F1 to sue group over plans for rival series
AP Sports Writer
SILVERSTONE, England (AP) – Formula One intends to sue the eight teams that announced plans for a rival series next season – the biggest crisis to engulf the sport since the championship began in 1950.
The governing body accused the Formula One Teams Association of “serious violations of law.” The breakaway came after Ferrari, championship leader Brawn GP and six other teams failed to resolve a dispute over the introduction of a budget cap for next season.
“The actions of FOTA as a whole, and Ferrari in particular, amount to serious violations of law, including willful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari’s legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law,” the organization said in a statement.
The ruling body, known as FIA, has delayed publishing the final entry list for the 2010 season. It said it will begin legal proceedings “without delay.”
FIA president Max Mosley is trying to prevent the departure of Ferrari, which has participated since that inaugural series, Brawn GP, McLaren, Renault, Toyota, BMW Sauber, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso.
F1 would lose some of its biggest names, including reigning world champ Lewis Hamilton, championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s rising star Sebastian Vettel, to the rival series.
“This series will have transparent governance, one set of regulations, encourage more entrants and listen to the wishes of the fans, including offering lower prices for spectators worldwide, partners and other important stakeholders,” FOTA said. “The major drivers, stars, brands, sponsors, promoters and companies historically associated with the highest level of motorsport will all feature in this new series.”
Negotiations between FOTA and FIA had stalled over plans for a voluntary $65 million budget cap for next season. The FOTA teams entered the 2010 series provided there changes to the budget cap provisions. But FIA did not give ground, saying the sport cannot survive in difficult economic conditions without such restrictions.
The eight FOTA teams said they would not “compromise on the fundamental values of the sport” by adhering to Mosley’s financial constraints.
“These teams, therefore, have no alternative other than to commence the preparation for a new championship which reflects the values of its participants and partners,” a statement said.
Brawn GP chief executive Nick Fry said Friday his group negotiated “at some length in good faith and not quite got to where we want to be. So at the moment it looks like we’ll be doing something different.”
“I hope discussions will continue,” he added. “Really the ball is now in Max’s court and he has to announce the participants in the championship, which is due imminently, so we’ll see what happens there.”
Of the existing teams, Williams and Force India have broken ranks with FOTA and have lodged unconditional entries for the 2010 F1 season. They will be joined on the grid by three new outfits – Campos Racing, Team US F1 and Manor F1 Team.
The remaining FOTA teams announced their decision to leave F1 after meeting Thursday night near Silverstone.
“The positions have hardened on both sides,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “The teams feel they have gone as far as they can, the FIA feel they have gone as far as they can and we’ve ended up in a situation where a solution hasn’t been found.
“We’ve no alternative because if we can’t race in Formula One under the current rules, if you want to keep competing then you’ve got to look at something else.”
FOTA criticized the FIA’s “uncompromising” stance and attempts, along with the commercial rights holder Formula One Management headed by Bernie Ecclestone, to divide its member teams.
Fry said that because Brawn is a smaller team, scaling back to comply with the FIA restrictions wouldn’t have been a problem. But he wanted to keep the new team aligned with the sport’s leading entrants in FOTA.
“We want to compete against the best in the business,” said Fry, whose Brawn team emerged from the ashes of Honda this year. “The reason that we were very keen to be with the group of eight is that it contains the best motor racing teams in the world.”
The FOTA exodus means some of the other teams that had made 2010 entries but were overlooked may now get another chance to compete.
The split also will have serious ramifications for broadcasters who have rights to what will be a diminished F1 without its big-name teams and drivers. Also, the venues that host F1 races but may want to hold breakaway events.