June 22, 2009

While there was much talk of talks and the need to find a resolution at the British Grand Prix this weekend, there is, as yet, no clear sense of how the current FIA vs FOTA situation will resolve itself. So if the situation is not resolved, what could the 2010 season look like? Essentially there would be two series, one run by FIA and promoted by Bernie Ecclestone and the other run by FOTA, and regulated and promoted by organisations and individuals yet to be defined.

The FIA Formula 1 2010 Championship.

As things stand there are currently five teams entered for this championship (if we disregard Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso who the FIA say are confirmed entrants, but the teams themselves say they are not). Of the current F1 teams there are only two, Williams and Force India, and three new teams: Campos, USF1 and Manor. Both Williams and Force India have engine contracts in place with Toyota and Mercedes respectively, if we assume that these FOTA teams will not continue to supply engines to FIA championship contenders, then Williams and Force India will probably use Cosworth Engines, effectively making the FIA championship a single engine formula, great for Cosworth, but certainly not in the spirit of Formula 1. The FIA will also need to find another five teams, with potential new entrants Lola and N Technology pulling out these may come from Prodrive/Aston Martin, Litespeed, Formtech and Epsilon, assuming that their partners are still interested if they aren’t now competing against teams like Ferrari and McLaren. Either way the majority will be new teams with new drivers unknown to the F1 fan base.

The FOTA 2010 Championship

The first problem that FOTA will have is what to call themselves. The commercial rights holder for the F1 championship (Bernie Ecclestone) has been consistently firm in ensuring that any commercial operation using language close to ‘F1’ either pays significant licensing fees or changes their name. FOTA may try to do a deal with Tony Teixeira to use his A1GP name (Ferrari currently supply the engines for the series) but their options are not wide. The eight FOTA teams will also need to find a tyre supplier

Bridgestone tyres will probably not be available for the FOTA series

Bridgestone tyres will probably not be available for the FOTA series

(Bridgestone being contracted to F1, and no-one else is currently interested in spending the kind of investment needed to be in F1), Pirelli, Michelin and Goodyear are possible start points, but may need some financial incentives to get involved. They will also need circuits. If we assume that currently contracted F1 circuits would not be able to host a FOTA race then the obvious start point would be former F1 circuits – Silverstone and Brands Hatch in the UK, Montreal in Canada, Indianapolis in the US and Imola in Italy are all in the frame. FOTA will also need regulations and an organisation to enforce these. To make the business model work the series needs media revenue which in F1 provides around 20% of the revenues for the teams, this means deals need to be done with media operations to sell the rights to the series and this requires commitment and clarity for a number of years so that some return on investment can be estimated.

All in all when you begin to look at what needs to be done on both sides, a bit more talking to each other seems to be the best use of everyone’s time.

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