Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has said that, while he may have initially agreed with Ferrari's right to veto proposals put forward to shape the future of F1, time has altered the way in which the Scuderia chooses to exercise its option.
With the four-time world champion struggling to find an engine supplier for next season – having been rejected by both Ferrari and Mercedes since it announced its intent to divorce current partner Renault – and Ferrari looking set to block FIA plans to cap the cost of customer engines, the governing body's plan to introduce an independent customer engine may be the team's only avenue to continue in the top flight.
Todt, once the head of Ferrari's motorsport division, has already expressed his disappointment at the Scuderia's decision to exercise its veto, and Horner admits that, in hindsight, the teams' decision to allow the Italian giant to keep that right, may have been misguided.
“At the time of the veto, it was felt maybe it was safer for Ferrari to have the veto than not have, that it would actually protect the teams,” he explained, “But Ferrari is quite a bit different in make-up now to what it was then so, the veto can work in both directions.”
With the Prancing Horse having recently offered itself on the stock market, financial concerns have been brought even more sharply into focus, and current team boss Maurizio Arrivebene insists that the right of veto has only been used in order to protect its commercial interests as an F1 engine supplier.
“Concerning the veto, it is quite easy,” Arrivebene insisted, “We exercised our veto in compliance with our legitimate commercial right to do business as a powertrain manufacturer. There's nothing to add.
“Why do we have to justify it more? Here we are talking about commercial right. We are not talking about budget, we are not talking about anything else. If somebody gives you a specification to produce an apple, okay, you produce apple in line with the specification. If that somebody, they're asking you, okay, we want to impose on you the price of the apple', what are you going to do? This is the principle. It has nothing to do with the rest.”
Horner is not alone in accepting that, at the time it was approved, Ferrari's right to veto appeared a positive for the sport, with the likes of Vijay Mallya and Claire Williams respecting the Scuderia's 'historical importance' to F1.
“I think it is what it is,” Williams admitted, “I think it's like a lot of things in F1, that it is in the regulations that, if Ferrari have that veto, it's a historical veto they've had for many years. I don't believe that they've exercised it on a regular basis, but they obviously exercise it when they feel opposed to something and opposed to something that they believe that they should be opposed to because it's important to them. Maurizio has laid out the reasons why he used it…”
Mallya, as a member of the world motorsport council of the FIA, declined to express a personal opinion, but appeared pessimistic when asked if the matter could be resolved for the majority.
“FIA president Jean Todt has already issued a press statement surrounding this entire issue of the recommendations that were made for cost control measures, that Ferrari vetoed it, and he very clearly stated that he does not intend to contest the exercising of that veto, so that's it as far as I'm concerned,” the Force India team owner explained.
Mercedes' Toto Wolff said he could understand the business aspects of Ferrari's decision, but insisted that the matter of the veto was not clear-cut.
“If we all had a veto, it doesn't make any sense any more,” he pointed out, “I think this is really such a complex discussion which we shouldn't have in public. My personal opinion is that you need to respect Ferrari's position - it is the strongest brand in F1, it has done a lot around F1 and has been honoured in various contracts, be it the veto or be it with commercial rights. Whatever the ways of that being honoured is another question. Is veto the right thing to exercise your position or not? I don't know, but it's not a discussion we should be having here.”
Horner, meanwhile, remained optimistic that the low-cost independent engine could still make an appearance in F1, potentially preserving the future of his team should talks with Honda not reach a breakthrough.
“I think it's crucial, as I think we're demonstrating quite clearly,” he concluded, “There is no regulation that dictates that engine suppliers have to supply, let alone at a competitive price. I think an independent engine for the future of F1 and, for us, it's a no-brainer because, if you can't get engines elsewhere, then you can't race. For F1, it's important to have a competitive, economical engine and, if it can't be the current engine, then it needs to be another engine.
“The FIA president has now announced his plans to tender for one [and] I'm sure, if there is enough willingness and there are enough teams that are struggling financially, if you can take 20 million out of your engine chassis budget, it's a no brainer. That's a decision for those individual teams to make but, when they've been complaining about price and costs, and the first thing that comes along that offers a significant reduction, I'd be amazed if teams didn't snap it up.”