FOTA Breaks Away, Yet FIA May Be Key in the "F1 Cold War"

Kyle LavigneAnalyst IJune 22, 2009

NORTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 19:  F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is beseiged by the media in the paddock during practice for the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone on June 19, 2009 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

FOTA has the teams, FIA could have the races (if they threaten punishment of any circuit that hosts a FOTA race), and the rest of us may be left with grand prix racing as a shell of it former self.

An innumerable amount of questions remain unanswered in the wake of FOTA’s announcement to break away from the current Formula 1 series, so long as Bernie and Max don’t give in to their demands.

Some answers may lie in the near future. The FOTA teams will be meeting later this week to discuss the first steps of launching a new series, and potentially requested Mosely step down or have his power reduced. But, how long this split could last remains very dodgy.

After some initial mudslinging, Max Mosely said this past weekend that a deal was close that would keep the two sides together in one racing series. However, that sentiment was halted by Flavio Briatore, who told Autosport that the deadline for such a deal has long since passed;  he also took advantage and made a few insults of his own toward Mosely.

Is F1 headed toward a CART/IRL like “cold war” destined to kill Grand Prix Racing as we know it? While FOTA can’t want that, the fact that they are breaking ranks shows just how dire their situation is, and it’s up the FIA to fix the problems.

Everyone (FOTA, journalists, fans, etc.) has criticized Mosely and Ecclestone for the manner in which they’ve run the series, and the decisions they’ve made (or tried to make) to “better” the sport. FOTA can’t be blamed for wanting to stop them in their tracks, and can’t be blamed for breaking away; it seems they’ve been forced to do so.

How this “war” between the two sides goes will be down to what Bernie and Max do in response. Do they play nice? Will they realize that FOTA actually has BIG advantage over them, at least with teams and drivers ? It’ll be hard to legitimize a “top” series that has a grid full of unknowns who were called up to run in the ninth hour.

Bernie Ecclestone dropped hints that he might be willing to renegotiate with FOTA and give in to their demands, saying that he feels sympathy for their situation, and that he wants F1 to thrive, not die.

“My marriage broke up because of Formula 1, so I am sure as hell not going to let things disintegrate over what is, in the end, basically nothing,” he told Autosport. It would appear that he wants things to work out; why he wants them to is a different story, but he might understand that a championship without FOTA is an inferior one.

But, what if they don’t place nicely, and continue a war of words and insults with FOTA, and potentially banish drivers and teams from FIA events? What if they bar FOTA circuits from ever hosting another FIA sanctioned race?

As inept as the FIA has been at times, they sanction numerous racing series throughout the world, and preventing a track from hosting their other events (i.e. A1GP, Touring cars, etc.) could severely hurt a circuit’s revenue and popularity, especially if it can only get FOTA to run there.

If such an occurrence unfolds and the FIA does deliver all those punishments, what circuits would be willing to host FOTA races, and what would their drivers and teams do outside of their races.

Remember, such teams as Ferrari have other teams in other series; would they be barred from FIA events, simply because they’d be attached (even in name only) to an F1 outfit?

What about drivers running touring cars after their F1 careers are finished? Would be barred from doing because they drove for FOTA teams?

All of these questions, and an immeasurable number of additional ones, are surrounding the FIA/FOTA war. Unfortunately, the answers to those questions may not come for a while, so we may be left in a haze for several weeks, or even months.

What is clear, however, is that Bernie, Max, and the FIA hold the keys to whatever outcome occurs. Will they choose one that will see the sport come back together and thrive, or will pick one that could potentially kill Formula 1?