Allegations are surfacing in the national press that it was impossible to get a place on the Formula One grid for 2010 unless you were prepared to sign up to an engine deal with independent Northampton-based supplier Cosworth.
The allegations are, however, anonymous and are the subject of a carefully-worded denial by the engine manufacturer in question making it clear that it had no part in any behind-the-scenes manoeuvres that may have been taking place.
If they are true, the two teams to be most severely disadvantaged were the British squads Prodrive and Lola, both widely regarded as shoo-ins. Prodrive had already been awarded a place on the 2008 grid but declined to accept it after a row about the status of customer cars.
Unnamed team principals, quoted in The Telegraph and The Guardian, are accusing the FIA of commercial bias for refusing to consider those teams who were trying to tie up deals with Renault, Mercedes or Ferrari.
The accusations are reported to have come to light in the form of a letter to a senior figure in an existing team – perhaps one of the leading lights in FOTA?
The Telegraph says: “The bosses of several of these unsuccessful entrants have now claimed that during the application process the FIA said it was a ‘mandatory’ condition they had to buy engines from Northamptonshire-based Cosworth for their bid to be accepted.”
It goes on to point out that using Cosworth as an engine supplier was not an advertised condition of entry to the selection process, giving rise to a feeling that the FIA had acted unfairly and made its judgements based on political rather than sporting considerations.
But various anonymous team bosses claim in direct quotes that they were told that a three-year Cosworth engine contract was a pre-requisite of a 2010 grid slot and that anyone using an engine from a FOTA manufacturer need not apply.
The FIA has reportedly said that an independent supply of engines is crucial to prevent F1 being “at the mercy of the car industry” while Cosworth has made the interesting statement that it “in no way, shape or form requested that the FIA make demands on its behalf of potential entries to the Formula One World Championship.”
However the engine supplier has previously said that it would need to supply two or more teams in order to make its return to F1 a worthwhile venture.
In relation to the FIA statement, it is also interesting to recall an interview with John Booth of Manor, published by Autosport on June 12, in which he said: “We intend to have a car running in January with an FIA-spec customer Cosworth engine.
“We wanted to be independent of a manufacturer because we don’t want to be used as a political pawn — it was a conscious decision not to approach them.”
Here he may have hit the nail precisely on the head when it comes to the FIA’s objections to any team using an engine supplied by an existing competitor.