USF1 to join FOTA?

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Autosport’s Jonathan Noble says that USF1 has recieved an invite from the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) to join the organization and has accepted that offer. You will recall that Williams F1 and Force India F1 were excluded from FOTA after they applied for the FIA 2010 championship series outside of FOTA’s desire.

At the time Williams F1 and Force India cited sponsorship obligations as the catalyst to break ranks with FOTA and sign up for the unconditional application with the FIA earlier this summer. Has that left a strain on relationships between FOTA, FOrce India and Williams? According to Autosport’s quote, the relationships are not hostile but in the case of Williams; they are at arms length.

understandable from both side in my opinion as Williams and Force India are held to their sponsor dollars in a serious manner and had obligations that would prevent them from helping initiate a break-away FOTA series. One can also understand the reticence in FOTA to welcome back a player who is legally bound to sponsors in a manner that will prevent them from advancing the FOTA cause over their obligation to operate in lock-step with the FIA.

Perhaps the best thing for FOTA to do is wait until those sponsor obligations are over to enter in to a meaningful dialog with Williams and Force India. As for USF1? Well they are said to be the first of the new teams (Manor, Campos and USF1) to apply for membership.

Is this good for USF1? I believe it is as they need a voice at every table in F1. Politically they need to be in concert with the teams and seeks to build relationships as a new team. Their “unconditional” application to the FIA Formula 1 series was understandable as they were following procedure and were not part of the series at that time nor were they part of FOTA. Williams and Force India were a different issue.

In my mind, FOTA is still a powerful negotiating force and while the Concorde Agreement is signed through 2012, we will surely not know all the details of that agreement. Just how much of a haircut did the commercial rights holder CEO Bernie Ecclestone (FOM) take on the revenue sharing portion of the contract? Did he take any haircut? FOTA are crucial for a grand equalizer effect and a balancing act for the FIA and FOM. They are there to keep things above board and should remain in tact and strong until 2012.

Another reason FOTA would do well to get the new teams involved is due to what I am assuming is a long-term commitment to FOTA and F1 portion of their application and acceptance as a FOTA member. You will recall that Ecclestone and the FIA’s Max Mosley have often used team division and divisive elements between teams to conquer any objections that have come up. Mosley hand-picked the new teams and one could presume he felt they were certainly going to be thankful and perhaps FIA shills.

Campos, USF1 and Manor joining FOTA would go a long way in precluding any FIA water carrying by these teams and place them in a more difficult position to defy FOTA should the situation arise. However, I am still not convinced that Mosley is not somehow involved witht he Manor team and FOTA would be wise to vet all the ownership of each of the new teams to ensure they are not getting set up.

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