Whilst FIA President Max Mosley has contended that an agreement between the warring FIA/FOTA factions is now ‘very, very close’, the teams have retorted that it is anything but, and the publication of a provisional schedule is sure to raise the stakes even higher. The message from the teams to Mosley is clear – give us the governance and financial concessions we want, or we’re out of here.
The naming of Monaco, Silverstone, Monza, Abu Dhabi and Singapore – all part of the 2009 F1 World Championship – is sure to raise a few eyebrows, not least with commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, whilst it seems the rebels have also been quick to jump in where the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive has lost interest of late, with Imola, Montreal, Indianapolis, Magny-Cours and Suzuka all similarly part of the plan. By dint of its status and prestige, Monaco is the only circuit that does not pay Ecclestone the annual fee he charges countries for the honour of hosting a grand prix – but the Principality has dropped hints that in the absence of Ferrari, F1 would no longer be of any appeal.
There is also a mooted return to Jerez – after the Southern Spanish track fell out of favour with F1 back in 1997, when the town’s mayor appeared on the podium and presented a trophy that should have been given out by a dignitary from Daimler-Benz in light of McLaren-Mercedes’ breakthrough one-two success – and possibly Adelaide, the popular home of the Australian Grand Prix until 1996, when rival Melbourne took over.
However, the appearance of Adelaide on the schedule has been met with some scepticism by insiders, with the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport professing ignorance of any plans for the sport to return to the capital of South Australia, and motor racing consultant Mike Drewer suggesting that any speculation at the moment is just that – mere speculation.
“Not surprisingly Adelaide because it was very, very popular when it had Formula 1,” he told ABC Online. “Adelaide has been listed on a theoretical calendar, but it’s a bit like trying to work out who might be the members of a cabinet if there was a change in government. A lot of journalists have got around and had a bit of a stab at it.”
Though there is no race in Brazil, South and Central America is represented by Argentina – albeit not the same Buenos Aires circuit as traditionally used to welcome the top flight – and Mexico, with both countries having featured on the F1 calendar in the past.
In Europe, meanwhile, there is the addition of the state-of-the-art Portimao track in Portugal, a country used much for testing but that has not held a grand prix since 1996, as well as the Lausitzring in Germany and a street circuit in Helsinki, Finland. Surfers’ Paradise on Australia’s Gold Coast – which has hosted Champ Cars, IndyCars and V8s of late, and is due to stage A1GP in the World Cup of Motorsport’s fourth campaign in 2009/10 – has been nominated as a reserve venue should any of the others not be up to the grade.
Ecclestone, however, has cast doubt upon the calendar, questioning its authenticity and arguing that the dissenting teams do not possess sufficient financial backing to go it alone and organise their own championship. Another reported issue is that Singapore has an exclusive five-year deal with the 78-year-old that would preclude its additional involvement with another series, with a source revealing to Asia One Motoring that ‘we already have one contract – how many do you want us to sign?’ Melbourne is understood to be legally-bound by a similar clause.
The full FOTA 2010 schedule, as published in The Guardian, is as follows:
7 March Buenos Aires Argentina Last hosted F1 in 1998
21 March Mexico City Mexico Last hosted F1 in 1992
11 April Jerez Spain Last hosted F1 in 1997
25 April Portimao Portugal Never hosted F1
2 May Imola San Marino Last hosted F1 in 2006
23 May Monte Carlo Monaco Current F1 host
6 June Montreal Canada Last hosted F1 in 2008
13 June Indianapolis United States Last hosted F1 in 2007
11 July Silverstone United Kingdom Current F1 host
25 July Magny-Cours France Last hosted F1 in 2008
15 August Laustizring Germany Never hosted F1
29 August Helsinki Finland Never hosted F1
12 September Monza Italy Current F1 host
26 September Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates Current F1 host
10 October Marina Bay Singapore Current F1 host
24 October Suzuka Japan Last hosted F1 in 2006
7 November Adelaide or Surfers’ Paradise Australia Last hosted F1 in 1995/Never hosted F1