The spectre of a 'breakaway' series run by dissenting rebel teams has intensified with the understanding that the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) is in discussions with MotoGP commercial rights-holder Dorna Sports SL should the ongoing stand-off with Max Mosley over the controversial £40 million budget cap the FIA President intends introducing into the top flight next year not reach a satisfactory resolution.
As the enduring stalemate between the sport's competitors and its governing body shows no signs of easing – with neither side seemingly willing to make any further concessions or risk losing face – FOTA vice-chairman John Howett has warned that whilst a breakaway championship is 'a worst-case scenario', it remains a very real one.
Over the weekend of the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul at the weekend, the drivers also pledged their support to the FOTA cause, with Jarno Trulli arguing that 'something should budge, must move, otherwise there will inevitably be a split', adding that 'Mosley must understand there are some things that cannot happen' and that 'with these rules we are completely out'.
Former team-mate and double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso went even further, claiming that 'if the manufacturers cannot sign up for F1 and they organise a parallel championship, that would be the most interesting [thing] – I prefer to race in any other category before the new F1' [see separate story – click here
Whilst Mosley has repeatedly rubbished the fear of a 'breakaway' threat – contending that such a situation is even less likely now than was the ultimately abortive 2005 menace – as the Englishman continues to stand firm on the implementation of his radical and contentious cost-cutting initiative, it appears FOTA are increasingly taking matters into their own hands.
According to Spanish sports daily newspaper AS
, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has been earmarked as the man they are chasing to run the new series. The Spaniard has played a key role in making MotoGP the outstanding worldwide success it is today, but he has also been much-criticised of late for pushing through some unpopular new rules that have been accused of taking the sport in the wrong direction in killing off overtaking and detracting from the on-track action – particularly the regulation change that increased the influence of electronics and reduced capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007.
Since then, no MotoGP race has been won by a last-lap pass – almost unheard of in motorcycling circles. What's more, few big-money sponsors have been attracted to MotoGP compared to F1, with the entrants being heavily bankrolled by manufacturers and Dorna itself.
It is reported that Ezpeleta has already held talks with FOTA and is interested in the proposal. Like F1 still is, Dorna used to be owned by CVC Capital Partners, until the European Commission ordered the private equity firm to sell its 71 per cent stake to Dorna Sports Management for £400 million in 2006, with EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes explaining at the time: “When the two most popular motorsport events in the EU – Formula 1 and MotoGP – come in the hands of one owner, there is a risk of price increases for the TV rights to these events and a reduction in consumer choice. I am satisfied that the commitments given by CVC will eliminate this risk.”