Ferrari has had veto of F1's technical rules since at least 1998. Let's spell that out: any F1 technical regulation has had to meet Ferrari's specific approval - because that's what the FIA has been contractually bound to do. That's the latest bombshell to emerge in the ongoing fight over the sport's future between the governing body and some of the teams. It's suspected this little gem of information was leaked by the FIA, almost certainly in an attempt to cause a rift between the so-far united FOTA teams. Picture the scene as the teams now met.
"So, unknown to us for all these years, you have been pulling the strings. We have been clowns running around in your private fiefdom thinking we were competing against you when really we were just there to make some noise and provide a backdrop for you. And now you want us to come with you to do a different championship because you don't like that the FIA has said it doesn't want to play to your rules any more in this one."
Far from being embarrassed about this being made public, Ferrari is conceding that yes, we do have veto, and furthermore it is the very fact that we do that disallows the FIA from doing what it is trying to do. What the FIA is attempting to do, of course, is steer F1 down a cost-capped path, a very understandable course of action in the current economic environment and one that offers the only hope of F1 not becoming a full spec formula.
We are now at an impasse and it looks like things could get bloody. The governing body has to impose a cost cap. Ferrari cannot accept it, for reasons that are not entirely clear, and is for once probably serious about withdrawing from F1. Without Ferrari, F1 takes a huge hit. It's going to take a lot of diplomacy and more goodwill than seems apparent to find a way past this impasse.
At the moment, even the spectre of a rival championship is back on the radar. Ferrari feels it is no longer contracted to F1 until 2012 because in imposing the proposed 2010 regulations the FIA would be breaking its contract with Ferrari. Toyota has gone public with its dissatisfaction about the way F1 is run and is therefore potentially allying itself to Ferrari.
If all the FOTA teams were to get behind Ferrari on the idea of going it alone without Bernie Ecclestone or Max Mosley, then this would be an overwhelming position of power. But, as outlined in this column last week, it looks extremely unlikely. Take a sounding from the teams in the paddock about that idea and you quickly see it will be a non-starter; if Luca di Montezemolo refuses to blink and pulls Ferrari out, even if Toyota and another couple of teams do follow, the rest will be staying put, FOTA or no FOTA, and will be topped up by the new teams.
The pity of it is that both 'sides' - teams and governing body - now seem to broadly agree about what F1 needs to do. Now that the FIA is backing away from the idea of a spec formula, their vision of the future and that of the teams is similar - drastically reduced costs while retaining technical innovation. What they are arguing about is only the way of doing it - the idea of outside auditors having access to their books. But behind the facade of those arguments runs historical discontent with Max and Bernie and the way they have gone about controlling and running the sport.
What the whole sorry episode is showing is the tawdry, shady way of doing things the sport has long embraced is wrong. It always has been and now it has come back to bite. There would have been no shady 'rules veto' by one competitor over all the others had the powers of F1 not needed to entice them. They would not have needed to entice them if they in turn had not been so greedy in the past that a nucleus of teams wanted to break away to form their own series. It's time to drop the bitterness of history, but that's a very difficult thing to do.
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