FIA-FOTA row continues as Force India break ranks

giancarloForce India have become the second team to break ranks with the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) by lodging an unconditional entry for the 2010 World Championship.

After weeks of wrangling and quit threats over the FIA’s proposed budget cap for 2010, FOTA eventually budged – slightly – by submitting a conditional entry for next season, on the grounds that (a) a new agreement is reached between the teams and the FIA on the make up of the sport, and (b) that the rules are kept identical to the 2009 season, i.e. a single tier system.

The teams have given the FIA a deadline of June 12 for this agreement to be reached, but they could be forced to bow to the governing body if their hardline stance collapses.

Williams have already done so on the grounds of commercial reasons and on Friday in Istanbul Force India followed suit – though the team insisted it was not because of FOTA’s standpoint.

A team statement said: “While the Force India team is broadly in agreement with the FOTA objectives, commercial obligations have demanded that Force India review its conditional entry jointly submitted by FOTA on deadline day.

“This has been done today with full transparency between all parties. The details of the team’s position will be discussed between Dr. Vijay Mallya and FOTA vice-chairman John Howett tomorrow. No further comment will be made until those discussions have taken place.”

John Howett, Toyota F1 president and vice-chairman of FOTA, said that Force India will likely be suspended from FOTA.

“It is likely they may be suspended,” he said. “I haven’t really had the opportunity to speak to Vijay directly, but he has committed in accordance with FOTA a conditional entry and apparently, due to commercial issues, totally unrelated to another team or support, they felt obliged because of other binding legal activities due to funding or other issues, they needed to submit an official entry.

“He will be here tomorrow and I will speak to him, and I have to say it is the intention of FOTA to suspend them based on a face-to-face discussion with Vijay. But he has confirmed to me through Bob Fearnley that he is totally supportive and committed to FOTA.”

The doomsday scenario is that the FIA press ahead with their rules for 2010 leaving the eight teams without a place on the grid.

Waverers such as McLaren, Renault and Red Bull Racing would likely bow to the FIA and submit their entries, and it is difficult to imagine the sport without Ferrari, but Toyota, who it is thought have already considered quitting before the row broke out, could decide to leave F1.