Max Mosley has warned the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) that if they seek to depose him from his position as President of the FIA, then 'they'd get another one, probably worse than me' – as Sir Jackie Stewart contended that the new breakaway series was 'forced upon the teams' due to 'being pushed around by the governing body in a way that is inappropriate'.
There has been blow and counter-blow in the destructive FIA/FOTA civil war practically every day for the last few weeks, but matters came to a head late on Thursday night when FOTA resolved to go ahead with their threat to form a rival breakaway championship away from the jurisdiction of F1's governing body – a move swiftly countered by the announcement of legal proceedings to prevent them from doing so by the FIA, adamant that the contracts, at least with Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso, are binding.
The bones of contention are twofold. The first concerns the controversial £40 million budget cap that Mosley intends to implement in the top flight from next year onwards as part of his radical cost-cutting drive – a step the majority of competitors argue is too much too soon, unworkable in such a short timeframe for outfits that presently spend as much as £150 million or £200 million a year and one that would have a devastating effect on staff numbers, with Ferrari underlining its 'social responsibility' to its 900, mostly locally-sourced skilled employees. The second issue – perhaps now the most acute – is Mosley's increasingly autocratic, arbitrary style of governance in what is the most powerful post in international motor racing, as evinced by his having introduced the cap without first consulting the teams over it.
Whilst former team owner-turned-BBC
F1 pundit Eddie Jordan cautions that 'to go against the governing body is a very, very dangerous position to take', triple world champion Stewart suggests the camel's back has finally now broken – and that with Mosley due to decide before the expiration of his fourth term in October whether or not to stand for the presidential role again, his long-time nemesis would do well to bow to mounting pressure and step down. An unnamed FOTA member told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
that 'anyone would be better' in the post, and it is believed that there will be a vote for the 69-year-old's head at the forthcoming World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) reunion on Wednesday.
“These people have had enough,” Stewart is quoted as having said by The Guardian
. “They don't want to be told how to spend their money. It's a bad thing to have a split, but I think that has been forced upon the teams, particularly the large multi-national corporations involved in it.
“When you're talking about Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Ferrari and Renault, these are big companies that feel they are being pushed around by the governing body in a way that is inappropriate. Whether there are further negotiations, who knows, but they (the teams) seem to be very well joined-up.”
Indeed, whilst the precedents for a split are not encouraging – witness the CART/IRL schism in America back in 1995, from which the popularity of single-seater racing across the Pond has never truly recovered – Mosley and long-time friend, ally and business associate Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's commercial supremo, insist they are not unduly worried. The former, indeed, has always been highly dismissive of the likelihood of a 'breakaway' actually materialising.
“It's fantasy,” the Englishman blasted, “and they (the teams) know it's fantasy. It's never going to happen. They're saying, 'Get rid of Max, get rid of Bernie'. Fair enough, but if they got rid of me they'd get another one, probably worse than me.”
“The Formula 1 World Championship has been going for 60 years and will continue to go,” concurred Ecclestone. “We've had 73 teams in and out of the world championship, so I don't suppose it will change.”
Another source of dispute is the allocation of revenues within F1, with resentment amongst the competitors that Ecclestone currently grants them only 50 per cent of the estimated £1 billion annual income from broadcasting rights, race sponsorship, trackside advertising and corporate hospitality. It has been surmised that if the budgets are dramatically cut, that will weaken the teams' claim to a greater share of the financial pie, as they will no longer require so much in order to be competitive.