Former triple world champion Niki Lauda has revealed his incredulity that 'anyone is still watching' F1 as the damaging budget cap civil war rumbles on – with the Austrian blaming 'egocentric managers' and 'personal feuds' for a dispute that is threatening to tear the top flight quite literally in two.
For every step forward in the FIA-FOTA stalemate in recent weeks, there have swiftly been two steps back, with the political wrangling and in-fighting overshadowing the action on-track and looking likely to disrupt what is set to be Silverstone's final British Grand Prix this weekend.
Lauda believes that the key players involved – most prominently FIA President Max Mosley and Ferrari, Formula 1's most loyal and long-standing entrant and the team with whom the 60-year-old claimed two of his three drivers' crowns – are using the smokescreen of the sport's future to try to force through their own personal agendas, and he suggested that the very public nature of the ongoing spat will ultimately be destructive for F1's global fan base.
“They (Ferrari) are the only team with an FIA contract to 2012, and in the past years they received €100 million more than anyone else,” the 25-time grand prix-winner told German newspaper the Stuttgarter Zeitung
, dismissing the notion of a breakaway series as 'laughable' and 'totally unrealistic'. “Everyone is worried most about losing face, and because of that everything could fail. That would be the biggest joke of all.
“The real absurdity is that everyone agrees in principle about the problem of reducing costs. I have never experienced anything as counter-productive as this, in terms of the external effect. It is a miracle anyone is still watching; these quarrels interest nobody.”
Commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, for his part, has revealed his exasperation at the enduring stand-off between competitors and the governing body, predicting 'more talking' but 'little progress' this week, and quipping to German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
that 'with all these meetings, I should have bought shares in a mineral water company!'
Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn, meanwhile, remains hopeful that a satisfactory resolution can still be found – despite Mosley's stated deadline of this Friday (19 June) for the FOTA dissenters to remove the 'conditional' nature of their entries to the 2010 world championship. Brawn has urged that F1 must learn its lesson from how the current crisis reached the proportions that it has, to prevent such an ugly scenario from unfolding again.
The Englishman added that the advent of the worldwide credit crunch in the second half of last year was the catalyst for the unsavoury situation, given that with no Concorde Agreement in place at the time, the FIA was under no contractual obligation to consult teams over new regulations – leading to the current débâcle in the wake of Mosley's controversial £40 million budget cap, implemented in response to the economic downturn.
“I think all of us, and I mean this collectively, have got ourselves into a situation we need to learn from,” the 54-year-old – whose team is one of five entered provisionally for next year – is quoted as having said by Auto Racing Daily