There’s been some speculation, most of it very thoughtful, about why Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and former FIA president, Max Mosley, were in a recent interview for German TV and what exactly the goal of the interview was.
For those involved, including current FIA president Jean Todt, the reasons must be very clear but these are players that are within touch of the white-hot flame of F1 governance, control, regulation and politics. For the rest of us, discounting many professional F1 journalists, we merely orbit the political flame of F1 and ponder what will come next for the series.
According to the Telegraph, Ecclestone denied that Mosley could be making a run at returning to the FIA as president saying:
“No, no, no. He’s nothing to do with Formula One anymore. He was only there because the TV people wanted to do an interview. He’s nothing to do with it. It wasn’t supposed to be fun, it was supposed to be serious, but never mind.”
This may rule out the initial concept that Max was being positioned for a run given his very candid comments about the sport and its current situation. In fact, it could be argued that Mosley was offering some coaching to sitting-president, Todt, on how he may re-gain control of the sport and get the ship righted before it loses much more commercial appeal. To that, Ecclestone said:
“I think Jean is slowly but surely coming around to realising that we’ve got to pull some teeth out and we’ve got to get on and do it,” Ecclestone told Telegraph Sport. “If there’s a bit of pain, that’s how it is.”
The fact is, due to the new engine regulations, the series is left with two very strong players in Mercedes and Ferrari while Renault and Honda struggle to claw their way into the same zip (postal) code as the others as far as performance goes.
Ecclestone says that the series should be forced to return to the V8’s for 2016 telling the Independent:
“I don’t think we should get consent from the teams. I think we should just do it and say to them, ‘If you don’t like it you can go to arbitration’. We could get the V8s back next year. People can build them in no time so we ought to do it.”
“This engine shouldn’t have been that complicated, to be honest with you,” Ecclestone said. “It was only when the engineers got hold of it that it became complicated. The product is not fit for the purpose.”
Perhaps the most meaningful reason I can see for the interview was a very public and candid assessment of the current situation with recommendations on how to remedy it from two of the sports venerable purveyors. Having Max there did lend the situation some gravitas as his recommendations come from a man who helped write most of the regulations that Todt is currently working under.
The fact remains that Red Bull Racing are facing a very difficult situation in which they have threatened to elave the sport and should that happen, it would be very bad for the sport but potentially even worse for Red Bull as they would be in breach of contract. Ecclestone told the Independent:
“Red Bull would stand up in court and say: ‘Yes, we have a commitment, we do, but we haven’t got an engine’,” Ecclestone suggested. “My argument would be: ‘You signed the contract to compete. You should have made sure when you signed the contract that you had an engine. Your team was supposed to do this.’”
Todt is no one’s fool, he knows very well what rules are at his disposal but the interview seemed to suggest that Todt is seeking harmony amongst all players and there comes a time when that simply isn’t possible. Ecclestone and Mosley say its time to make the changes and let the chips fall where they may.
I suggest the interview was to place pressure on Todt to make sweeping changes to F1 that may not be popular for Mercedes or Ferrari but it what has to be done. Chances are, the politics are so thick one could cut them with a chainsaw and it will be interesting to see just what Todt’s reaction is.
Keep in mind that the FIA have increased their annual intake from F1 but while they may not be quite as willing to proceed with a scorched-earth policy, the commercial right’s holder (FOM) is being impacted by the FIA’s unwillingness to keep F1 entertaining and the cash cow it has been in the past. Difficult to have a regulatory body, for whatever reason, continue with rules that are hurting the sport you own the commercial rights to.