It has been Mosley’s way of dealing with things for quite a while. Come out with some ridiculous ideas, force them on the teams only to settle on some “compromise” that he planned from the very beginning. But I am not sure what he actually intends to achieve now with his “standard engine” idea.
I do understand the need to cut down the cost of running the F1 teams. The current state of global markets does show clearly what the excesses and living beyond means can result in. F1 lost several independent teams in the recent years. They either went bust or were taken over by manufacturers. Those takeovers look like a good thing and well may be. But the side effect is the amount of money being spent in F1 these days. The excesses that the remaining independents simply can’t afford or do not want to match. So, here comes the need to stop the wasteful spending no matter if there is or is not any financial crisis.
The engines have been identified as the biggest chunk of the budget of an independent team, therefore it may seem logical to start with the savings here. And this is probably where the seeds of the “clever” idea to have Formula 1 with standard engine came about.
Well, as I said at the time when the “tender news” came out, it looks like Mosley has lost the plot. He may be helping the independent teams to get cheaper engines, but as feared and expected he is about to drive the manufacturers away from the sport. This would perhaps be fine in the times of old Formula One where the major part of the grid was formed by the independents (just look at 2000 season). These days however, when 6 out of 10 Formula 1 teams are run and owned by car companies (I consider also BMW Sauber and McLaren Mercedes as manufacturer teams although they are not yet fully owned by BMW or Daimler) it is very different situation. If the manufacturers decide to leave now it may well mean end of F1.
Both Mosley and Ecclestone are champions of the standard engine idea, both of them seem to think and believe that such a move by FIA would not start the manufacturers exodus from F1. Well it does look like this time they may be wrong. When some mixed messages started to come out from Toyota about standard engine being a reason to quit F1 it should have been the warning sign. Especially when this was pretty much confirmed by the team boss John Howett:
“If the FIA will introduce a standard engine that will be plenty of reason for Toyota to exit Formula One.”
Well, but who cares about Toyota, right ? They have only been in and around Formual 1 for last few years, haven’t won a race yet and are the prime example of big money not being well spent. So, threats from Toyota perhaps mean nothing for Mosley.
But the poker game full of bluffing has gotten serious now. The always on FIA side standing Ferrari made their view of things crystal clear:
“Whilst reiterating its wholehearted commitment to a substantial and needed reduction in costs in Formula 1, starting with propulsion, the Ferrari Board of Directors expressed strong concerns regarding plans to standardise engines as it felt that such a move would detract from the entire raison of a sport with which Ferrari has been involved continuously since 1950, a raison d’etre based principally on competition and technological development. The Board of Directors expressed the opinion that should these key elements be diminished, it would have to re-evaluate, with its partners the viability of continuing its presence in the sport.”
FIA and Mosley should have been warned that the bluffing game is over the moment the teams created the FOTA and made a Ferrari man its boss. Mosley however clearly preferred to continue to play his game and announced the tender for standard engine supplier just ahead of the cost cutting meeting with FOTA. The teams knowing Mosley well after all those years decided not to risk getting divided and ruled by him again and sent only Montezemolo and Howett to the meeting with FIA. Not much has been made public after that meeting other than some “future is bright” talks from both sides and some leaks of what was agreed on (and what does not seem to make much sense). The only thing that was made clear was the agreement to talk further.
It does look however Mr. Mosley has forgotten FIA is to continue talking with FOTA after Brazilian GP. He pushes on with his “wise” standard engine tender idea, provoking even his usual allies to hostile actions.
What I do not understand is why is he picking on the engines ? He must be aware that the engines are something the car manufacturers simply will not give up …
Engines are expensive but they are about as expensive for manufacturer as for an independent (perhaps give or take million here and there). But there is another over USD300 million difference between the budgets of big and small F1 spenders. That difference is what should be tackled.
Having a standard engine on hand for the independent teams (if they are interested in it) is by itself a fine idea. The rules and specifications are clear, if someone can build the engine on par with current F1 engines for much less money why not. But why can’t the car manufacturers continue to race with their own engines ?
Give Williams, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India the option to buy that cheap standard engine or make a deal with a manufacturer. But if they really were interested in such an arrangement, why nobody is running the 2006 Cosworth V8 anymore ? Why Red Bull opted for Renault power, Williams for Toyota, Toro Rosso and Force India for Ferrari. Why Force India is working on switch from Ferrari to Mercedes and not to that Cosworth for example ?
The more I think about this the more I think Max Mosley is again simply raisng the stakes higher and higher hoping that under his pressure the teams will back down and agree on some significant cost saving measures. But at the same time I wonder if this time, the stakes were not raised dangerously way too high … We will see, won’t we.
Photo: Shell Motorsport