Having finally broken his silence, Martin Whitmarsh has accused F1 of not having done enough to entice new teams into the sport and of never having sufficiently prioritised its fans – two failings he is confident the Formula One Teams' Association will be able to remedy in its new breakaway series next year, as he gave credence to the whispers that FOTA is trying to lure rejected 2010 entries like Prodrive, Lola and N.Technology to join their club instead.
The Silverstone paddock was rocked early on Friday morning with the announcement that FOTA – following a breakdown in talks with the FIA on the subject of the controversial budget cap and Max Mosley's increasingly autocratic and arbitrary method of governance – is pressing ahead with its threat to organise a separate championship of its own away from Mosley's much-criticised jurisdiction.
Though it is widely believed that the saga is still far from at an end – with further 'crisis' talks continuing throughout the day and expected to carry on over the course of the British Grand Prix weekend – Whitmarsh is positive that if no quarter is given and FOTA pursues its alternative path, it will be the new series, rather than F1, that emerges on top, telling the BBC
: “I don't think there will be two premier racing championships – all I can say is that there will be a championship next year and that the major names that have historically been involved in motor racing will be racing together, and I think that will be recognised as the major championship.”
“McLaren-Mercedes wants to race at the pinnacle of motorsport,” he added in Friday's press conference. “We want to race with all the big names, the stars, the history and the heritage of this sport. Clearly the pressures that exist within the sport were in danger of really dividing most of those names between two camps, [but] I think it was clear that the majority of us wanted to be together. We want transparent governance [and] we want one tier of regulations, and perhaps a philosophical difference as to the future of the sport.
“I think there have been tremendous efforts from many people to try and find compromise, to find a way forward, but time pressures were placed on the teams and under those pressures we had to make a decision. We were heading whatever happened, it seemed in the last few days, towards a split. A decision had to be made and the teams within FOTA have come together. We have had clearly two teams that have slightly different positions from the majority, but the majority of teams have worked together incredibly well.
“Since FOTA was formed in September – the first time that all of the teams in the sport have come together in the history of Formula 1 – we have worked to try and bring down the costs. There is no doubt that the initiatives that came from FOTA have been the most significant in the history of the sport. We have got certain teams here today that wouldn't be here but for FOTA. We have put forward a structure to further reduce costs. Everyone wants to reduce costs – there is no doubt that costs were running away in Formula 1.
“FOTA's position isn't that we don't want to save money. Plainly we do. We have put forward proposals and mechanisms by which all of the teams believed that was possible and had already made that progress, but ultimately we are very close in many things and that is perhaps the sad thing. If you look at FOTA's position and you look at the position of the FIA there are a lot of areas where there are very many common views, and yet ultimately perhaps because of relationships or whatever we were unable to come together. A deadline was placed upon the teams, and consequently we had to make a decision.
“I think we couldn't reach a point where all the FOTA members were prepared to dive into a championship without certainty in terms of the Concorde Agreement, in terms of the governance, in terms of the regulations. I think there was a strong feeling that we want to try and stay together, we want to be inclusive, we want to keep as many involved as we could have done. I think any of the teams had the choice and the opportunity at various times to break away and to sign up, but I think we knew that in doing that, we would be irreparably fracturing the group that currently competes in Formula 1 and I think that would be very, very damaging. The view at the end was that we want to race against all the big names that are involved in Formula 1 today – and the path that we've chosen at the moment represents the best chance of us achieving that.
“To take a positive view, the teams are working together, I think, in the most productive way certainly in the 20 years I have been involved in the sport. We look forward to racing with as many teams as we can next year. I think certainly eight teams would be enough, but we would welcome any new teams or existing teams for that matter – I think a lot of the teams want to be racing against the Ferraris, Red Bulls, the Brawns and hopefully ourselves.