Whitmarsh: Teams critical to future of F1


Formula One's success is in the hands of the teams themselves, believes Martin Whitmarsh. Speaking during an interview with Australian Motorsport News magazine, the FOTA chairman has suggested that, united, the teams play a critical factor in the future of Formula One.

"If FOTA's unified it's the most powerful force in Formula One," he claimed. "Now that sounds threatening, and I don't try and emphasise it, but we try and use that power to bring about consensus and bring about the right direction and to cooperate."

Under Whitmarsh's leadership the sport has enjoyed a relatively peaceful period, almost unheard of in modern Formula One where teams have tended to bicker among themselves. It was that infighting and political posturing which led to the Piranha Club description being coined for the paddock's power brokers. Yet for all FOTA's success, Whitmarsh says the old dog-eat-dog mentality hasn't disappeared entirely.

"It's still a ruthless business," he admitted. "There's still the underlying passion and desire to win, the egos, frankly even the media that's going to excite views and opinions. It's an unforgiving environment."

There has however been a definite softening of attitudes within the sport, a harmonic unison among the teams who for once seem willing to work with each other for the greater good, as opposed to their own vested interests.

"Now I believe I can walk in to any team, every single team in this paddock, and be welcomed and seen as someone who's trying to assist and create the right environment to take the sport forward," he continued. "After soccer, there's only one other world sport, and that's Formula One. It's a phenomenal business but I know it could be so much stronger. It should be the number one sport in the world. It's difficult to displace soccer, but if we're not trying to do that what are we trying to do?"

That lofty ambition is only attainable with the cooperation of all the teams, Whitmarsh believes. While bickering among one another often creates headlines - mostly for the wrong reasons - a harmonious atmosphere will encourage commercial growth and strengthen the sport's position he reasons.
"Formula One can only be successful if the teams come together and work together properly, which is what FOTA's about," insisted Whitmarsh "FOTA has to work with the commercial rights holder and with the governing body because if we're fighting each other then we're hurting the sport, we're hurting what we love.

"It isn't easy because of the egos, because of the media attention, you know we're not doing it in a quiet room together, there are people who want to see it pulled apart for entertainment reasons or political reasons or some other perverse reason. But I think it's a quieter environment now."

For his part Whitmarsh has tended to stay in the shadows in his role as FOTA chairman, despite suggestions it was the Englishman who effectively ended the 2014 engine regulation stand-off single handed. In less than 24-hours, so the story goes, Whitmarsh convinced the board of some of the worlds' biggest car companies to change a publicly stated position, bringing consensus and ending the continual threat and counter-threat the various parties had engaged in.

Fascinatingly while all this was going on Whitmarsh was under pressure from some quarters of the British media on the back of McLaren's disappointing home Grand Prix at Silverstone. With some claiming he was living on borrowed time, Whitmarsh remained quiet, even though he had the opportunity to boast about his accomplishments.

Yet when given the opportunity to sing his own praises Whitmarsh instead turns attention back on the teams, preferring to put the sport's glories in front of his own. "There's always going to be a lot of challenge," he conceded. "Over things like that I think the teams, FOTA, played an instrumental role because frankly various parties had very disparate views and were potentially going to get in to a quite a big conflict.

"FOTA played a role to moderate, to find compromise to find a good way forward, which I think is actually the best solution as often it is. Compromise is often the best solution for the greater good of Formula One," he said.

"I think where we arrived at was very good, and I think the teams by being together were able to facilitate and create that environment whereas we could be in a state of some political turmoil and chaos if that had not been resolved.

"There's a lot of challenge and threat to our sport, it's an extraordinary package. We've done some things, Bernie's done some great things, but we actually can't just sit back and say, in this ever changing world of media complexity, of challenge in entertainment, we've therefore really not be content with where we are. We've got to believe that we've got to attack every opportunity, we've got to continually be critical of ourselves and make the sport better.

"We've got to aim to be bigger and better than we are," He continues. "I know that whenever you say we've got to get better people can imply criticism in it, but what I've been saying for some time, and I've been a senior part of the sport for twenty years, I'm not trying to point at any one individual, is that we haven't done a good enough job in my opinion.

"We've got a fantastic sport. It's about the best racing drivers in the world, extraordinary young brave men, in the very best equipment, the most technically advanced vehicles. The pinnacle of motorsport and fantastic competition. That's what we should be focussing on," he argued. "I think we managed to improve the sport and I think Formula One has managed to make some teams sustainable and survive which wouldn't have done without FOTA, so I'm proud of that. I'm proud to be continuing those efforts and I think now we need to try and be a stabilising force in Formula One for the good of Formula One."

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Published: 30/08/2011
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