Force India’s switch to an unconditional entry (however they have managed to do it) leaves a very interesting situation in the FIA-FOTA war. FOTA is starting to fracture as the pressure builds as the deadline gets nearer, with the smaller teams thinking it would be safer to bail in case, as expected by many, the FIA leaves the FOTA teams off the entry list on June 12th due to what are suspected to be invalid entries. I think could something like this will happen:
– The FIA remains silent until June 12th, putting further pressure on the FOTA teams. Brawn and McLaren could follow Force India and Williams.
– Entry list revealed – Williams, Force India, Ferrari (who will be in there because of their previous contract, which they managed to prove was legally binding in the last court case) and 6 or 7 new teams (Prodrive, Lola, USF1, Campos, Epsilon Euskadi, Superfund and maybe Brabham or Litespeed, for argument’s sake). There will be empty slots but not enough for all the FOTA teams
– Brawn, Red Bull, McLaren and perhaps Toro Rosso dive in for the extra slots because they rely on F1 (although there have been suggestions both Red Bull teams have contracts to race in F1 the same as Ferrari, Williams and Force India from 2005)
– BMW, Renault and Toyota announce their withdrawal from F1
I’m actually starting to think Max’s plan all along was to force the manufacturers out without totally banning them. I think he’s fed up with not knowing whether they’re going to be around in the future or not – they are too unstable to build a long term future for the championship around. In the end, what’s the only way you can guarantee whether they’re going to participate or not? The answer is to force them to go (albeit on their own terms so it doesn’t look as bad for either side).
The question will then be what will the manufacturers do with their teams? If they close them, that goes against their arguments against the budget cap – that it would be too difficult to scale back. Closing them altogether would be far more costly. The whole Renault -> Briatore GP thing would have to involve some pretty hasty negotiations unless they come to a deal with Red Bull for them not to enter Toro Rosso in exchange for a continued works engine supply or something like that. BMW could revert to Sauber as well, although again they’d have to try and broker (excuse the 1994 title sponsor-related pun) a way in. Perhaps they’d resort to buying entries off the new teams.
Long way to go yet, though. But the general consensus is the FIA will not concede to FOTA. Mosley has the upper hand here. The teams cannot afford to be on the sidelines for an extended period of time, and if what Mario Thiessen said yesterday is true, they don’t want to form a breakaway series. For the FOTA teams, it’s F1 or nothing. The FIA now has enough credible entries to put serious pressure on them, and FOTA are ultimately not united enough to force Mosley into compromising them.
This is the peak of what has been a 5 year period of sustained power struggle that has lasted since the formation of the Grand Prix World Championship. It might have faded away for a while until the formation of FOTA but it was merely a period of cold war. Hopefully after this we’ll get a better F1 after this, with less manufacturer influence, less politics, and a fresh new image for F1. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for F1 as a business and the beginning of its rebirth as a sport.