LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One’s more cynical participants have long joked that the letters FIA really stand for Ferrari International Assistance rather than International Automobile Federation.
There have been moments in the past 60 years, and particularly during the recent Michael Schumacher era, when rivals have felt the governing body was too close to the Italian glamour team.
Not now, though, with Ferrari and FIA heading for the courtroom over the 2010 regulations and the champions threatening to quit the sport.
FIAT-owned Ferrari will seek an injunction in a Paris court on Tuesday to try to stop the FIA from introducing a 40 million pound ($60.82 million) budget cap.
“For us it (Formula One) is very important, it’s our life,” said Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali last week. “We want to fight in order to make sure that we will be in the championship in the right way.”
Even if Ferrari win the first round, the fight will not be over. The FIA has said it will appeal, a move sure to keep the pot bubbling through the weekend’s showcase Monaco Grand Prix and beyond.
“I once said that they were the most important team and that got immediately interpreted as that meant that we gave them special treatment, which we don’t and never have,” FIA president Max Mosley told reporters after meeting the teams in London on Friday.
“They race under the same rules as everybody else.
“From a public point of view, they are the most important team and that’s reflected in the fact that they get the most money from their deal with (Formula One’s commercial supremo) Bernie (Ecclestone),” he added.
“But the idea that they are indispensable is nonsense.”
Ferrari, the only team to have competed in every championship since the first in 1950 as well as the most successful, and the FIA have been at loggerheads since the budget cap was first raised.
So to have Ecclestone, who on Friday branded the team ‘idiots’ for pursuing the legal action, and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.
The two men had a sharp exchange last year, with Montezemolo saying that Formula One did not need a dictator, and should be run instead in a normal, transparent manner with the teams getting a far bigger share of the revenues.
Ecclestone’s reply was that Ferrari already received about $80 million more than anyone else in recognition of their special contribution to the sport.
“The only thing he has not mentioned is the extra money Ferrari get above all the other teams and all the extra things Ferrari have had for years -- the ‘general help’ they are considered to have had in Formula One,” he added.
Montezemolo, in a letter to Mosley last month expressing concern about the rules, alluded to Ferrari’s special position when he complained that their “guaranteed rights” had not been respected by the FIA.
Four years ago, Ferrari broke ranks with other manufacturers planning a rival grand prix series and agreed to commit to the FIA’s Formula One championship until the end of 2012.
“In 2005 we signed an exchange of letters with them saying that their rights and privileges under the Concorde Agreement would continue until 2012, whether or not we signed a new one,” said Mosley.
“They were in a position where they had whatever they had under the old 1998 Concorde agreement in return for being loyal.”
He maintained, however, that Ferrari had effectively forfeited their right to veto changes to the technical rules by forming the Formula One Teams’ Association, chaired by Montezemolo, last season.
“It would be our contention that they walked away from this agreement some time ago,” said Mosley.
“Essentially, they walked away by forming FOTA. They were always supposed to be loyal to the FIA, work with us and co-operate.
“Enzo Ferrari traditionally would sit in the middle between the British teams and the governing body and he’d move one way or the other according to his interest.”
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