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FIA and GPMA Kiss and Make Up

Autosport magazine reports that the FIA and the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association have reached agreement on all their remaining problem areas. Presumably, this means finance too, since the manufacturers have been insisting upon a greater share of the loot.

Cooper 2.5

The car that changed racing forever – 2.5 liter Cooper

All seems very friendly and pleasant, now that this agreement has been reached, until one reaches this section of Autosport’s article:

The paper said that individual team management, people such as McLaren boss Ron Dennis, would be bypassed in future and discussions about the rules would take place with the manufacturers at main board level.

All of the 11 current teams, due to expand to 12 in 2008, are currently either owned by a manufacturer or linked to one through an engine supply contract.

An FIA spokesman said the independent teams, such as Williams, would not lose out in the decision-making process, however.

“The FIA’s role has always been to protect the independent teams and we will continue to do that,” he said.

That last statement has to be taken with a huge pinch of salt, considering that it was a decision by the FIA that finally forced the last independent engine manufacturer, Cosworth, out of F1. It is only thanks to that decision that “all of the teams are currently owned or linked to a manufacturer.” So the FIA create the circumstances and then point to the circumstances as justification for their latest action. Seems a bit unfair to me. And it hardly gives confidence to the remaining independent teams that the FIA will represent their interests.

But we must face the fact that these are merely the signs of the changes happening in F1. There are three independents left: McLaren, Williams and Super Aguri. Of these, Aguri would love to become a sort of Honda B team, rumor has it that McLaren will end up as the Mercedes team, and Williams are very likely to be absorbed into Toyota in the future.

At which point there are no more independents to worry about and the great FIA/GPMA ship can sail on into the future undisturbed by the cries of little guys drowning in its wake. It’s the way things are going and, I suppose, was always inevitable once the manufacturers realized the marketing possibilities available.

Eras come and go and we are seeing the last days of the independent in F1; gone will be the brilliant engineer like Chapman or Gordon Murray taking on the might of the corporations, gone revolutionary technical innovations like ground effect that change the face of racing, gone the tiny team that competes just because it loves racing (come back, Minardi, all is forgiven). No, now we look forward to the age of the giants when advertising is king and we can fondly imagine that what takes place on the track has some relevance for the road cars of the future.

The irony is that technological advance in F1 has always filtered out to road cars. Sure, we can’t believe that production engines will ever rev to 20,000 rpm but, let’s face it, they already rev to twice the speed they were doing thirty years ago. And advances in aerodynamics, suspension, braking and chassis design have all had their effect on the modern production car. Now that the FIA is limiting the engine and other technical innovations in their quest for politically correct fuel efficiency, we can say goodbye to any real advances. Racing must always mean speed; without that it becomes meaningless.

And, quite frankly, a world that does not allow itself the one small indulgence of a sport that cares not a hoot for a few more ounces of greenhouse gases being released will be a miserable world indeed. Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur…

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