Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) chairman Martin Whitmarsh insists there is no finger-pointing going on within the organisation following suggestions that reigning double F1 World Champions Red Bull Racing transgressed the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA) last year – but he does stress that 'it's best we keep our issues inside the room'.
There have been paddock whispers in recent weeks that Red Bull spent more than is allowed under the RRA – an initiative that came into being in 2009 following the failure of then FIA President Max Mosley's controversial budget cap and as an alternative means of keeping escalating expenditure in-check – and FOTA has since acknowledged that all teams' budgets in 2010 will be closely analysed [see separate story – click here
You can read what RBR team principal Christian Horner has to say about the contentious matter right here in the coming days, but the Englishman's McLaren-Mercedes counterpart Whitmarsh is adamant that there is no witch-hunt against the energy drinks-backed outfit by fellow FOTA members, in the wake of the barrage of active ride-height suspension and flexible front wing accusations over the past twelve months.
“I think the sense within FOTA is that we've got a lot to do to make sure we have another great season like we've just had, build this sport, develop the business, make sure that the sport is sustainable – both from an environmental standpoint and from an economic standpoint – and we should focus on those really fundamental issues rather than on issues that to some extent get blown out-of-proportion in the media,” he told Crash.net
“FOTA has achieved a lot, but inevitably we've got a room full of highly-competitive individuals and some people want to talk outside of the room. I'll be talking to colleagues about that, as it's best we keep our issues inside the room. The fact is that we have a Resources Restriction Agreement in-place and we're talking about how we police it at the moment, but I think that's just detail. It's already achieved a lot, but we've got a lot of other challenges ahead of us to make sure that we continue to develop and improve our sport.”
Indeed, another matter of contention is the length of the season in 2011, at 20 grands prix and eight-and-a-half months, the longest and most arduous F1 has ever faced. It will be a gruelling schedule, Whitmarsh concedes, but equally one that will help to showcase the sport to an ever-wider audience and one that consequently carries with it a great many positives at the same time.
“I think it's very tough,” he acknowledged. “It's the longest season in three ways, really – there are 20 races, more than ever before; the actual calendar length is longer than we've ever had before; and finally, the fact that there are more-and-more races outside Europe. That means a lot of travelling, which is very, very tough on the mechanics, the engineers, the technicians and the whole team – but we battled through that last season.
“I think everyone was relieved to get to the end, but it was a great, great season and I'm sure we're going to have another great season. I think we've got to understand that we're in the entertainment business – it's a fantastic sport that we're involved with, and we've got to go out there and capture new areas. Going to India is I'm sure going to be challenging, but it's exciting at the same time.”
Prior to the inaugural Indian Grand Prix to which Whitmarsh alludes, there are likely to be intense discussions regarding the formulation of a new commercial rights-governing Concorde Agreement, with the current version set to expire in 2012. With memories of the dramas and breakaway threats of 2009 still very vivid in most observers' memories, the 52-year-old hopes we are not in for another summer of political discontent in which off-track disagreements overshadow on-track thrills-and-spills.
“I think last year we had probably the least political season in the history of F1,” he reflected. “I can't promise that [again], because it's not in my power to do so, but I will do everything I can to make sure we focus on brave young men in the most advanced cars in the world and exciting races. That's what F1 should be about, not the polemics of the paddock.”