F1 on brink of split

UPDATE Formula One teetered on the brink of total chaos at the recent meeting of the FIA world council. Britain's 'The Times' newspaper claims that the seven Michelin teams 'were ready to walk out' if they had been banned for the Indy no-go. The publication said they 'agreed privately' in a preceding meeting to quit F1 immediately and quickly set up a rival or 'breakaway' rival.

Ferrari, Jordan and – perhaps – Ferrari-powered-in-2006 Red Bull, would have been left behind.

The Times continued that Minardi boss Paul Stoddart had revealed that the new, carmaker-led series would have got going in January 2006, with a non-championship 'grand prix' staged 'within weeks.'

Behind the scenes, then, the pedal is to the metal on plans to accelerate the GPWC concept. ''It has come down to the teams versus Mr. (Max) Mosley,'' Sir Frank Williams told The Guardian, ''who is an extremely competent political fox with great power.''

07/05/05 Seven F1 teams were ready to walk out of Formula One for good if they had been banned by the FIA, the sport’s governing body, as punishment for their boycott of the US Grand Prix last month. It emerged last night that the gang of seven — McLaren Mercedes, BMWWilliams, BAR Honda, Renault, Sauber, Toyota and Red Bull Racing — had agreed privately that they would split immediately from the established Formula One series run by Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, the FIA president, to hasten the set-up of a rival championship.

Paul Stoddart, the owner of the Minardi team who would side with the seven in a breakaway group, said that a race series could have been operating as early as January and a non-championship race might have been run within weeks, as a snub to Ecclestone and Mosley. Only Ferrari and Jordan would have been left in the fold if the FIA had imposed bans or heavy fines.

The breakaway was averted only because the FIA has delayed potential punishments until September, but that means only that the agony will be prolonged, for the schism that runs through Formula One has never been so deep and the teams, backed by the big five carmakers — Renault, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota and Honda — are pressing the accelerator on plans to go their own way.

They are all key members of the GPWC breakaway group, which will meet Wednesday in Munich to finalize plans for a new series, hours before the teams travel to Silverstone to prepare for this weekend’s British Grand Prix. Details of the GPWC’s blueprint for the future of Formula One — or whatever it is called under their banner — will be shown to the FIA, but that is seen as little more than an act of politeness towards a governing body that has lost the confidence of the teams and manufacturers.

The stand-off is dramatic and tense and will bubble throughout Silverstone this weekend, proving an unpleasant backdrop to what should be Britain’s celebration of Formula One. Constant rows over wealth distribution and governance are tearing the sport apart, symbolized by the infamous debacle in Indianapolis.

There was no doubt that Michelin made a mess of providing tires to its seven teams, which meant that they could not run safely, particularly when lawyers advised the teams that they would be breaking Indiana laws that could lead to criminal prosecutions.

Nick Fry, team principal at BAR Honda — the victim of a two-race ban this year — said: “The teams are not guilty and we will not be seen to be guilty. Our hands were tied."

The breakdown of negotiations in the hours leading up to the US Grand Prix is seen as an indication that the teams and Mosley cannot work together. They have appealed against the two guilty verdicts delivered at the FIA World Council last week, but that will be just the start if they are turned down. They will hurtle towards an English civil court to have the verdicts overturned and press on relentlessly towards a breakaway series. More at TimesOnline

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