It has been announced today that the Formula One Teams’ Association which was formed six years ago to represent the interests of its members as been disbanded. Sources within the paddock and also with Sky Sports believe that although attempts were made to refocus and even rebrand the organisation in recent times (which at its end comprised seven teams and did not include Red Bull and Ferrari) an agreement failed to be reached.
Personally, I think that the demise of FOTA has not surprised anyone involved within Formula One. FOTA was created and introduced into the sport in 2008 during a period of particular turmoil in the sport: a worldwide economic downturn precipitated Honda’s exit. This then left engine manufacturers BMW and Toyota to follow suit even though FIA President Max Mosley was also moving to push through a stringent budget cap.
Under the support of FOTA, the teams fended off the latter and instead agreed their own ‘Resource Restriction Agreement’ which allowed the teams to limit costs and expenditure in the sport on their own terms. Although the agreement was never wholly enshrined in F1 rules, aspects of it are now, for example the limits on testing within the sport.
There are plans in place to introduce a new budget cap next year, albeit at a level rather higher than the $40million level Mosley had envisaged back in 2008. But cracks developed within the FOTA as a result of this. It would seem that disagreements over the RRA led to the withdrawal of Ferrari and Red Bull in December 2011, with Sauber and Toro Rosso following suit not long after them.
But despite Ferrari, Red Bull, Sauber and Toro Rosso leaving the association, the FOTA continued but with its unity broke and the remaining teams had a weaker bargaining point when negotiating fresh commercial terms (which is the Concorde Agreement ) with the FIA and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Currently all the teams currently on the grid in Formula One are tackling with more pressing concerns right now. With the new technical rules challenging them and their 2014 cars in pre-season testing, it has been suggested that the tipping point for the disbandment of FOTA seems to be the recent shake-up at McLaren, where new Racing Director Eric Boullier has been appointed in place of Martin Whitmarsh who served as FOTA’s Chairman, with Boullier who was his Deputy Chairman.
It is also understood by many that the failure of certain teams to pay their membership fees last season was also central to the body’s eventual demise. But for me, I only know a little bit about the FOTA. But for me it is clear to see that FOTA lost all momentum that they had gained when Ferrari, Red Bull, Sauber and Toro Rosso left.
I respect and admire the fact that they carried on for as long as they have but in order to get anything passed within Formula One, you do need the backing not only of the FIA but also of the teams too. The news that FOTA has been disbanded as not shocked me but it has saddened me and now how will the teams view their concerns regarding matters within the sport? We can only wait and see.