The edge of the cliff came, and no one stopped. It is official (for now). The eight FOTA backed teams have said that they will break away from the FIA Formula One World Championship next season. It was announced at Silverstone today that the teams and the FIA couldn’t come to a compromise that satisfied both parties and so they will form their own series and race in their own Championship. When you look at it from the outside, there are a lot of questions that still need answering. For example, where will they race, how will they fair when Ecclestone and Mosley sue them and will they invite some of the other teams the FIA snubbed into their series? And the biggest question should be, is it all a big song and dance? No one is clear yet whether this thing is for real or whether the FOTA alliance has only upped the stakes for the FIA to back down for good. Neither side really wants a breakaway series – I don’t think so anyway – because it would mean a ton of lost revenue, lost fans and way too much political goings on to attract new fans. The money side of this thing alone is staggering. It is suggested that if the other series did take place, it could cost the FIA and F1 around $2.2 billion in lost revenues to the breakaway series. Not only that, but the new series would take with it history, fans, venues and maybe even all the sponsor cash. Who is going to sponsor a team or a series that gets zero viewership? Most likely no one. And who would you rather have your name attached to, Campos F1 or McLaren F1? The choice is pretty simple, even if the Campos team would be a lot cheaper. You can find the official statement from FOTA right here.
I will say that I have always supported a breakaway series as it seemed to me that sticking it to Bernie and Max would be the best thing ever. But I have to say that I am a little concerned about the future of the sport. Don’t get me wrong I love it when anyone can take Bernie and/or Max down a peg or two, and I hope that this really does it, but this has to be drawing parallels to the IRL, CART split. Now I don’t have any real details on that split (seeing as how I never watched, or cared about it), but everyone who does know about it says that it irreparably harmed both series when the split occurred because everything got so fuddled up. And I can see that happening here as well. Not only will there be track issues and television and sponsor issues, but the fans won’t know what to watch. I know that a lot of people are pulling for the teams and for the breakaway series, but I’m not sure if any of us really understand the ramifications that it could have. I guess we will find that out in the coming days, especially as the FIA is going to fight this thing in the courts and are also going to be issuing a new entry list tomorrow.
In other news, practice took place today for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and heading up a one-two were the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Positions three and four went to the Brawns of new home favorite Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. Alonso was fifth with the new Ferrari of Felipe Massa in sixth. Of course the practice sessions don’t really mean too much – as we have become used to Nico Rosberg putting in a quick time, only to be slower in actual race pace – but for this race I don’t know. The cars at the top of the time sheets are obviously the fastest on the grid, but I have a feeling that things will really shake up tomorrow when Jenson nabs pole from Vettel and Rubens lines up third. As for the podium, I think it will be a Brawn one-two again and that Jenson will do well at a track where he hasn’t for a long time. The third step on the podium will either be Massa or Webber or Vettel, but my money (and many others as well) will be on Vettel. Let the race and the politics roll on!