From the pulpit

Starting this week, autosport.com begins an exclusive series of columns from our editor-in-chief Matt Bishop. The first of these comes post-Japanese Grand Prix as ‘the Bish' challenges Max Mosley's view on the future of Ferrari and Renault in Formula 1.

From the pulpit


Starting this week, autosport.com begins an exclusive series of columns from our editor-in-chief Matt Bishop. The first of these comes post-Japanese Grand Prix as 'the Bish' challenges Max Mosley's view on the future of Ferrari and Renault in Formula 1.

If you're an observant subscriber to autosport.com, you'll have noticed that I've failed to deliver on a promise that was made to you on my behalf last week - namely, that I'd be sharing some post-Suzuka thoughts with you... post Suzuka.

Well, better late than never. And, despite the fact that I'd have to class today as closer to pre-Interlagos than post-Suzuka, today will have to do. I promise to be more punctual in future. Honest.

However, it really does seem a little irrelevant to harp on about Japanese on-track action at this far a remove, so I won't do so. Better, I reckon, to comment on some of the political implications of statements made and machinations observed in that far-off land.

So... where to start (because, sadly, Formula 1 has rarely been so political as it is today)? Hmmm... I think I'll start at the very top, with Max Mosley, the president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. He is, after all, big enough (though his elegantly chiselled features aren't remotely ugly enough, it has to be said) to look after himself.

If you've read the latest issue of Autosport magazine (on sale today), as I'm sure you have, then you'll have noticed that, on page seven, Mosley is quoted as follows: "The best way is to frame the [engine] regulations so that we're independent of the manufacturers. That way, if they come into the sport, it's fantastic; but it's not catastrophic if they leave. If we don't introduce 2.4-litre V8s, we'll lose Ferrari and Renault from F1. We don't, however, believe we'll lose Mercedes, BMW and Honda if we adopt 2.4-litre V8s."

Cant. Utter cant. Sorry, Max, but you know I'm right.

Let's deconstruct.

Renault and, just possibly, Ferrari may indeed leave F1 if 2.4-litre V8s aren't introduced - but that won't be the reason why they leave. They may also leave if 3.0-litre V10s are retained. They may leave, in fact, willy-nilly. If Renault leave, to be blunt, it will be because their new main man, Carlos Ghosn (who is soon to replace the very pro-F1 Louis Schweitzer in the top job at the Régie) has already ordered a rigorous internal appraisal of the company's motorsport activities, and he's a whole lot more interested in finding out whether or not Fernando Alonso spraying Mumm from the world's podiums shifts Clios and Meganes than whether the swept volume of the cylinders of next year's R25 amounts to 3000 cubic centimetres or only 2400.

Ferrari, too, may leave F1 one day. They may leave if Bernie Ecclestone bows to pressure to cut them a smaller share of the enormous global TV revenues than they currently enjoy (Jean Todt has told me as much, and on the record too); they may leave if their parent, Fiat, continue to haemorrhage hundreds of millions of Euros every year, as their shareholders fear they may well do; they may even leave when Michael Schumacher leaves; all these things are possible. What isn't possible, in my view (and, it has to be said, in the view of others whom I've consulted on this very subject, too), is that the team whose founder, the divine Enzo, once vowed never to build a mid-engined car - "I'll never put the cart before the horse" - and whose 12-cylinder engines seemed at one time to be a fundamental emblem of their corporate DNA, would desert grand prix racing simply because they were not, after all, going to be asked to abandon their ultra-successful 3.0-litre V10 in favour of a 2.4-litre V8.

In his heart of hearts, I think Max knows all this, of course. But, as F1's most adept politician by some margin, and as its cutest phrase-maker and most ingenious lateral thinker by an equally lengthy distance, he would have been charmed by the neatness of his exquisitely spun sound-bite when he thought of it, doubtless in the bath, and cried, "Eureka!"

It probably fooled most people.

You should not, however, let it fool you.

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