remain committed to F1 until 2012 – as per the commercial rights-governing Concorde Agreement – provided Mosley defers the introduction of the cap until 2011 and agrees to other concessions regarding his increasingly under-fire governance of the sport. The teams are also demanding a greater share of the financial pie from television rights, controlled by Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.
The ever-outspoken Lauda, meanwhile, has echoed the thoughts of current stars such as Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa in blasting the prevalence of political infighting, and argued the teams should have better informed the media about the way the talks have been going. Four of the present incumbents – Ferrari, Toyota, Renault and Red Bull – have threatened to walk away at the end of the season in the absence of a satisfactory resolution to the conflict, and the Austrian accused them of being 'stupid' in not keeping the press properly briefed of proceedings, leading to inaccurate and exaggerated stories about the extent of the crisis.
“For decades Formula 1 has been the stage for egocentric performers, and the cast grows every day,” the 60-year-old told Austrian newspaper the Kleine Zeitung
. “This is a Formula 1 that is just embarrassing.”