Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) members have admitted that it was 'a bit of a shock' to be informed that they were still not officially entered for the 2010 F1 World Championship on Wednesday – a development that means whilst a breakaway series is 'on the backburner', it is most definitely 'still cooking'.
Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, BMW-Sauber, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso and current world championship leaders Brawn GP walked out of a meeting with the FIA in the Nürburgring paddock mid-week after being told by the head of the governing body's technical department Charlie Whiting that 'contrary to previous agreements, the eight FOTA teams are not currently entered into the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship and have no voting rights in relation to the technical and sporting regulations thereof' [see separate story – click here
The FIA has since explained that in order to be fully entered for next season, the FOTA 'rebels' must come to a unanimous resolution with non-FOTA members Williams and Force India and the three newcomers USF1, Campos and Manor regarding the 2010 sporting and technical regulations within the top flight. The FIA's stance appeared to represent something of a backtrack on the entente cordiale
seemingly reached at the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) reunion in Paris a fortnight earlier – and has put the peace deal and whole future of F1 'in jeopardy' once more.
“I think that the simple answer is no,” responded McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe, when asked if the FOTA teams had seen the latest element to the ongoing political saga coming. “I think the FOTA teams all felt that they had an unconditional entry, since on the press release from the World Motor Sport Council on 24 June the asterix had been removed from our names, so in actual fact we had prepared an awful lot for the meeting on Wednesday.
“The FOTA teams have been working for almost a year on changes to the technical and sporting regulations which would save costs, and we have been working independent of the FIA on those measures in a group we call the TRWG, which is a FOTA body. We reached a point where all those measures had been unanimously agreed by the FOTA teams, and we had even taken them to a high level of details in terms of texts for the regulations next year.
“The meeting on Wednesday, which was confirmed once we felt our entries were confirmed, was the point at which we would bring all of these proposals to the table and vote them through for next year, which in theory should have been a very easy process because we had all agreed them in advance. It was a bit of a shock to come to the meeting having got up at 4.30 in the morning or so and find that we didn't have a vote.
“It really made it quite difficult to see how we could make good use of that time, so we don't fully understand the reason for that. Ross [Brawn] sought to defer the meeting to a later date which would have managed the matter in a softer way but that idea was rejected, so we were really obliged to just not take part in the meeting.”
“We had put an awful lot into these new rules over the past many months,” added Renault's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. “We had a very long telephone conference I think on Tuesday of last week, when we were trying to dot the Is and cross the Ts. A great deal of work had gone into it, and I was fully aware that we were a little bit in no-man's-land but I hoped that goodwill would prevail.
“We all understood that we had unconditional entries, and while we are not naïve enough to believe that press releases have any value in terms of regulation, we understood that the process was well underway. We understood that a new Concorde Agreement was in preparation. I certainly hoped that we would perhaps pre-empt that and behave in a responsible manner, but it wasn't to be.