FIA to pass “budget cap” tomorrow?

The World Motor Sport council will convene tomorrow to hear arguments that McLaren has brought the sport into disrepute but they will also discuss the budget cap for F1 in 2010. Last week Max Mosely, FIA President, sent a letter to the teams asking their impressions on what a good budget cap amount would be for F1. The teams, through FOTA, said they would like more time to discuss the issue and determine what would be included in the cap and what that amount should be.

It is being reported by Autosport that the FIA will march forward and pass the budget cap initiative even without FOTA’s input on the amount that would be sustainable. They report that John Howett of Toyota feels that the cap should include dirvers salaries; something not agreed upon by other teams:

“Our position at Toyota is that driver salaries should be included if we are serious about actually reducing total costs. There are differences of opinion, of the inclusions and also what happens to people who are supplying engines, as they need a bigger budget. Do we therefore exclude engines?

“So I think nobody actually objects on a major basis, providing it is a high enough gap to be reasonable to our employees with a glide path down that is sensible, and the right discussion and understanding of what is included.”

It has also been suggested that Williams, Red Bull, Brawn, Toro Rosso and Force India believe 60 million euros is a workable number. This is according to German Newspaper FAZ. Now it seems that these teams are open to the notion and perhaps looking forward to a system to help reduce costs and keep the DNA of the sport in tact. Without their input, I am not sure how that is possible and even with their input; I am still not convinced.

As Grace and I noted, the talk of budget caps has prompted many in the motorsport industry to discuss their interesting publicly. Teams such as ProDrive, Lola iSport and others. To Max’s credit, he has gotten folks intersted in his controlled, spec-series concept but is this good for the sport? Is it harkening back to the “Garagista” days or is this something entirely new and possibly damaging to the sport.

It is no secret that the big teams in F1 are not happy with the budget cap concept and probably less excited that the FIA plan on passing the measure tomorrow without further FOTA input. Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemelo said:

“I personally have a lot of passion (for F1) and Ferrari has a lot of passion, but this is not a never ending story,”.

The insinuation is they would leave if they did not agree to the budget cap concept. While many may suggest that Mercedes and ferrari would not leave the sport, consider the penalties suggested for not being a “cost regulated” team in 2010. According to Autosport, it is suggested that the “cost regulated” teams will enjoy:

“Technical and sporting freedoms compared to those outfits that choose to retain an unlimited budget. As well as movable wings, an improved underfloor and a higher revving engine, cost regulated teams may also be allowed unlimited in-season testing”.

So effectively this means that being a “cost regulated” team, you get many perks that are designed to make you competitive with the “unlimited budget” teams. Two completely different set of rules for the teams participating in the series based upon the have’s and have not’s.

Is this a good idea? Safeguarding the series from economic conditions is fine but ultimately the free-market system polices itself in that teams that have spent billions on F1 cannot afford to remain in the series or continue to spend the amounts they are used to when they aren’t selling cars on Monday. Attrition in F1 is nothing new. Large manufacturer’s have left the series before and there is no way of guaranteeing a marque’s inclusion in the series if they are not benefiting from the association. Budget caps alone have prompted many to look at the sport and the penalties suggested for the “unlimited budget” teams is suppose to make sure the minnows of F1 are as racy as the top teams. While hearing that ProDrive and Lola have a renewed interest in F1 is a good thing and I applaud their consideration; something feels odd about the whole mess. Something seems managed, controlled, contrived and almost bourgeoisie versus the proletariat. The proletarian versus the propertied. This doesn’t seem to have the same spirit of the Privateers of old. This seems more insidious and knee-jerk reactionary to a current crisis. But then that doesn’t surprise me with the FIA. Nor does the political nature of its precepts.

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