Teams stand up against FIA
The split between those running the sport and the teams finally came out in the open last night when the Formula One Teams' Association expressed its reservations about the end-of-season calendar in a letter to the FIA.
Speaking to the Press Association, a FOTA spokesperson said: "The teams have discussed the 2011 calendar within FOTA. They have expressed their views privately in a letter to the FIA, FOM (Formula One Management) and the Bahrain International Circuit." While the spokesman did not mention specifics, it is believed the changes announced by the FIA on June 3 are involved.
Bernie Ecclestone, who initially backed the reinstatement of the Bahrain Grand Prix on October 30 and the switching of the Indian Grand Prix to December, made an about-turn when it emerged the strength of public opinion against the moves was backed from within the sport. It is thought the letter sent by FOTA, which represents all F1 teams other than HRT, followed his consultation with the major stakeholders.
The letter merely dealt with the end-of-season calendar rather than Bahrain specifically, but it is clear that pressure on teams and sponsors was a major factor. Aside from the Bahrain issue, there were concerns that moving the date of the Indian Grand Prix risked making it into a meaningless end-of-season event nobody wanted, rather than the showpiece inaugural race Ecclestone envisaged.
Teams were unhappy that an already long season was being extended into mid December, and already-booked flights and accommodation would be lost as a result. There was already considerable commercial activity arranged in Delhi around the October 30 weekend, and that could not easily be moved on six weeks, nor was there likely to be any appetite for switching it to Bahrain.
The get-out for the teams came from former FIA president Max Mosley, who pointed out that the change in calendar agreed by the FIA last Friday could only be implemented with the unanimous agreement of the teams.