Now that the Melbourne GP has been run and won,
the warring factions in F1 can get back to the real business of racing cars –
the business of racing cars. Those with long memories are watching
today’s “war” on the political battlefield of F1 with a sense of deja vu. A
fight with the governing body over money and rules? Empty threats to quit? Haven’t
we heard this all before?

Not long after the Beatles broke up, Bernie
Ecclestone ran a team (Brabham) with the same iron fist. And before their hair
respectively turned grey, bosom buddy and barrister Max Mosley – now president
of the FIA – was his mere pitlane comrade.

Then in his forties, Ecclestone was
impatiently shifting in his seat. As secretary (and later president) of an
alliance of private teams – FOCA, or Formula One Constructors’ Association – he
was about to play a leading role in a “war” with the FIA’s then sporting arm,
FISA (Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile).

It’s with irony, then, that The Max ‘n’
Bernie Show is now trying desperately to do what the FIA entities tried to do
in the 70s and 80s – defuse a bomb. It must have been to Bernie and Max’s
delight that their modern opponents axed their attempt to establish a “rival”
championship by recently signing on for the 2008 season.

When war broke out in 1980, Ferrari –
the most evocative paddock player – held a powerful hand. In those days, the red team stuck
with the FIA, against Bernie and his “world federation of motorsport” – the failed attempt at a rival series. Many argue that
today’s carmakers (GPMA) lost their war the minute Ferrari grabbed a
particularly tasty carrot and switched sides.

In the end, peace was inevitably declared
after a meeting somewhere on Paris’s Place de la Concorde. Not too long after, Bernie and Max were
shown the golden staircase to the power they wield to this day.

Even now, “Concorde” – still the
affectionate moniker for the ruling document named after a 13-hour summit –
will save the day. Why? Firstly because Ferrari is prancing all over it, and
more significantly, because Max and Bernie wield their power even more
skilfully.

Peter Fray

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