Off Season: FOTA Finish

The most notable piece of news to surface this week is that HRT have not paid their membership fee to FOTA (Formula One Team Association) for the upcoming season. With all the chatter regarding the team’s less than ideal financial situation, it may seem that they do not have the means to cough up the €100,000 annual fee. It was later clarified by FOTA that HRT had not paid the full fee for the 2010 season.

So who are FOTA?

FOTA is a collection of all the current Formula One teams and was formed only a couple of years ago, in 2008. It was devised in order to give the teams a united voice when discussing changes, with both the FIA and The Formula One Group, to the sport.

It was brought into life by the current team principal of McLaren, Martin Whitmarsh, and the first point on the agenda was to negotiate the terms of the Concorde Agreement. But overall its sole aim is to get the teams involved in the future development of Formula One, whether its the budget cap, rule or regulation changes.

Why did HRT leave?

Their explanation focuses on the massive disparity between the end of year placements with regards to how the revenue is divided. We are all aware of the sort of year HRT had, and what Bernie Ecclestone thinks of the bottom division teams. HRT’s team director Colin Kolles hits back at his critics in his interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. “The truth is we left because FOTA defends only the interests of the big teams.”

Colin Kolles

You can understand his point of view, as the lower you end up in the team standings the slice of money you receive is considerable less. Kolles continued, “For example, it doesn’t divide the extra points revenues in equal parts as planned. The difference in TV rights revenues seems excessive between 10th place, which gets $36 million, and 11th which gets $10 million. So why should the entry fee be equal for everyone?”

So are they right to leave FOTA?

Maybe, maybe not, but it is interesting to note that none of the other new teams, Virgin Racing and Lotus, decided to follow their. Maybe they were happier with the payout? However the jump of HRT has brought up the discussion of a breakaway series again. Last year Luca di Montezemolo threatened to leave the current series unless Ferrari got a bigger proportion of the profits, in the next Concorde Agreement.

Luca di Montezemolo

Montezemolo voiced his concerns about the new engine regulations, Ferrari have never produced a road car with less than 6 cylinders and the new regs limit the number to 4. The Ferrari president regards this ‘pauperistic’ approach is not akin to the nature of Formula One and will cheapen the sport. I agree that there needs to be a clear division between cheap and inexpensive; but when designers have limits put in place, they simply become obstacles to overcome. Remember the double diffuser and the f-duct? Who knows what will see as a result of the 2013 regulations.

But I can’t exactly see a breakaway series just yet, as it stands it’ll be Ferrari and HRT and I can’t see the prancing horse being happy about that. Martin Whitmarsh isn’t going to abandon his ship, and it’s hard to see anyone jumping at the chance to follow Ferrari away from the current situation. Then again I think we should wait until the teams start using the turbos before saying it’s a sure thing.

Late rookies!


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