Eight FOTA teams to form breakaway series
Wow, I really thought all the talk and bluster and the conditional entries for the 2010 F1 season were all part of a big bargaining exercise in getting the FIA to agree to their terms. I never thought FOTA would actually go ahead with their touted plans for a breakaway series.
Tonight they announced, after a 4 hour meeting at the Renault HQ, that they are indeed going to do just that. I have to say, this could get interesting. There are so many different issues here, there's no way I can cover them all in one blog post. Here are just a few:-
Can the manufacturer's actually set up a rival series for 2010? I think they can - there's enough race circuits that they can put togther a 10 or 12 race series that will still attract sponsors. Most territories have multiple TV channels and with Bernie's huge slice of the revenue no longer part of the equation, they can charge a lot less for the TV rights and will have no problem finding takers. Bernie has threatened that he will sue anyone who breaks their contracts regarding working with rival series, but I believe the motorsports world is big enough that the FOTA series can be done without, at least legally, standing on FOM's toes. And the FIA will have to sanction the series because as part of a settlement with the European Union, they agreed that they would sanction any series that met it's safety standards.
What will happen with the three FOTA teams that the FIA say have already ageed to race in F1 in 2010? When the FIA released the 2010 entry last week, they included the names of Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso unconditionally, claiming that those teams are already committed to F1 due to contracts they signed with the FIA and FOM in 2005. You will remember that the last time the manufacturers were talking about a rival series, Ferrari were the first the jump ship and signed with F1 in return for getting more money that all the other teams and a technical veto clause. That effectively ended the breakaway threat last time and it would be ironic if the contract they signed then also prevented them from participating in this new breakaway. If the FOTA series really does ahead, expect this contract (and one signed by Red Bull and Toro Rosso that is more in line with the one Williams says commits them to F1), to be the subject to much court action. It could wind up with those teams sending two unliveried, uncompetitive cars and a skeleton crew to the F1 races just to meet their contractural committments while the real team races in the FOTA series.
Will the split REALLY happen? Although this news seems final, I won't believe it until the FIA publish a few entry list for 2010 that doesn't have Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, BMW, Toyota, Brawn, Red Bull and Toro Rosso on it. Or at least 5 of those names. And more importantly it has the names of 5 more new enterants on it such that there was no way the FOTA teams could be allowed back into F1 at a later date. FOTA may still be playing hardball here, trying to force the FIA's hand. They can afford to spend $10-20M going through the motions, looking like they are deadly serious about setting up their rival series, and still pull the plug on it in a couple of months time when the FIA gives them the concessions they need. The only thing that will stop that happenning is, like I said, if the FIA fill all the spaces with other teams before then.