F1: Lola jumps in – as teams and FIA fail to agree deal

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, May 15th, 2009

 
 

It’s a good thing, really, that racecar manufacturer Lola has confirmed that it is throwing its hat into the F1 ring for 2010.

Because, at the rate things are going, only a handful of the existing competitors could be there to join the prospective newcomers.

A crisis meeting held between the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Max Mosley in Heathrow Airport’s conference-hotel hinterland has failed to produce an agreement in the dispute over the sport’s 2010 regulations.

And F1 journalist James Allen has just revealed via his Twitter feed that Ferrari has followed through on its threat of legal action and filed an injunction against the FIA in a French court – while the meeting was still in progress, reportedly.

Regardless, Huntingdon-based Lola has confirmed that it does plan to submit an entry by the current deadline of May 29, following an evaluation process it has carried out over the past few weeks.

The company has released a statement saying that its original interest was based around a figure of £30 million – £10 million less than the number the FIA finally announced. This meant it had to do its sums all over again but, having done so, it still wants in.

It said: “The original cap of £30 million, including engines, formed the basis of Lola’s initial interest. The decision by the WMSC to revise the figure to £40 million plus engines, marketing, hospitality and driver fees led to a re-examination of the opportunity by Lola culminating in today’s confirmation that it will proceed with its Formula 1 project.”

Unsurprisingly, it wants the WMSC’s cost capping proposals and revised technical regulations adopted in full: “This is not only prudent considering the backdrop of global economics but also taking into account the need for new teams to be able to compete credibly against long established entrants.”

The team has also stated its support for the two-tier system that is proving so controversial with manufacturers, saying it is essential that new entrants are given a helping hand.

“It is imperative that performance breaks be afforded to new cost-capped entrants who will have a limited period in which to form teams, design and manufacture their cars. With these breaks Lola looks forward to competing with the existing teams who enjoy decades of experience.”

While Ferrari and Toyota seem likely to only stay in F1 if the proposed changes are scrapped, Lola’s plans clearly depend on them being adopted: “The Lola Group is forging ahead with its Formula 1 project with the objective of securing an entry into the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship and in the expectation that the decisions of the WMSC will be respected in full.”

One thing is certain in the confusion: not everyone is going to get what they want. And Mosley himself is in full crisis-what-crisis mode.

In a statement worthy of any would-be British Grand Prix promoter, he told Autosport: “There is this suggestion that there is some sort of crisis, but I don’t think there is a crisis.”

It would be interesting to know what he does consider a crisis, if legal action by Ferrari against the FIA doesn’t count.

But he does hint, further down the same story, that the May 29 deadline may in fact be flexible for existing series entrants: “Then there will probably be some vacancies, and then other teams may decide to enter later or not as the case may be.

“There won’t be a crisis of any kind, if indeed a crisis at all, until March 2010 when we go to Melbourne. There is plenty of time.”

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