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CHANGE CAME AT RIGHT TIME FOR F1
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Something had to give because, as Max Mosley pointed out early last year, Formula One was spending money beyond its means, as if it was going out of fashion.

Unbeknown to the motor-racing public at large, the sport was on the brink of financial meltdown, to such a degree you have to wonder if we would be talking about it even today if drastic measures had not been taken.

As new McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh recently stated, but for those steps, Honda would not have been the only team to have suffered the consequences.

The global economic downturn merely exacerbated matters, and indeed accelerated the talks that took place between FIA president Mosley and the then newly-formed Formula One Teams' Association in Monaco in December, sparking the unprecedented action that followed.

Unity and harmony are not words you would normally associate with the often temperamental, secretive world of F1, but that is what currently exists, and it is not before time.

At previous meetings over the years the team bosses have generally been unable to agree on what day it is such has been the acrimony and discord that has often prevailed.

But for the future of a sport staring at a full-blown crisis they realised those old draconian ways had to change otherwise 60 years of heritage and history would come to an end.

Mercifully, they found a way forward, enough to appease Mosley at that summit meeting three months ago, notwithstanding the irony of their background given Monte Carlo's status as the playground of the rich and famous.

It would have been easy for FOTA to have rested on its laurels at that time, to have exuded a pleased-as-punch-with-itself attitude.

But credit to the individuals at its heart because they continued to explore new avenues relating not just to imposing further cost cuts, but to improve the show.

In order to ascertain their standing within the world at large, they commissioned the most wide-ranging survey ever conducted in F1.

On average they questioned 500 individuals in 17 countries, around 8,500 people overall, to ascertain what could be done to improve a sport that has mass appeal, but not to the majority of the general sporting public.

Previous surveys had targeted primarily petrol heads, but this one sought the views of those with a moderate or little interest in F1, as well as women and the younger generation.

It has to be argued given the excitement generated by the dramatic conclusions to the last two seasons, that where F1 is concerned it is a case of 'if it's not broke, why fix it?'

But the results opened the eyes of the FOTA chiefs, and they were pleased to hear there is no evidence to suggest a grand prix format requires 'tricks' such as handicapping, sprint races or reversed grids.

Instead, Formula One audiences appreciate the gladiatorial, high-tech nature of the sport and they would not respond favourably to a perceived 'dumbing down' of the current race day spectacle.

Crucially F1 will become more consumer friendly and, in agreement with Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management, which controls the output for the television stations, there will be more information on screen, affording a viewer greater understanding of scenarios and decisions made by the teams as a race unfolds.

FOTA are also hoping to push F1 and build their audience in the high-profile media areas of the internet and mobile technology.

As FOTA chairman Luca di Montezemolo recently remarked: "Today the teams are together and keen to work for the future of Formula One.

"We are looking at the current crisis in a positive way because it offers us a huge opportunity to improve the sport in terms of cost, competition and to look ahead.

"We obviously hope, like many companies, the crisis ends soon, but we are taking this opportunity to work hard.

"We want to preserve and emphasise the DNA of Formula One. We don't want a Formula One that becomes something different."We want competition, on the track and in terms of technology, but we also want a stable, strong Formula One so many fantastic brands can use the opportunity we present all over the world.

"Of considerable importance is the fact we want to increase the audience, to develop Formula One in a proper way, maintaining the key characteristics of a sport that is unique in the world."

Peace seems assured for the next three years, the amount of time di Montezemolo insists the present manufacturers will remain committed to F1.

Beyond then is uncertain, but at least FOTA has a platform in place upon which they can hopefully build for the long term.

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