Leaders of Formula 1’s eleven teams will today stage urgent talks over the financial future of the sport, as the powers that be continue in their failure to agree to a common vision over cost-cutting measures to make the series sustainable for the smaller teams.
FIA President Jean Todt called the meeting to “clarify he means to achieve a substantial F1 team cost reduction”, following his claim during the Bahrain Grand Prix that the mooted plans to introduce a cost cap in 2015 had once again been shelved and that the FIA was effectively powerless to overturn the decision.
“All the teams that are part of the strategy group are against the cost cap now. So clearly, if the commercial rights holder and if six teams … are against [it], I cannot impose. It’s mathematics. In this case, no more cost cap,” he said in Bahrain.
“We do not have the mandate to do something against the will of the majority.”
It comes after four of the smaller teams – Force India, Sauber, Marussia and Caterham – publicly released a hotly-worded letter to the FIA demanding answers as to why the initiative was again being abandoned, despite all teams previously reach an in-principle agreement to implement it.
All four outfits are known to be shaky in terms of their long-term futures, and have abandoned their previous tactics of soft diplomacy with a much louder approach. The logic makes sense: as the impasse drags on, they have less and less to lose.
Todt’s previous statements were incorrect, as none of these four teams actually sit on the Strategy Group he referred to. The Group has six voted from the FIA, six for the Commercial Rights Holder and six for the Formula 1 teams, represented by Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus and Williams.
The smaller outfits have continued to remain vocal about how the sport’s revenue is carved up among the teams. Some sources suggest that the commercial rights revenue between the larger and smaller outfits is upwards of $120 million. That’s hardly small change, and the figure is further compounded with the additional handouts awarded to a number of teams (most notably Ferrari) for their ‘historic’ contribution to the sport.
The ongoing situation has raised the ire of the smaller teams, with the charge being led by Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and Force India deputy Bob Fernley.
“I think it’s difficult to tell until we listen to what the FIA comes up with,” Fernley told Autosport. “They’ve made a directional change, we’ve challenged that change, they’ve now set a meeting up and we need to listen before we can make the next step.
“We can’t understand why there is this direction change because there’s no mandate for it. There is no provision to change tack – it’s about delivering on what we’ve all agreed needs delivering.”
“What is commonly known, particularly from the FIA side, is that there was a meeting of the teams and following that there was a press release from the FIA that the budget cap had been agreed in principle,” Kaltenborn added.
“Everybody was in agreement with this as well as generally reducing costs. We failed to understand in the process where the budget cap has been rejected, we were never informed officially and know it only through the media.
“I have the hope that with this meeting coming up on May 1 that we will come to some conclusion and that it’s not going to be just one of the meetings we’ve had before without a significant step.
“Time is running [out] and we have soon the middle of the year when we need to make a decision because we need to have this in place at the beginning of next year. It’s important for the credibility of the key players in the sport, because there were public announcements made that we want to have this in place for next year.”
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