FOTA (Formula One Teams Association). The name itself seems almost intentionally picked by the teams to remind us of FOCA (Formula One Constructors Association) which was dominated by Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley Recall in the 80’s that FOCA was at odds with the sports governing body at the time, FISA. The resolution of this conflict left Mosley in charge of the FIA and Ecclestone in charge of Formula One Administration. Ecclestone and Mosley have continued to work together in what many would consider the most lucrative relationship in all of sport (at least for Ecclestone).
When the teams formed FOTA at the end of last season, their goal was to draft technical regulations that would serve to bring logarithmicly increasing team budgets under control. Mosley can only be seen as a motivating factor in the formation of the organization since his call to the teams was to produce regulation proposals that all the teams could agree upon, or the FIA would take it upon themselves. This didn’t sit well with the teams, since Mosley was talking about some pretty radical ideas, including spec engines, much to the chagrin of the manufacturers.
In their attempts to hash out regulations for 2009 and beyond, the teams have found a unity of purpose and a new sense of cooperation. Recently, FOTA unveiled their plans for cost reduction and for improving the quality of the product. Their reasoned approach to the formation of their proposed regulations included a massive survey and suggestions for all aspects of the product.
The unmistakeable impression is that FOTA have banded together in an attempt to make their massive investment in the sport pay off and that their current spirit of unity may become a thorn in the side of Bernie Ecclestone, who is now managing the commercial rights side of F1 for the owner of those rights, CVC Capital Partners.
FOTA members have openly talked about how they want more control in the selection of race venues. Currently, Ecclestone is in charge of selecting race venues and collecting (some would say extorting) sanctioning fees from those venues. FOTA would understandably like more say in this process, since the selection of venues also has to make sense for the teams and most importantly, their sponsors. One only has to look at Martin Whitmarsh’s most recent comments about the lack of a race in North America to understand how frustrated the teams are at the current status quo.
It is only understandable that the teams are working so hard to make FOTA their unified voice. As things currently stand, the FIA has taken charge of forcing immense technical changes on the cars from season to season (see also KERS) while the commercial side, ran by Ecclestone is plowing ahead with getting rid of popular venues (Canada, Spa for a year, Suzuka for 2 years) while sanctioning fees are out of control and the teams feel they deserve better than a 50% share of the commercial revenues. Without a unified voice, they have no chance of influencing either the FIA or Ecclestone into making decisions that make sense for the teams, who have such a huge made such a huge investment in the sport.
It will be interesting to see what decisions are made by the World Motorsport Council next week, as they are meeting to ratify further cost reduction proposals for 2009 and beyond. In the end, they will most likely approve whatever Max Mosley tells them to ratify, so we will wait and see what influence that FOTA has had on Mosley’s proposals.