If getting attention was the ultimate goal of Max Mosley’s budget cap and “two tier F1″ regulations then he definitelly achieved it. Several teams (Toyota, Red Bull/Toro Rosso) suggested they will not enter “two tier 2010 F1 championship”, and even Ferrari’s board of directors is to discuss the Italian squad’s future in Formula 1 today. But how much of all this are genuine F1 exit threats and how much of it is a poker like bluffing only ?
If Toyota decides to leave F1 I doubt the new regulations would be the real reason although they may serve as a good face saving gesture for the Japanese manufacturer.
I also do not believe that Red Bull, after finally having a car able to challenge for wins and perhaps even a championship, would simply pack up and go.
And Ferrari ? Can anybody seriously believe that Ferrari would quit F1 ? Can anybody believe that Max Mosley would not mind to see Ferrari go ?
The general opinion is that serious savings must be made in order for F1 to survive. Here both the teams and FIA agree. Most of the teams still have money to operate. But several of the big sponsor deals will expire and the likelihood of signing new ones of similar monetary value is not too big in current situation. Look at Renault. Their deal with ING is believed to be around $65 mil a year but it ends this year and ING will not renew it. And who will pay a midfield team (that may also loose Alonso) that sort of money. Remember, the deal was signed after 2006 season following Renault’s two F1 title winning seasons…
The issue is how to save the money. FOTA had come with some ideas but FIA did not believe these went far enough. Later FIA announced its own GBP30 mil budget cap plan. That was last month changed to GBP40 mil with engine costs, driver salaries and marketing expenses not included in the cap (at the moment).
The teams are generally unhappy that the budget capped cars will be perhaps 2 second a lap faster than the “normal” F1 cars. And that is probably the point in all this. Why spending $400 mil a year when 10 times less gets you a quicker car…
However, it probably isn’t as simple as that. Can the costs be slashed that much so quickly without breaking many contracts the teams may have in place ? Would the teams be happy to let their qualified staff go and then possibly move to other teams with all the know-how ? Can actually a F1 worthy car be built for GBP40 mil ? Is it actually right for F1 to get that “cheap” ? And can the budget cap be policed when there are so many creative minds in F1 ?
It is possible that the teams’ and FIA positions may be closer than they appear and the only reason for the strong words from both sides is that the time is simply running out. FIA hopes to fill the grid with 26 cars next year and it is about the time for the new guys to start working on their 2010 cars. They can’t do that unless they know they were granted the entry, they can’t do that unless the rules are firmly set.
The FIA will have to decide what is their priority for 2010 – to keep the existing teams (and which ones) or to add new ones. While I do want to see some new blood and more cars on the grid I do not believe that Mosley wants to see Ferrari, McLaren, Williams replaced for example with the likes of Lola, USGP, iSport (no offence meant).
So what is going to happen ?
Well I believe that common sense will prevail and a good compromise will be found. It may result in less interest from potential new entrants (at least for 2010) and it still may not keep all the current teams in (especially if they have been considering the exit long before the “two tier F1″ was ever mentioned), but F1 will continue. At the end, both FIA and FOTA need that…