‘No Max’ is the theme

Public backing… spectators unfurl a banner in support of FOTA and against FIA president Max Mosley and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone during free practice ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.-AP

The rebel Formula One teams will abandon plans of a breakaway series if Max Mosley, the FIA president, goes. By Richard Williams.

The eight “rebel” teams planning a breakaway Grand Prix series next season say the removal of Max Mosley as president of motor sport’s governing body could herald a reconciliation with Formula One.

Mosley, who smoothly extricated himself from the threat posed by the News of the World’s revelations concerning his private life last year, will require an even more adroit piece of escapology in the coming days.

The teams, all members of the recently created Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA), are taking steps to plan a calendar and organise the infrastructure for a full 2010 season but the removal of Mosley from the presidency of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) would open the way for negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone, the holder of the sport’s commercial rights.

On the eve of the British Grand Prix, Mosley had spoken of the “posing and posturing” of the rebel teams, describing some of them as “lunatics”. At a meeting in Paris of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council on June 24, Luca di Montezemolo, the president of Ferrari and chairman of the breakaway group, will begin a process aimed at securing Mosley’s departure from a post he has held since 1991, dissuading him from standing for re-election for a sixth term in November in order to prevent the damage likely to be caused to both sides by a split.

According to a senior FOTA source, the teams’ overriding priority is to rid themselves of Mosley’s autocratic style of governance. Widely resented, it finally became intolerable to the bulk of participants in Formula One when he attempted to impose a swath of radical rule changes, in particular a £40m budget cap to take effect next season.

Announcing the decision to withdraw his threat to take legal action against the eight rebel teams, and Ferrari in particular, whom he had accused of inducing others to break contracts, Mosley said that continuing discussions were now closing the gap between the two sides.

“There won’t be any writ,” said the 69-year-old Englishman. “I think we would rather talk than litigate. We are very, very close as far as the facts are concerned. It’s just if the teams want to sit down and iron out the last few difficulties.”

Dismissing this claim as “absolute rubbish”, the FOTA source said that nothing had changed over the Silverstone weekend. Unless Mosley were removed from his role, he said, the FOTA teams — Ferrari, McLaren, Brawn, Renault, Toyota, BMW, Red Bull and Toro Rosso — would continue with preparations to set up their own series.

Once Mosley has gone, he continued, they will expect Ecclestone to respond to a list of grievances including the refusal to grant them a bigger slice of Formula One’s gross income, the insistence on charging such high fees to circuit promoters that ticket prices are unnecessarily inflated, and the failure to establish rounds of the championship in North America, an important market for the major manufacturers.

On June 21, a draft calendar for the 2010 season was apparently leaked to an eastern European journalist. It includes races at several circuits currently in the Formula One schedule, including Monaco, the only one which, by virtue of its prestige, does not pay Ecclestone the annual fee of up to £35m levied from other countries. There are also visits to such places as Buenos Aires, Indianapolis, Imola and Montreal, where promoters balked at the fees charged by Ecclestone and eventually lost their races.

Circuits completely new to Formula One would include Germany’s Lausitzring, south of Berlin, and a street circuit in Helsinki. The British race would remain at Silverstone. The calendar’s credibility is weakened by the absence of a race in Brazil but in other respects it seems a plausible blueprint.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009