F1: May Day crunch talks set to decide whether sport can avoid potential civil war and the demise of the smaller teams on the grid
Force India, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia fear the eroding standards of governance within the sport could see them drop off the grid after a proposed salary cap was vetoed
Friday 18 April 2014
Formula One faces May Day crunch talks in a bid to avert potential civil war and the demise of a number of the smaller teams.
Just under a fortnight ago FIA president Jean Todt, much to his own personal displeasure, was forced to announce the abandonment of his plans to impose a cost cap from next year to curb the astronomical amounts of money being spent by some teams to compete.
Although initially approved, and with F1's Strategy Group comprising of Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams and Lotus working on the proposal, it was ultimately vetoed earlier this month.
Four of the smaller marques - Force India, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia - wrote a strongly-worded letter to Todt expressing their disgust at that development and questioning what they saw as the eroding standards of governance within the sport.
The quartet cited European competition law, suggesting an abuse of power by the bigger teams, and that the current structure within F1 favoured them.
Pointedly, the smaller teams claimed a financial disaster lay in wait unless the matter was quickly resolved.
Whilst a cost cap may have been aborted for now, the bigger teams have suggested a form of cost control through the technical and sporting regulations.
Those outside the Strategy Group, however, do not believe such a proposal is far-reaching enough.
Todt has since responded positively, with all 11 teams, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the Frenchman to thrash out a way forward at a meeting to take place at Biggin Hill on May 1.
Asked whether F1 had reached the critical point of cost control, Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said: "We reached that point long ago.
"It is just that maybe some of us have voiced our opinions that we don't agree to the way it is suddenly going.
"There was a meeting of all teams at the beginning of the year, with the FIA then announcing a budget cap had been agreed in principle.
"Everyone was in agreement to reduce costs, so we fail to understand why the budget cap has been rejected.
"As I say, time has long gone where we should have made a decision, but it is never too late.
"If you look at the show, look at the fantastic races we have had, nobody can say this is an outdated product, something people are not keen on.
"We're still a fantastic platform, but we are going to ruin ourselves if we don't act here, and people expect us to act.
"So we have this meeting on May 1 and hopefully we will come to some conclusion, that it will not be like one of the meetings we have had before when we have not made a significant step. Time is running out."
The sport has until the end of June to finalise regulations that will come into force for next season, hence why the clock is ticking.
Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley can only hope there will be a degree of unity, rather than the customary division.
"We've welcomed the invitation from the FIA to attend the meeting," Fernley told Press Association Sport.
"We very much appreciate the efforts they've put in behind that to address the issues in an open forum.
"We now need to work together over the coming weeks to try to find a solution that everybody is comfortable with.
"With the FIA now recalling everybody back again for the meeting on May 1 it gives us an opportunity to get this (subject) back on the table.
"We need to look at the way the Strategy Group want to do things in a positive way, to see if it goes far enough to achieve what we want for the sustainability of the sport going forward.
"It's not about small teams and big teams; it's about maintaining the sustainability of Formula One where you have 12 teams operating and accepting there are different levels of budget.
"Formula One should be about intellectual ability and efficiency, not about how much you can spend to be able to outperform somebody else.
"That's the key thing the FIA are recognising, and credit to them to reopening the door for further discussion."
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