Formula 1 is due to receive 'the biggest single shock in its entire history' – that is the belief of former team owner Paul Stoddart, as Max Mosley prepares to unveil the list of 2010 participants to the waiting world tomorrow (Friday).
With still no resolution to the ongoing FIA-FOTA civil war over Mosley's controversial £40 million budget cap for the top flight, a schism within the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) following the suspension of both Williams and Force India for having submitted unconditional entries, as many as eleven new hopefuls bidding for a spot on the starting grid and the threat of a manufacturer-led breakaway series gathering credibility with speculation that MotoGP boss Carmelo Ezpeleta could be involved, Friday looks set to be an explosive day indeed – and the president of the sport's governing body has affirmed that 'there will certainly be new teams...and it presently seems unlikely that all of the 2009 teams will participate in 2010' [see separate story – click here
Though both sides have publicly expressed their desire and willingness to come to a satisfactory compromise, still no agreement is on the table, with sources suggesting that negotiations remain at a 'delicate stage'. The eight remaining FOTA members have all lodged conditional entries for next year, contingent upon Mosley signing a new confidential, commercial rights-governing Concorde Agreement and ditching his contentious cost-cutting initiative in favour of maintaining the 2009 regulations, something that the non-conciliatory Englishman has repeatedly and obstinately underlined is not
an option, regardless of the consequences. According to British newspaper The Times
, manufacturers Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Renault and BMW have all now signed a $50 million bond to remain loyal to FOTA in not joining the 2010 championship unconditionally for at least the next 30 days.
The crux of the dispute is thus. The teams and drivers are adamant that it would be impossible for outfits that currently spend as much as £150 million or £200 million over the course of a season, to reduce their expenditure to just £40 million in time for the start of the 2010 campaign. Ferrari, Toyota, Renault and Red Bull have all vowed to withdraw should Mosley not back down, but the latter, by contrast, is insistent that without the cap, there will be no new entries into what has become by some margin the world's most expensive sport – and that as a result of that F1 will consequently implode.
Mosley has encouraged the teams to submit unconditional entries to ensure their place in next year's field, and to then discuss alterations to the regulations with the FIA later, stating in a letter to FOTA: 'Once we have a list of confirmed entries, we can make changes. We are ready to begin discussions immediately with a view to signing an agreement without delay. However, there is no possibility of this being concluded in advance of settling the 2010 entry list, a draft of several hundred pages having been produced at the last moment. Also, the FIA will need to know who to discuss the draft with. Obviously the draft should be discussed between those that will participate only.'
FOTA has since replied to Mosley's letter in what has been described by the FIA as a 'not entirely negative' manner, but following seemingly constructive but ultimately inconclusive crisis talks in both Monaco and Istanbul, time is fast running out – and there were even fleeting fears that the 'FOTA Eight' would boycott the Turkish Grand Prix last weekend.
One-time Minardi owner Stoddart – an arch-nemesis and vociferous critic of Mosley's both during and since his time in the grand prix paddock from 2001 to 2005 – has predicted a bombshell, with the outspoken Australian asserting that 'F1 is about to experience the biggest single shock in its entire history', according to the Globe and Mail
Stoddart has suggested that the only present incumbents guaranteed 2010 berths are FOTA dissenters Williams and Force India as well as Ferrari, due to the Scuderia's
2005 deal with the FIA that is understood to legally bind the legendary Italian outfit to F1 until 2012 – an agreement that the Maranello-based concern claims is now invalid after Mosley neglected to keep his side of the deal in failing to consult teams over the rule changes. A similar existing agreement could also compel both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso to compete. The rest of the grid, the 54-year-old claims, is likely to be composed of Cosworth-powered newcomers, with Prodrive/Aston Martin, Lola, Team USF1, Campos Meta 1, Lotus/Litespeed GP, Team Superfund, March, N.Technology and Formtech/Brabham Grand Prix Limited all having made bids to graduate to the highest level.
A further FOTA meeting in London yesterday (Wednesday) left Mercedes-Benz Motorsport President Norbert Haug telling German news agency DPA
that 'I still believe a reasonable solution can be found', but the stalemate persists, and Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn admitted: “If ten [non-FOTA] teams are given an entry there's a major problem, so I hope – even if it's a holding position until we can sort this out – that there's a solution.”