The politics of this sport are starting to get out of hand – “meltdown” appears to be the word de jour. Over the last few weeks, it has seemed that every time the teams try to make a conciliatory gesture towards the FIA, its President Max Mosley dug his heels in even deeper and refused to budge. Finally this week, the teams called his bluff in spectacular style.
I wonder if Mosley takes this approach when negotiating with sado-masochistic prostitutes. "I will be paying £1000 for the full whipping service but there will be absolutely no Nazi symbolism. You prostitutes are perfectly at liberty to pursue your own Nazi sex games, but, if you are participating in my dungeon, then there are rules to which you must adhere." Very strict rules I presume.
Anyway, I digress. The point is that, after Williams defected from the official line of the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) line and signed up for 2010, the other teams followed, albeit with the condition that they might withdraw if they were unhappy with the final regulations.
Of course this meant that they had not really signed up at all, and Mosley insisted that all teams give an unconditional assurance that they will race next year by Friday – coincidentally the first day of practice at Silverstone.
In response, five of the most militant teams – McLaren, Renault, Brawn, Toyota and BMW – initially went over Mosley's head and wrote to the FIA Senate (I swear I'm not making this up), asking them to calm down their man. Last weekend, the President of Ferrari Luca di Montezemolo ostentatiously appeared at Le Mans last weekend, acting as official starter of the Twenty-Four Hour Race and, by his presence, dropping a broad hint that there could be life beyond F1 for Ferrari.
Mosley reiterated his position on the £40m budget-cap, offering a conciliatory “stepping-stone” budget of £86m in 2010. On Thursday, in response to this lack of movement, FOTA dropped their bombshell by announcing their plans to set up their own rival series of races. Eight teams – all of the current grid except Force India and Williams (who have signed up unconditionally for 2010) – have withdrawn their conditional entries, and are now moving forward with their separatist plans.
The general feeling within the sport appears to be that the warring factions will eventually be brought together, but plenty of opportunities for compromise have already been spurned, and the opinion is forming that only Bernie Ecclestone has the influence to bring things together.
Ignoring the imminent meltdown of their sport, the BBC kicked off with some expensively shot VT of Jake Humphrey and Eddie Jordan in a hot air balloon, overflying Silverstone. Jordan let it slip that his kids had gone to nearby Stowe school – I’ll bet they loved him there. I mean, he’s not real money is he? The don’t really like his sort – he’s Irish, mouthy, oikish and steadfastly refuses to call himself Edward. They probably blame his kids for the Swine Flu outbreak.
Jake has had a busy week – as well as his hot air balloon experience, he also took Jenson Button around the Silverstone track in a 4x4. Like an excited child, Jake managed to put the car onto the grass, much to Button’s evident terror. I don’t know how much the BBC are paying for their F1 coverage, but I hope their insurance covers the claim that would follow their presenter driving the World Championship leader into a tyre wall.
Finally, we got a microphone under the nose of Bernie Ecclestone. The man gives the most bizarre interview. He greets every question with a combination of straight-bat bemusement, and surreal pauses. Eventually he warmed up, with a little help from a fulminating Eddie Jordan, insisting that Bernie should “bang heads together.”
For what its worth, I reckon he will do just that. Money talks, and he’s the one that hands it out.
On the track, Brundle seemed to hint that Brawn could be on the rack this weekend – the feeling was that the other teams had done a lot of hard work to make up the gap over the last few weeks and the challenge to their dominance would be strong.
The evidence of the qualifying session seemed to back that up as the Brawn cars struggled in the early sessions, whilst Red Bull in particular, looked very strong. We are told they are using a new nose cone and rear diffuser. Whatever it was, it did the trick, as Sebastian Vettel won his second consecutive pole position.
Rubens Barrichello kept up the Brawn end though by finishing on the front row. Mark Webber took the other Red Bull to third, but Jenson Button could only manage sixth. The Williams cars, the scabs of the paddock, did very well too, challenging in each session and, in the end, Nakajima and Rosberg finished fifth and seventh respectively.
At the other end of the grid, Lewis Hamilton once again failed to get out of the first qualifying session. He was a little unlucky as an Adrian Sutil crash effectively curtailed the session whilst he was on his qualifying lap, but he was in that position because his earlier effort had been so poor. His team mate Heikki Kovalainen could only manage thirteenth on the grid, so the conclusion is not that Hamilton has suddenly become a bad driver, but that the McLaren has suddenly become a bad car. On board camera footage showed both drivers struggling to keep the car on the road through corners.
Ferrari were still off the pace with Felipe Massa failing to make the top ten, and Kimi Raikkonen finishing ninth.