As the Formula One Grand Prix roars to life
in Melbourne this week, the sport itself has made progress on how it will be
administered from 2008.

The five teams in the GPMA (the car
manufacturers that compete in F1 – BMW, Daimler/Chrysler, Renault, Toyota,
Honda) have finally submitted their entry forms for the 2008. Max Mosley,
master negotiator and head of the FIA, outmanoeuvred them brilliantly this week when he persuaded the FIA World Council to make
it compulsory for teams to sign up for 2008 between 24-31 March. If the GPMA
failed to sign up, they’d be sitting in the stands, paying too much for hot
dogs, with the rest of us.

Mosley’s stroke of genius came when he
threatened to freeze engine development for 2008-2012 – a preposterous
suggestion. The only way teams could change this was sign up for the 2008
season, and buy themselves a seat at the negotiating table.

According to Andrew Maitland of gmmf1.net, the GPMA would never let “the
small teams”, those not trying to sell family wagons with their involvement in
F1, have the final say on such a rule. Given their modest budgets, they’d probably
want to keep the rule, which compelled the GPMA to sign up.

Maitland says: “So, the carmakers will get
a better deal, but the FIA has won the war. This was no compromise. This was a Peal
Harbour-style defeat.”

The backdrop to this news is the GPMA’s
continued refusal to sign the dramatically-named Concorde Agreement, a contract
which dictates how the TV revenue and prize money will be distributed, and how
much technology will be allowed in the sport.

GPMA teams have been holding out on signing
the next Agreement, which takes effect from 2008, even threatening to set up
their own championship (a threat which nobody took seriously). They want a
greater share of the profits, and fewer limitations on how technology is used. But
as a firm believer in competition, Mosley wants F1
filled with teams whose sole purpose is winning the F1 World Championship, not those
using the sport as an ad for their retail business.

Now they’ve signed on
for 2008, the GPMA teams can at least influence some on the details still to be
decided. Given Bernie and Max’s proven toughness as negotiators, it’ll be
interesting to see how much those teams can weasel out of them. Chances are
it’ll be on the wrong side of nothing.

Peter Fray

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