A united stand by 11 of the 12 F1 teams through their official representative, the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), on Wednesday forced F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone to backtrack from his earlier stand and acknowledge that the Bahrain GP, which was reinstated to the 2011 calendar on Friday, is “not on.”
One of the fallouts of the reinstatement of the Bahrain GP was pushing the Indian GP from its original October 30 slot to mid-December — the first time a race would have been held in that month since 1963. However, with the Bahrain GP now looking unlikely, the Indian GP will return to its original date.
“Hopefully there'll be peace and quiet and we can return in the future, but of course it’s not on,” the 80-year-old Ecclesone told the BBC. “The schedule cannot be rescheduled without the agreement of the participants... they’re the facts.”
The FOTA had expressed its ire over the re-instatement of the race in Bahrain and sent a letter to the FIA, the Formula One Management (headed by Ecclestone) and the organisers stating why it wouldn’t be logistically feasible to go to Bahrain if it were reinstated.
The move to shift the Indian GP to December was also opposed, as many teams had already booked non-refundable tickets, for their crew and cargo, for the event. It also breached into a sparse off-season for F1 teams, and drivers like Red Bull's Mark Webber, who would have missed his own Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge had the Indian GP been held in mid-December, were quite vocal about their unwillingness to travel to the country facing civil unrest and extending the season.
Any change in the calendar requires the consent of the 12 teams, a mandate in the F1 rulebook that the FIA World Motorsport Council overlooked.
“Until the written agreement of the teams is forthcoming, you can’t actually change the date. It can’t be done,” former FIA president Max Mosley had said on Tuesday.
The collective show of strength by the FOTA will also stand the teams in good stead ahead of negotiations for the seventh Concorde Agreement — which dictates the terms of the sport and how the television revenues and prize money is shared — which takes place at the end of the season. “The FOTA was formed for exactly this purpose — to voice the opinions of the teams collectively and help them garner more leverage in any negotiation,” said FMSCI president Vicky Chandhok.
‘Won’t change Indian GP preparations’
FIA’s recent flip-flop will have no affect on the preparations for the inaugural Indian GP, asserted Chandhok.
“The track is on pace to be completed well in advance. By the first week of August, the main grandstand, the medical centre and the team garages will be ready,” he said.
“We were working towards meeting the earlier deadline, and even when it was pushed back to December we didn’t relax, so the return to its original date will pose no extra challenge,” he concluded.
(With agency inputs)