The current situation between the the FIA and FOTA has already been a powder keg this year, and the ACO has struck a match and lit the fuse. The situation in Formula 1 has been monitored by us fans all this year. Even to an extent to where the racing has been sub par and often over shadowed by the politics on going. The ACO whom is the front line regulating authority to the 24 Hours of Le Mans has told Formula 1 manufacturers that they are all welcome to enter the series and even have a say in the way the regulations will be written.
Given the above statement, we must now think of the possibilities. Almost all of the current manufacturers in F1 have seen a certain level of success in the great endurance race. That being said, one must wonder if the negotiations breakdown between the FIA and FOTA, how quickly can the teams transition? Toyota has already stated they want to get back into sports cars and Ferrari have went as far as to say if things do not work out, then Le Mans was definitely an option. While it would be unlikely the teams would be able to turn around quick enough for a 2010 effort, that would work out surprisingly well. The key difference between F1 and Le Mans aside from the cars can be found in the way the technical regulations are dealt with. Formula 1 seems to change every 20 seconds and every year, opposite of Le Mans which have now had a rather stable set of rules for the last decade with planned changes known well in advance. Thus making it a much more viable option for a sponsor due to the ability to create a business model that is consistent and if successful, very lucrative. Enter 2011, the ACO has announced that there will meetings on formulating the technical regulations which would work perfect for any Formula 1 team trying to get into the sport. You then have a fresh set of regulations in which to really work and develop a car prior to making your debut.
One can then present the argument that the current situation in Le Mans is really no better than that of F1 in relation to the current Audi bodywork situation. Rinaldo Capello made it very clear to Autosport.com that this is the time when Le Mans and sportscars in general become better than Formula 1. Capello was quoted as saying: “Especially in this moment when Formula 1 has a lot of political problems, this would be the right moment for sportscars to look better and increase its popularity. That is what we need because now we have nice, fast cars, very good drivers and it should be a great show for everybody. If we start having political problems in our own category, it allows F1 to look better than us. It would be the right moment to switch and look better than them.” I personally think this is a very weak argument and one that would not hold up long given Le Mans relatively clean track record over the last few years. I also firmly believe that the damage that has been done to Le Mans because of this row if any pales in comparison to the destructive force that has been dealt to F1. The ACO dealt with the situation and ruled the front flap legal and then was over it. Peugeot is now taking the complaint to the FIA which is now going to put the results of the Le Mans 24 Hour event into an unofficial status until the situation is resolved at the highest of levels.
One thing is clear from all of this however, and that may be the open war between Le Mans and Formula 1 that could come of this open invitation. The Le Mans series would gain a larger fan base than it already has and Max and Bernie’s GP3 series would become nearly irrelevant. Le Mans would still have the best venues in the world with Sebring, Spa, and Le Mans as well as offering a much better on track product. Granted I would like to see the Formula 1 series survive as is with a slight change to the regulations however it would be awesome to see Audi, Peugeot, and Ferrari clawing at each other for top honors. As you watch the 24 this weekend just let that play in your head and think of the absolute awesomeness that it could offer…