Todt and the tactics of tire wars

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The tire selection process has dragged n for some time now and it seems that an announcement may be made, if AUTOSPORT is correct, tomorrow from the FIA.

What is perhaps more interesting to me than which tire company will supply F1 in 2011, is the behind-the-scenes power struggle between the FIA, FOM and FOTA. Maybe “power Struggle” is a strong and liberal use of the term but there is something going on and as a fan, even I can sense it.

You’ll recall the FIA’s (read Jean Todt) quasi endorsement of Michelin which came across as premature contractulation and the immediate response from FOM’s Bernie Ecclestone to entertain Avon Cooper as well as Pirelli. It seems F1 ringmaster favors Pirelli while FIA’s Todt favors Michelin from his native land.

What is even more interesting is FOTA’s play in this debacle. Teams were very concerned about the cost of the Michelin supply. Specifically the smaller teams as the price tag was understood to be large. The larger teams were concerned about Pirelli’s ability to make a tire to their liking and then there was the 18 inch tire issue as well. All of this has welled up into a struggle between three political bodies all representing their better interests.

Todt has eluded that FOTA can suggest they they are deciding the issue, and this may be the bigger point in the power play, but that the FIA/FOM will ultimate decide the tire fate.

Here, for me, is the bigger interest. An internal power struggle for the best position of each team based upon finances and control have the teams split on Michelin and Pirelli. Ecclestone is rumored to favor Pirelli while the big teams and Todt favor Michelin. FOTA is throwing its weight behind the issue while Ecclestone has muddied the process with external bidders and Todt is attempting to put this to bed.

Let’s juxtapose this for a moment shall we? What do you think would be done if Max Mosley were still in charge of the FIA? What would be said to the press and where would we be with this process? Todt has taken a very political power struggle and kept it as quiet as possible. Only the journo’s with insider information have any insight to the struggle and that’s a precious few at that. Sure, there are some suggesting that they know but I think we know better given their black sheep standing within F1.

The war of words would surely be in full swing by now with threats and innuendos. Mosley most likely would have offered a scorched earth policy and ushered in some draconian regulation that the teams would have a negative baseline to start from in order to negotiated their way back to where Ecclestone and Mosley originally wanted them.

Todt has taken a different tack and to be quite honest, it’s a bit refreshing. He hasn’t resorted to airing his thoughts publicly to berate the teams and make fools of Whitmarsh et. al. He has not resigned himself to a false war of words publicly with Ecclestone only to be the velvet glove to Ecclestone’s iron fist. Todt has quietly worked toward his agenda and wisely he knows that agenda has to include Ecclestone’s better interest.

I can’t imagine the political row that would be fuming now if Mosley were still in charge. I can imagine the world media would be reeling with choice quotes from Mosley slamming the integrity of the big teams and accusing them of perpetuating the spending debacle and ignoring the green aspect that F1 needs to embrace. Then again, I have a long history of hearing Mosley-isms and perhaps I am being controversial for no good reason. Perhaps Mosley would have this all worked out by now to everyone’s delight.

What do you think of Todt’s handling of the issue so far? Do you think he has managed the process well by keeping the infighting behind the scenes and sparing F1 the black eye of exposing the greed and political machinations of the power brokers of F1? Leave us your thoughts below.

Who should supply F1 and why? Can Michelin’s 11th hour offer be advantageous for the new teams with limited budgets? The concession of 5 million to 1.5 million a year in tire costs has to take some of the sting out but how much is enough for a team like HRT?


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