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JANUARY 16, 2003

The calm after the storm

The Formula 1 team bosses did not make a big issue about the FIA's announcements on Wednesday with only a couple making any public statements about the biggest upset in the F1 rules for more than a decade. But today it is expected that we will hear the first reactions of the bigger teams and while some will be in support of the FIA, there are one or two which are more than unhappy about what has happened. But being unhappy is not enough to make a difference and the FIA's deft political touch has left the team bosses with little possibility of resistance. The goal posts have been comprehensively moved. The issue now is the sorting out of the details of what can be banned this year and which rules cannot be applied in time for the new season. It is likely that some of the electronic systems which have been outlawed will remain, specifically automatic gearbox control because there is no possibility of teams changing what they have created for the season ahead. The talk will now move to the details of the technical bans and it is anticipated that F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting is going to be busy in the days ahead talking through the rule changes.

There remains a possibility that a team boss or two might try to go to arbitration but that step would really be too little too late and there is no obvious argument as to why the FIA cannot do what it has done. As the F1 rebels found in 1981-82 during the last conflict between the F1 teams and the governing body, the federation has a great deal of power when it wants to have it.

The big question now is to what extent the balance of power in the sport has shifted. The big hurdle ahead is the negotiation of a new Concorde Agreement. In recent weeks the teams have learned that there is little on offer from the planned GPWC that is not available from the Formula One organization and anyone who is still clinging to the idea of a new series is doing so because it gives them a bargaining position with Ecclestone rather than because there is any serious threat.