Teams stick up for FOTA before talks
Team principals are adamant that the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) does have an important role to the play in the sport, ahead of crunch talks that could decide its future in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali warned last month that if consensus cannot be reached on FOTA's Resource Restriction Agreement this weekend, then it would call into question the point of the organisation if its members could not trust each other.
Despite his comments pointing to the fact that FOTA could collapse if a deal over RRA is not signed off in Abu Dhabi, leading team principals believe that such a dramatic outcome is both unlikely and unwelcome.
And although there is no guarantee that an RRA deal can be thrashed out, leading team bosses suggest that a better way forward may be to take the cost-control issues outside of FOTA - and leave the teams' organisations focusing on areas of the sport where it can make a difference.
Possible solutions to the problem could be for the RRA to either become policed by the FIA, or by wholly independent auditors to ensure that all teams comply.
Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn reckons it would be a mistake if FOTA was allowed to fall apart over the RRA issue, but he does suggest a better definition of the body's aims and responsibilities would help matters.
"You can't forget why FOTA came into existence," he said when asked by AUTOSPORT about the situation. "Faced with those circumstances again, we need FOTA. And it some ways we are going to have that situation again, because we are about to negotiate a new Concorde Agreement.
"Perhaps FOTA needs to look at what it is best at, and perhaps when we get into debates about agreements that have an effect on the competitiveness of a team, it is a bit of a delicate area for FOTA to be getting involved in.
"If you are having a debate about resource, people, money and all the rest of it, it gets pretty highly charged and I wonder if that is the right arena for FOTA to be working on. I wonder if FOTA doesn't have a better role, and something like the RRA is kept out of that and it becomes just an inter-team agreement.
"I would hate to see FOTA suffer because of disagreements over RRA. We need to try and separate those things."
When asked about the possibility of the RRA collapsing at the Abu Dhabi meeting, Brawn said: "I hope not. I think if it fails in Abu Dhabi then it depends for what reason it fails.
"I am optimistic, but I think there will still be a strong desire for a large number of teams to find a solution. We want that solution to be supported by all the teams, but there is still scope to find solutions that are supported by the majority, even if they don't suit everybody."
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner, who has also questioned FOTA's future as well as famously saying in an interview recently that he did not spend 'much time' thinking about the organisation, does believe the body has a role to play but it needs to be the right one.
"If its objectives are clearly defined, and it is looking to achieve a common goal and there is consensus among the teams then yes," he explained. "But I am sure there will be a lot of discussion over the next few weeks."
Speaking about the RRA, Horner said: "I think it is important that the teams find a consensus. Perhaps we are getting a bit too bogged down in the detail and it is important we find a workable solution that is transparent and fair, and move it forward.
"The future of FOTA needs to be discussed behind closed doors as to what its purpose and what its targets are."
Other team principals are adamant, however, that the current RRA situation should stay in place because everyone signed up to it.
Renault team principal Eric Boullier, who is deputy chairman of FOTA, said: "My feeling is that the RRA should be applied because there is an agreement signed by all the teams, that is it.
"If it has to be audited by an independent company or the governing body it makes the life of FOTA difficult. Maybe it would help to have an external governing body to help and apply the reinforcing medium, but we should try and sort it ourselves."