Storm in a tea-cup: Will it break-up Mad Max and Mr Eccles Tea Party?

17 06 2009

A friend of mine has asked what the storm in the teacup that Formula One is in? So I attempted to say it was a dispute between the teams and their drivers on the one side and the administration of FIA on the other. I then went onto to say it was mostly one person’s inability to compromise or listen, that person being Max Mosley.

So my friend immediately said I have heard of him, he was the guy with all the hookers doing German-theme SM sex! Then he said he did not know he was president of the FIA, just some important guy. Finally he said well if ain’t got Ferrari or Monaco in it it ain’t Formula 1.

Here I have attempted to provide a back ground to this dispute to others like my friend who are confused. In the one corner of the ring we have Mad Max, president of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile). He is fresh with three recent victories. In 2007 as punishment for “spying” and he gave McLaren otherwise known as Team Pinocchio a $100 million fine and they lost all of their constructors points. Fortunately their drivers were allowed to contest the championship, though neither was successful. In truth the two-team mates seemed more concerned with taking each other than actually winning.

In 2008 Mad Max scored scored an even more sensation victory. Having being video-taped in somewhat compromising circumstances. This incident is best described by F1 Rejects as the “Alleged Nazi-themed Sado-masochistic sex with 5 prostitutes gate”.  Incidentally this popular site still has available Max and I survived ANTSMSW5PG T-shirts in a variety of colours and sizes should you be interested.

While virtually every important motoring club and big knob in the motor industry condemned such behaviour Max survived by gaining support from lots of little clubs representing little countries (sadly a lot of them from Africa). In 2009 when McLaren (team Pinocchio) again got caught again telling little white lies (which conveniently would have lost another team quite a few points), Max was able to use this to good effect. Without going into full disclosure Team Pinocchio lost their points for the race and got a suspended sentence.  Tonka Toy Toyota fortunately got their points re-instated. If Team Pinocchio were good through the rest of the year their three-race sentence would be suspended. Part of the deal though was that their chief puppeteer, Uncle Ron, would be banished to Outer Mordor.

In so doing Mad Max finally won over his nemesis of many years. With such victories Mad Max now thought himself so invincible he could win any battle and push through any regulations he wished. A few discussions with his old mate Virtual Nick on virtual engineering (with whom he was co-owner of the F1 reject team and more recently was part of the team FIA commissioned to examine the split rear-aerofoil), Mad Max got a brilliant idea. Virtual engineering of an F1 car would cut costs and so he thought up the budget cap idea. In his discussion with his other crony Mr Eccles, who following a divorce had fallen on hard times financially, they worked out that a budget cap would help Eccles to restore some of his former wealth.

Since the FIA had saved the teams so much money with the introduction of the budget caps they would not need as much of the proceeds from the commercial rights (broadcasting revenues). Obviously this would give Mr Eccles a bigger still slice of the money tart. Now I want to introduce the other contestant – FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) which only mid last year had formed at meeting at Maranello (home of Ferrari). The big cheese  at Ferrari Luca de Mozzarella was to Chair FOTA.

Both Luca de Mozzarella and his side kick Little John Howett and their merry men were mightily upset by Max with his budget cap ideas. They especially did not like a two-tier system where cars running within the budget cap would have more technical freedoms. However, in truth it was more than just budget caps it was the whole way Mad Max was running the circus that bothered them. Before that Mad Max had wanted all the teams to run a single engine designed by Cosworth. Even now Max was  still wanting the new teams to use the Cosworth, which unlike all other engines, would not be rev-limitted.  This should be told in another story since one team that did not get selected is taking the FIA to court and even the European Union may look into the issue.

Just before the start of the 2009 season Mad Max at the instigation of Mr Eccles attempted to change how the world champion would be awarded. This was to be awarded to the driver with the most wins. Of course at the time no-one expected a run-away sting of victories  by Brawn and their number one driver Jenson (who in the entire 2008 season only bothered to scored 3 points). Secretly, I suspect that Jenson was not just a little sad Mad Max had not got his way with this winner takes all system.

FOTA did land some blow to Mad Max and this suggestion was thrown out, but it was enough for Mad Max to feel threatened.

At Monaco or Circuit du Casino, FOTA met on the boat owned by Flab Brieatori, the big cheese at Team Renault. All the FOTA teams agreed not to submit their entries in 2010 all the while there was a budget cap. Of course Mad Max was not concerned because a shoal of minion teams were due to enter so he would fill the grid. He used this as a deterrent and just before the deadline Team Wee Willy Williams lost their nerve and submitted an unconditional entry (rumour has it that they were loaned FIA money) .

The rest of the FOTA merry men decided to submit a conditional block entry. Now Mad Max was not amused, not even slightly, his resolved was now to fully break FOTA’s solidarity. The cracks in FOTA became more visible when Team India  decided it had not entered under the FOTA block entry but rather as an unconditional entrant. Force India  pleaded with the now not-so-merry men of FOTA  but still got expelled like Team Wee Willy Williams.

The Merry Men of FOTA were now really determined to stand up to MAD Max. The factory guys even agreed to a 50 Million Euro fine if any one of them were to break ranks. Despite FOTA’s stated solidarity there was rumours that both Racing Holy Cow teams (Red Bull) Teams had done a deal similar to Team India since their  big cheese Herr Mousetrap was known to be a friend of Mad Max.  In fact the Racing Holy Cow teams had done no such deal and continue to the sing the FOTA song. Mad Max, being a sly one, decided to release the list of 2010 participants, with three of the FOTA members being unconditional (Ferrari and both Racing Cow teams). The other FOTA teams were listed , but they were subject to accepting the budget cap. Max gave them until Friday 19 June to comply.

Now here is the sneaky bit , he had space for three new teams, so instead of taking the three strongest teams (Prodive, Lola and N.Technology) he gave these to USF1, Campos and Manor. While the first is a completely new team from the land of MacDonald Burger the other two teams were rather small operators.

The reason Mad Max did not selected the strongest was to cause a bit of pressure on the FOTA teams to comply since there were three strong new entrants to fill any defaulting FOTA member. He also thought this type of competition should break ranks within FOTA. Mad Max’s clever plan backfired as Prodive, Lola and N.Technology did not want to be associated with a whole lot of farmyard outfits and so withdrew their entries. In the meantime Mad Max said that the 19 June was the final date for the other FOTA teams to drop their conditions as it was only fair to the reserve teams to finalise their entry into 2010.

As the clock stuck 12am of 19 June FOTA launched it’s most aggressive salvo. Rather than agreeing to drop their conditional entrance, they announced they would form a break-away series and will have nothing more to do with Max. Mad Max’s first response was to nonchalantly say he expected this and anyway they had a few more hours to re-consider their position and that he was definitely going to finalise the 2010 entrant list by the next day.

As the hours drew out on of that fateful 19 June, Max realized that no-one else was coming to his party. His nonchalance now turned to anger, so he decided he would release a statement to say they he would the sue the FOTA teams. While most of the Merry Men of FOTA seem not to either know or care about this, Luca de Mozzarella decided to fight fire with fire and launched their own legal proceedings against the FIA over breach of contract.

The next battle between FOTA and FIA was on the eve of the last race at the great British track – Silverstone (which Mr Eccles had axed for 2010), a track which had launched Formula 1 sixty years ealier. Over the race weekend Mad Max ranted at FOTA and described them as ‘loonies’ which hardly helped defuse the situation. Having realized his mistake Mad Max was quoted on Monday as this being no more than him being “jokey” and has also dropped his threat to take legal action against FOTA.

Mad Max has also relinquished on his promise to provide a list of 2010 entrants. Possibly without FOTA he has not got a convincing list, now that three other teams have dropped their applications.

So how will this storm in a tea cup conclude? It really depends on whether Luca succeeds in getting Mad Max out as President. Next week is the World Motorsport Council Meeting, could it be the chance to finally get rid of this senile individual?

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