Formula One infighting gives way to a peaceful settlement

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2006, 12:00am

Budge up in the pit lane then, from 2008 there will be more cars to squeeze into the garage space at Grand Prix circuits. Max Mosley, the president of the governing body FIA has announced that we will soon see 12 teams competing in Formula One.

Prodrive are the lucky team, and they are lucky. They won out in a frantic race to get the nod, edging out several other strong contenders among the nine teams to lose out. Ironically, many were former F1 bosses, anxious to get their fix once again. Paul Stoddart and Eddie Jordan were among those told thanks but no thanks.

Of course Dave Richards, the head of Prodrive is no stranger to the paddock. He's the former boss of Benetton and BAR and runs the Subaru World Rally team. It's not as if he's untested at this level.

While Prodrive have been cracking open the champagne at their English factory, Max Mosley has no doubt been allowing himself a wry smile. The fortunes of Formula One seem to have taken a sharp turn for the better and he will no doubt be quick to take the credit.

It wasn't so long ago that we were discussing the possibility of top teams having to provide a third car on race days to keep the grid up to 20. Small teams like Jordan and Minardi were perilously close to going the way of Arrows and Prost as costs escalated. The worst-case scenario never quite came and buyers for those teams were found.

But Mosley had already decided the only way to save F1 was to reduce costs. This grated on the big, manufacturer-backed teams who didn't want to be restrained in their ingenuity. Of course ingenuity costs money - lots of it, so at the same time the 'big five' teams wanted to have more of the F1 revenue cake.

So started the period of political infighting in F1 that at times was more interesting than the racing itself. There were threats of a breakaway from the FIA to form a rival series, but Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone are formidable opponents. Battle after battle has been won and it would seem the war is now over.

First they managed to turn the new teams such as Midland to their side of the argument and sign them up for the new Concorde agreement that will shape F1 from 2008. It was no longer FIA and Ferrari versus the rest. When Williams lost BMW they switched sides. Now everyone is on board, although only with an agreement that 60 per cent of F1's revenues should go to the teams

Mosley certainly is pushing through his proposals to cut costs and in his eyes make F1 more appealing to fans as well as teams. There will be only one tyre supplier next year, and the amount of engine development will certainly be curtailed in the years to come. Come 2008, teams can either build their own cars or buy a customer chassis. That certainly brings cost down.

Dave Richards was persuaded by the direction Mosley was taking F1, commenting recently, 'I look at this as an opportunity, and if it wasn't for the new regulations coming for 2008 then I would not have put the entry in.'

Despite the number of F1 wannabes, it seems there will be no more teams let into the paddock. No one particularly wants to go back to the days where there were so many cars that minor teams had to 'pre-qualify' and were not guaranteed a start.

Anyway, there really aren't enough spaces in the modern high-tech pit lane. With the arrival of Super Aguri on the scene this season, the smaller teams have to give up some of their room, even in the new circuits like Bahrain.

But after so much upheaval and change, wouldn't it be nice to pause a while and enjoy the peace that is breaking out in F1. Until the next row anyway.