Branson, Fernandes & Mosley hit back at Ferrari

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Ferrari’s “Horse Whisperer” column has certainly raised some eyebrows around the world. Fans, teams, reporters and blogs have all discussed the most recent edition that took aim at former FIA president Max Mosley and the new teams of F1.

As a long-time Ferrari fan I must admit that I thought it was bit heavy handed but it seems to be in line with the vibe or feel of the column and to be honest, there is truth in the vitriol. That truth depends on which side of the fence you stand as Virgin Racing’s Richard Branson proved this weekend:

“Formula 1 needs new teams. Ferrari already won the battle to make sure that new teams are shackled. I think it was a pity that they were resistant to the budget cap and I think it is foolish actually.

“We have built a new car from scratch and are going to have exactly the same practice time as Brawn, Ferrari or any of the other teams who have had years and years and years to get it right. But we’re not complaining about it – we’re happy to go along with it.

“I think the one thing the Virgin team will prove is that you can have a really good racing team, running very fast, within a very tight budget.

“Ultimately I think that new teams will give Ferrari a run for their money,”

Time will tell if Branson’s prediction of challenging Ferrari will hold true but there is certainly a parallax occurring at best and there are as many sides as there are people in F1. Ferrari have argued that the Mosley-lead FIA war against the teams in 2009 is the catalyst for BMW and Toyota leaving the sport and the new teams coming in. New teams with limited budgets, resources and chance to actually make it to the grid so it seems.

Lotus F1 Racing’s boss Tony Fernandes even weighed in via Twitter saying:

“Wonder what ferrari would be like on virgins budget. Formula one needs more passionate people back in like colin chapman and frank Williams”

Mosley, never short for words or vitriol himself, intimated that Ferrari are jealous. Mosley described Ferrari as

“a middle aged woman who is jealous of the attention new beautiful women around her are getting!”

A race team analogous to women and jealousy…honestly? Mosley still thinking of women apparently.

I’m not so sure that is the best analogy as a team of 60+ years in the sport has little to prove and even less reason to be threatened when the deb’s come down in their favorite gowns. Ferrari’s comments weren’t aimed at berating Branson or Lotus F1 Racing’s team boss Tony Fernandes. They were intended to add gravitas to the crux of their argument which is that Mosley has created a debacle with his new teams, limited budget idea. That his war against the teams wrought serious damage on the sport and in effect, it became a holy war of sorts. Branson and Fernandes are merely predicates in Ferrari’s sentence of disdain and yet there is the added pressure that both are members of the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA).

Ferrari’s tongue may have gotten ahead of itself but it clearly feels that the state of F1 is sad and that Mosley is directly to blame. It obviously sees the new teams as part of the Mosley initiative to rend the series and bring a specification, reduced cost and more pedestrian nature to a sport that has always lived on the bleeding edge of technology, expenditure and glorious trappings of success and wealth. Is there a happy medium? One could suggest that the global economic situation will find the least common denominator irrespective of Ferrari’s penchant for the way things were…an exclusive club of F1 teams with exclusive budgets.

Before you get miffed, recall that this series has had more than 100 teams come and go since the 1960’s and that the high water mark of tedium saw teams like Andrea Moda, Euro-Brun or Coloni teams of the 1980’s. The pre-qualification rule was instituted to ferret out the wheat from the chaff and it got so bad as to initiate an entry fee program. That entry fee program had teams putting up close to $40mm just to participate in F1 and it was felt this would separate the very serious players from weekend warriors or the USF1’s and Campos Meta’s of 2010.

Prior to firing shots at Ferrari for having disdain for Mosley’s model of a Utopian, spec series in F1…remember that F1 itself had established a base-line of performance and resources to even compete in the series and all of that was ignored in short order by Mosley when it seemed that FOTA would bring the whole series down in its war against the powers of F1 in 2009.

A purist? Not particularly as I too enjoyed the privateers like Jordan, Minardi, Prost, Super Aguri, Arrows et. al. but keep in mind that even these teams had the resources or know-how to put their deposit down to run in F1. A litmus test or deposit that I feel would have spared us the USF1, Stefan GP and Campos Meta situation.

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