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The FIA and FOTA - According to the FIA

NEWS STORY
16/06/2009

What is this dispute really all about? Is it about an attempt by some teams to take over the commercial rights to Formula One? Or to take the regulatory function away from the FIA? Or even just a clash of personalities? It has elements of all of these, but the real issue is philosophical; it goes to the fundamentals of Formula One. It is about technical freedom. It is recognition by the FIA and several teams that you can have technical freedom - the freedom to innovate - or you can have freedom to spend without limit. But you cannot sustain both.

The lesson which emerged from five years of attempts to contain engine costs was that real savings could only be achieved by the removal of technical freedom: the engine freeze. All attempts to limit expenditure by ever-tighter technical restrictions failed. This is why we currently have a frozen engine, which will soon have to be replaced. The consensus is that the replacement will have to have a budget - a limit on what can be spent on development and a limit on unit cost, just like the engines being developed for road cars. The alternative would be to go back to unlimited expenditure on racing engines by the major car companies. This was never a rational approach, but would be insane in the current climate.

If we apply these lessons to the rest of a Formula One car, we can see that attempts to rein in expenditure with detailed rules will not work. They did not work on the engine and they will not work on the chassis. Detailed rules stifle inventiveness and innovation. But, worse, they do not significantly reduce costs. As with the frozen engine, real savings could only be made with a frozen chassis, an obvious absurdity.

If we wish to see innovative technology in Formula One, the only way is to limit expenditure and allow the engineers freedom to do their best within a fixed budget. This is exactly what happens in the real world and it is the only way forward for Formula One. Without technical innovation, Formula One will wither and die. Without real cost constraints, Formula One will lose its teams. This is why the FIA is insisting on cost restraint as part of the Formula One regulations.

The final and overwhelming advantage of a cost constraint regulation is that it will provide technical freedom on a level playing field. With a limit on expenditure, the cleverest and most innovative engineering team will win. It will no longer be possible to substitute a massive budget for intellectual ability. In a technological sporting contest this must surely be the right way.

Setting the record straight

The FIA and FOM have together spent decades building the FIA Formula One World Championship into the most watched motor sport competition in history.

In light of the success of the FIA’s Championship, FOTA – made up of participants who come and go as it suits them – has set itself two clear objectives: to take over the regulation of Formula One from the FIA and to expropriate the commercial rights for itself. These are not objectives which the FIA can accept.

Background

When Honda announced their withdrawal from Formula One in December 2008, they had already entered the 2009 Championship and were contractually bound to compete. Two things were then clear to the FIA. First, any of the manufacturers could stop at any moment. The FIA would have no recourse against the main company, only against the team which would have no assets in excess of its debts. Secondly, it was quite possible that other manufacturers would stop before 2010.

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