The reasons that prompted the Formula One Teams' Association's sudden announcement that it was to press ahead with its 'breakaway' threat are starting to become clearer, with rumours in the F1 paddock that an eleventh-hour switch from FIA President Max Mosley was the catalyst for the move.
Shortly after midnight on Thursday night, FOTA sent out a statement that following a breakdown in communication with the governing body, it intended to follow through with its menace of organising its own separate championship, well away from Mosley's controversial jurisdiction.
According to the BBC
, a compromise deal had been struck in principle 24 hours earlier that would have seen all eight of the rebel teams agree to sign up to compete in the top flight in 2010, but when the paperwork was received the following morning, it is understood that Mosley had changed the date until which they had to pledge their commitment from 2012 to 2014 – what is believed to have been the final straw that broke the camel's back and lit the blue touch paper for the decision to withdraw en masse
Following further discussions at Renault's F1 headquarters at Enstone in Oxfordshire during the course of Thursday, the resolution to split was made – with increasing unease at the autocratic and almost arbitrary manner in which Mosley is ruling the sport, and the feeling that the only way the dissenters can be tempted back into the fray would be if the Englishman were to resign from the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing. However, that is something with which the latter seems far from willing to comply, hinting that in the midst of a crisis, the last thing he would do is step down [see separate story – click here
Moreover, there is anger at the tone of the string of press releases issued by the FIA late last week, which tended to depict the governing body as the goodies, and FOTA as the baddies – something the teams argue is at best a flagrant misrepresentation, at worst a blatant lie.
It is believed that FOTA and Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo – a man who has become a sworn enemy of Mosley's in recent weeks – will endeavour to undermine the 69-year-old's authority at Wednesday's reunion of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC), but in the meantime discussions continue, despite the outward finality of FOTA's announcement.
Chief FIA steward Alan Donnelly – Mosley's right-hand man, and one unpopular amongst many of the teams – met with team principals Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), John Howett (Toyota), Ross Brawn (Brawn GP) and Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing) in the Silverstone paddock on Sunday morning in an effort to try to find some common ground. Mosley has suggested that those four teams are the most receptive to his proposals, contentiously dismissing the other four members – Renault, McLaren-Mercedes, BMW-Sauber and Scuderia Toro Rosso – as 'loonies'. The problem for the teams is that they have no guarantee that the FIA President will do as he promises.
Even in the areas where he is willing to make concessions, indeed, it seems there are issues, with suggestions that the uncapped teams would be unfairly penalised in relation to their capped rivals running customer Cosworth engines. Whilst the free-spending competitors would be restricted to 18,000rpm as per the existing 2009 regulations, the Cosworth powerplant would not be subject to a rev limit, with Mosley having argued in a letter that 'any engineer will confirm that this will not give the relevant teams any competitive advantage whatsoever' – a contention that has been rubbished by those in the know.
According to the BBC
, the Cosworth-powered cars would be quicker in qualifying – with ten per cent extra power equating to in excess of 70bhp more than their adversaries – but slower in the initial stages of a grand prix due to their higher-revving engines requiring more fuel as a result of the 2010 ban on refuelling. That could lead to situations where the Cosworth cars might hold up the rev-limited machines early on in the race, before picking up pace as the fuel burns off – leading to a clear advantage for the cost-capped teams.