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Monday, May 18, 2009

Mosley drops two-tier system, Ferrari takes FIA to court

by Noah Joseph

With the May 29 deadline for registering for the 2010 Formula 1 season fast approaching and the bulk of the current teams threatening to walk out of the series, FIA chief Max Mosley and F1 commercial director Bernie Ecclestone met in London on Friday with the heads of each Formula One team to iron out a deal that would allow the sport to accelerate past the standoff and into the next season. How that meeting went, however, depends on who you ask.

First of all, both Mosley and Ecclestone confirmed that the proposed two-tier system that would have forced teams to choose between either severe aerodynamic penalties or restrictive budget caps has been scrapped. That was the major sticking point that the Formula One Teams Association and its members (i.e., all the teams currently on the grid) objected to. However, the meeting's conclusion was still described as a stalemate, given that the teams are still threatening to leave and that a substitute for the two-tier system approved by the FIA's World Motorsport Council has not been agreed upon. Mosley proposes a drastic £40 million ($60 million) budget cap to be imposed on all the teams, large or small, veteran or newcomer. While the teams in general agree that a budget cap is logical, they have yet to agree on the amount, while some of the teams are suggesting that other solutions be sought instead.

The parties are set to meet again this coming Friday in Monte Carlo, ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, to resume discussions. But Ferrari, for one, is hedging its bets. With Mosley insisting that the sport could do without its longest-standing team, the Scuderia has filed a court injunction against the FIA's regulations. Ferrari is believed to have been given veto power over any substantive regulation changes, a clause that the team says has not been respected. Mosley, in turn, insists that one team cannot dictate the rules of the entire sport. Other Italian sporting bodies have stepped up to back Ferrari, as organizers of Rome's proposed grand prix threaten to cancel the project in the absence of their home team, while the Italian Olympic Committee throws its weight behind Ferrari as well. Maranello's injunction will be heard in court on Tuesday, when we'll find out if the Scuderia has legal backing to its objections.