Latest on the FIA/FOTA war: allies and time running out for Ferrari

PoliticsAs time ticks away before the 29 May deadline for 2010 F1 world championship entries, it looks increasingly likely that Ferrari will stage a dramatic climbdown from their position over the €44m budget cap.

Teams’ association FOTA was dealt a blow yesterday with the announcement that respected privateers Williams will be racing in F1 next year, and it is thought extremely likely that Brawn GP, Force India and McLaren will follow suit.

This puts the rebels Ferrari with Toyota, Renault and Red Bull as the anti-FIA brigade. Although initially they had a strong case, unwillingness to compromise and Ferrari’s immature belittling of potential new entrants to the sport have not helped their cause. Toyota, Ferrari’s strongest ally, is strongly rumoured to be seeking a way out of the sport and as such, would not be too disappointed if negotiations failed. Toyota is thus perhaps more prepared than Ferrari to play hardball with the FIA – they have less to lose.

Renault are thought to be in a similar boat to Toyota – ready to go with the convenient excuse that the FIA will not budge. A second rumour in the paddock is that Flavio Briatore is in talks with his Renault bosses to buy out the team – a la Brawn – and rename it. Team QPR would then obviously be in favour of the budget cap for 2010. Were this to reach a concrete phase soon, Ferrari would be left without another ally.

A further suspicion is that Red Bull – finding itself the only one supporting Ferrari’s demands – would then take both of its squads back to F1, leaving Ferrari completely in the cold. Red Bull are believed to object to the budget cap on the grounds it would compromise their vast marketing strategy; but this is an area in which the FIA should find it easy to give leeway. Red Bull will surely be in F1 next year as they don’t have to sell cars to make ends meet.

All hypothesis, of course. But the more teams that sign up to F1 before Friday, the weaker Ferrari’s negotiating position gets. The fans need them all to get on with it.