Mosley hints at budget cap compromise
MONTE CARLO: A three-hour meeting between the grand prix teams and the FIA, the sport's governing body, yesterday ended with the future of formula one still in the balance. The teams are now united in their opposition to Max Mosley's plan for a £40m budget cap but the FIA's president said: "We had a good constructive meeting and there will be ongoing discussions. I'm always confident there'll be agreement."
Mosley's summary did not appear to match the mood of John Howett and Mario Theissen, the team principals of Toyota and BMW respectively, who left the meeting with set expressions and refused to say a word. However, Luca di Montezemolo, the president of Ferrari, was upbeat and said there would be further meetings today between the teams and then with Mosley."It was a long and constructive meeting," said Di Montezemolo, who returned to Italy last night."What we want is that formula one stays as formula one, and that it doesn't become something different and go towards constant changes which confuse the public and all the others. What we want is stability and that we work over the next two years to arrive at a way of further reducing costs."
Earlier, representatives of the 10 teams – the Formula One Teams Association (Fota) – emerged from their own 2½-hour meeting apparently in full agreement for the first time.
"As always there's been a very good meeting," Di Montezemolo said. "We are all together and we will be in position to go to the chairman of FIA saying in a very constructive, but very clear way, the position of Fota." Asked if he was confident regarding the future, he commented: "We will see. What is important is that our view of the future is absolutely in common."
Di Montezemolo confirmed this was the teams' final proposal. There seemed to be a willingness on both sides to compromise, though, after the talks with Mosley. Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull and Toyota had threatened to quit formula one if Mosley did not backtrack on plans to introduce a £40m budget cap in 2010. Williams, Force India and Brawn, previously in favour of the cap, appeared to have agreed with objections which also opposed Mosley's unilateral methods.
"We made some progress," said Ross Brawn, the team principal of Brawn GP, after the meeting with Mosley. "It is encouraging. We've got some way to go, but I think we went forwards, not backwards." An unofficial source hinted the continuing discussions will be about the budget cap and the areas it should cover.
The political manoeuvring will be put on hold this afternoon for arguably the most important hour of track activity in the entire season, never mind during the Monaco grand prix weekend. With pole position meaning more here than at any other track thanks to the confined nature of the street circuit, the importance of qualifying will be raised even higher than usual, particularly in a year when hundredths of a second separate the excellent from the really good. Or, in the case of Monte Carlo, the lucky drivers from those fuming over their perceived misfortune.
Finding a clear lap is just as important as executing a fast one. Gesticulations from the cockpit, more common at Monaco than anywhere else, are the first indication that, according to the irate driver, a sure-fire certain pole position has been spoiled by a slower driver either not paying enough attention to his mirrors or being unable to get out of the way even if he had wanted to.
And, assuming a clear lap opens up, the trick is to drive like never before during the next 75 seconds. The challenge is just as awesome as the surroundings which drivers have no time to appreciate as they slot at speed between the crash barriers, kerbs and walls lining the shortest track on the calendar. "You are balanced on a knife edge all the way," said Brawn's championship leader, Jenson Button.