A critical time for FOTA

With next Friday’s deadline looming, FOTA have to quickly decide on the path it is to take in this crisis.

On Tuesday FOTA sent a letter to the FIA and FOM asking for modifications to the way the budget cap is policed and requested a two week extension so that a new Concorde Agreement is finalised.

The FIA responded by insisting that the teams enter unconditionally by Friday then find a resolution.

The FIA’s position hasn’t changed from last Friday and now the next move is up to FOTA.

So what are FOTA’s options: 

Enter unconditionally and accept the FIA rules – This option basically means that all the objections they had weren’t serious and they were just hoping for a change. This option will result in FOTA ceasing to exist as an association as it proved that it has no effect.

Sticking to their position and asking the FIA to reconsider – If FOTA are serious about their cause then they will have to take this path and see what the FIA will do once the deadline passes. Taking this path though will require a very united FOTA otherwise they risk a number of teams defecting.
By taking this path, FOTA will have to be ready to announce an alternative series as soon as the FIA announces an amended entry list without the FOTA teams. (Ferrari and the 2 Red Bull teams will also have to look at the legal implications as they have agreements with the FIA and FOM)

Each FOTA team does what they feel – If FOTA cannot agree on a way forward, they could ask each team to do what they feel is best for them. This way the teams that don’t strongly object will enter, those who strongly object or cannot commit due to financial reasons will pull out.
This would be the worst option as Formula 1 could potentially lose Ferrari, Toyota, Renault and even BMW Sauber  

From the tone of the letter that was sent by FOTA to the FIA, it showed they were vulnerable. Whether that was real or just a tactic will remain to be seen. It is most likely that they will accept the FIA rules by Friday unless they are really united.

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What next for Formula 1 ?

Most of the Formula 1 fans around the world are fed up with all the politics surrounding the sport as Formula 1 plunges itself from one crisis to another. Not long ago did Formula 1 avert a breakaway series by the GPMA when they managed to lure Ferrari into splitting from the GPMA and signing with FOM and the FIA.

This time, it is Ferrari who are leading FOTA and demanding that the FIA drop its 2010 F1 regulations and let the teams provide input on the cost cutting measures to ensure the survival of Formula 1 in this economic climate.

Following the publishing of the 2010 entry list and the inclusion of Ferrari and the 2 Red Bull teams without conditions despite those teams specifically stating that their applications are conditional, the crisis has moved into another level.

Including Ferrari on the list despite Ferrari’s objections seems to be an attempt by the FIA to try and cause more teams to split from FOTA but what this move seems to have done is that it has infuriated Ferrari so much that they along with the other FOTA members as well as the European Automobile Manufacturers have called for changing the way the FIA is governing F1. (FOTA press release)
Ferrari’s President Luca Montezemolo wants to talk to “responsible people inside the FIA who understand the situation” clearly indicating that Ferrari cannot deal with nor trust Max Mosley anymore. Montezemolo went even further and declared that without an agreement with the FIA, an alternative series will be setup by the manufacturers.

Why doesn’t FOTA trust Max Mosley. Well just 6 months ago he agreed with the teams to work together on implementing a cost cutting program in F1. 3 months later he announced unilateral cost cutting measures. And last week he decided to list Ferrari and the 2 Red Bull teams on the 2010 entry list unconditionally despite requests from Ferrari not to do so.

So what happens next. Friday the 19th of June is the next deadline as the FIA will either remove the 5 conditional FOTA entries (McLaren, BMW Sauber, Renault, Toyota and Brawn) or confirm them. They cannot extend the date any further.

Removing the 5 FOTA teams will almost ensure that a rival series would be announced almost immediately. Confirming the 5 FOTA teams will mean that their demands have been met or at least a compromise has been reached.

The FIA does feel the pressure and their latest press release tries to portray ‘elements in FOTA’ as the ones trying not to reach agreement.  And by the FIA’s own admission, both parties are in agreement on the 2010 regulations, the objectives of the two on cost cutting are very close and on the issue of governance, a suggestion to extend the concorde agreement to 2014 was well received. Reading this, one wonders why was their a crisis in the first place but then again, it appears that the difference now is on governance, an issue that has taken center stage due to the provocative actions of Max Mosley.

Despite the FIA and FOTA being very close, the situation remains critical and with both sides trying to explain their positions, it appears that the next step will (sadly) be a split but there are a few more days left before the 19th and so lets hope a solution is found.

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From the most successful meeting to a sport facing a split, what went wrong in 6 months ?

On the 10th of December 2008, the FIA and FOTA met to discuss ways to significantly reduce the cost of running a Formula 1 team. This meeting was as a result of the financial crisis and the withdrawl of the Honda racing team from the sport (announced just a week earlier). Despite having major differences just weeks before, the magnitude of the crisis meant that a solution must be found and they did. The FIA and FOTA issued a joint statement stating: “FIA and FOTA have had the most successful meeting on Formula One matters which any of the participants can remember.”

The crisis was averted and it appeared that Formula 1 will be free from the politics for a few years to come. Wrong! In just 6 months, the sport is on the verge of a split. Why ?

Soon after the historic meeting between the FIA and FOTA, FOTA (on the 8th of January) announced a number of cost cutting measures including aerodynamic testing restrictions, low cost transmissions and low cost engines at costs comparable to what the FIA was targeting. Then on the 5th of March FOTA announced key proposals for reducing costs. Everything was looking promising for a stable future for Formula 1.

Then and less than two weeks later, the FIA announced unilaterally the introduction of a ‘budget cap’ option for Formula 1 teams and those opting in would be allowed some degree of technical freedom over those teams not wishing to take up that option. Naturally FOTA wasn’t pleased with these decisions given that they were not consulted despite having announced their proposals less than two weeks earlier. When asked why announce such rules despite FOTA’s proposals Mosley said “We cannot wait, because new teams wishing to enter the 2010 Championship will need to start work immediately. FOTA have already given us their main ideas, we understand that the outstanding matters are more minor.”

Minor they were not. This was the start of the current crisis and the first confrontation between the FIA and FOTA took place immediately with FOTA rejecting the FIA’s change to the points system and forcing the FIA to revert to the current system.

On the 29th of April, the FIA raised the stakes by inviting those who wish to enter the 2010 Formula 1 Championship to apply during the period between the 22nd and the 29th of May and those applying would need to indicate whether they will take up the ‘budget cap’ option. It is worth noting that for 2009, invitation to apply for entry was during the period between the 1st and the 31st of July 2008. This action by the FIA put FOTA in a position that it had to respond in less than 30 days and despite numerous meetings prior to the deadline, no agreement was reached and the FOTA teams (except Williams and Force India) lodged a conditional entry for all the teams together.

The entry list is set to be announced on the 12th of June and so far there doesn’t appear to be any breakthrough. If the list excludes the 8 FOTA teams then there will most likely be a rival series which neither FOTA nor the FIA want.

Why should there be a split when both the FIA and FOTA have the same aim and that is to significantly reduce costs. Surely if the aim is the same, an agreement could be found on how to reach this aim. Budget capping while an option isn’t the best way to reduce costs as it is very hard to police and by the admission of Max Mosley, the FIA would “need the right to carry out very intrusive audits” which the teams aren’t willing to allow. FOTA is offering engines and transmissions at costs comparable to those suggested by the FIA as well as significant reduction in wind tunnel and CFD usage. In fact what FOTA are proposing will allow teams to run competitively with a budget comparable to that suggested by the FIA.

So where is the problem ? Well, it seems that it has come down to 1 person and that is Max Mosley. Sure he has made many good decisions in the past particularly with regards to safety but not matter how credible a person is, one person alone shouldn’t be allowed to set the rules, governance of Formula 1 should be carried out through a commission with representatives from FOTA.

Max Mosley has twice decided to step down in the past yet he is still there, the last time was a year ago surrounding his sex scandal when he declared he won’t be running for President again this year. His latest position though is that he has yet to decide.

Max Mosley created Formula Two as a feeder series to Formula One even though a feeder series already exists (GP2), now it seems he is set on shaping Formula One his way regardless of what the teams want, a shape it seems that is defined by standard components and that isn’t what Formula One is about.

Perhaps Max has gone too far this time and this crisis – if resolved – may see his power grip loosened which can only be a good thing for Formula One, but with the stakes so high, it is a critical situation and a resolution may not be found.

This crisis needs to be solved and it shouldn’t be dealt with by threats and counter threats and those with the responsibility of ensuring Formula One remains the pinnacle of motorsport should act responsibly and beyond the politics and egos and look hard at finding a solution before it is too late.

No one wants to see two series

Related discussions and reference material:
2010 Formula One Regulations Thread
FIA announces budget cap option for 2010
FIA Press Releases
FOTA Press Releases

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A change of attitude or just more delays ?

I continue to actively monitor the Skype forums looking for customers who are having problems with Skype customer support and after replying to one of the posts I got a message for the “Skype” moderator on the forum that a “compensation program” for those affected by the cancellation of Skype subscriptions is underway. I thought to myself, this is interesting, are we finally going to get a fair response from Skype ?

I don’t yet know the answer to that. I do hope so but until I hear about the details I cannot really answer that question, besides, knowing that many Skype customers have been affected by this,  why didn’t Skype inform them in a proper way ? So in the meantime, we need to continue putting pressure on Skype to treat their customers fairly and respond promptly to their requests. And on that topic, I found another blog that describes Skype’s Customer Service is “Arguably the webs worst customer service

Here is the post where the “Skype” moderator mentions the Compensation Program

The latest post on the thread describing the problem I have with skype is here

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On to the next F1 deadline!

The crisis isn’t over, it has just been given an extension. Rather than have a compromise agreement between FOTA, the FIA and FOM, the FOTA teams threw the ball back in the FIA’s court on the 29th of May, the day entries for the 2010 Formula 1 Championship closed.

The FOTA teams submitted their entries attached with a few conditions:

  • A Concorde agreement that is signed by the 12th of June in return for a commitment by all the FOTA teams to commit until 2012
  • The 2010 F1 regulations are the 2009 F1 regulations amendedwith the FOTA proposals
  • All teams compete under the same regulations

And to show their solidarity, FOTA did a very smart move, they put a condition that all 9 entries can only be accepted together.

The FOTA statement is telling everyone that they haven’t moved an inch from their earlier positions. Whatever rumours where going around that McLaren and Haug were mediating and managed to pull out a compromise appear to be unfounded (or at least have not succeeded in convincing the two sides of the compromise). They have kept the door open on the budget cap but they are sending a clear message to the FIA to take them seriously.

So far we haven’t heard any official response from the FIA which means that something is going on behind the scenes. Given the demanding nature of the FOTA statement, Mosley would have immediately issued a statement rejecting these demands but he now does have a dilemma. With FOTA telling him that he either accepts or rejects all 9 entries together, he won’t be able to split more teams from FOTA and with only 1 current team (Williams) and 12 new teams Formula 1 will collapse (or at least won’t be Formula 1 as we know it) .

Of course the FIA could accept the teams on the condition that they accept the 2010 regulations making the whole thing even more of a mockery and extending the lifetime of this crisis further.

There will be a lot of behind the scenes activity happening over the next couple of weeks and lets hope it does result in a firm resolution to this issue and secures the future of F1 for the next few years.

In the meantime, the roller coaster ride continues as the next deadline of the 12th of June approaches

Posted in Formula 1 | 1 Comment

Alternatives to Skype

Given the complete lack of support to customers from Skype and their bad and unacceptable business practices against their own customers, I am trying out a number of other alternatives.

I will list below the ones I know and may have tried and would like additions and comments from you too. If Skype treats us that poorly and doesn’t listen to us then we move.

Yahoo Messenger – Offers a call in number for $2.50 a month (http://messenger.yahoo.com/features/voice/)

Globe7 – Integrated VOIP solution (http://www.globe7.com)

Telbo – Offers subscriptions similar to Skype but cheaper (http://www.telbo.com)

Tpad – Offers a variety of VOIP solutions (http://www.tpad.com)

A number of VOIP sites (all from the same company), have different pricing arrangements, some countries are really cheap or free (for a set period of time when you charge). Call quality isn’t the best. SMS is very cheap too.
http://www.voipstunt.com, http://www.smsdiscount.com. http://www.lowratevoip.com, http://www.smartvoip.com

This is a start and I will add/remove as necessary. Once again, your contributions are welcome

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Are we any closer to a resolution in F1

The teams, Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone met to discuss or negotiate a way out of the current crisis that is threatening to destroy Formula 1 as we know it. There were conflicting signals after the meeting, on one hand, it appears that everyone including Max have agreed that a two-tier competition will not go ahead which is a very big relief to everyone as no one wanted to see that. On the other hand though, no agreement was reached on the issue of budget caps and both sides are still sticking to their positions.

Max has sent a number of mixed signals after the meeting, he said that the 31st of May deadline to submit entries for 2010 is flexible yet again said that F1 can survive without Ferrari.

Ferrari are not just making press releases, they are also fighting this through the courts and are hoping that the courts can rule in their favour and stop the FIA from pushing these rules through.

It looks like Ferrari are serious about this and the other teams will find comfort in that particularly as just a few years ago Ferrari did a U-turn and turned its back on the other manufacturers and sided with Bernie during the GPMA vs FIA crisis when there was a serious threat that F1 would split. This time with Ferrari taking the FIA to court and with Luca Montezemolo the head of FOTA, it is certain they will stand with the teams.

The meeting on Friday has certainly made things easier as there is now just one issue that needs solving as there was agreement on dropping the two-tier system. It is just the budget cap now. On that they aren’t any closer and with a number of teams unhappy with the idea, it seems unlikley that a resolution will be reached anytime soon.

One has to wonder though, why is Max pushing this ? There have already been dramatic cuts in costs and FOTA have taken the initiative and made a number of proposals to cut costs further over the next few years. And given that Max has pushed through the concept of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and has forced the teams to spend millions of dollars on it, I would question Max’s motives, is he just worried that FOTA is too strong for his comfort particularly that they seem to have survived the ‘double decker’ diffuser crisis that threatened its split ? Is this just about showing them who has more power ?
This time he may have gone too far.

Posted in Formula 1 | 3 Comments

Poor Skype Support

I have been an avid and keen supporter of Skype for the last few years. I enjoyed using their software and was always encouraging others to use Skype as a means of communications.
It was only until I had to actually contact someone at Skype Support that I realaised that they have almost a non-existant support system. Only when I started looking around that I started to see many others who were being completely ignored by Skype.
What I would like to do is make others aware of how bad Skype treats their customers with the aim of getting their management attention at the completely wrong way of the way they work with their customers. Those same people who helped make Skype who they are today.

The problem I had with Skype is that due to an error on their part, a subscription of mine was cancelled and was told to resubscribe.  I thought, OK that shouldn’t be a problem until I found out that part of the subscription is now extra and I have to pay for it.  Naturally I thought this must be a mistake, surely a company like Skype would not resort to these tactics. Well I go to their site looking for answers but I can’t find any. Finally I get to the place where I can actually submit a support request – great!

I manage to submit a request describing the problem and asking them to rectify it. I get excited when I get the automated message telling me that a Skype representative will get back to me within 24 hours but in case they are really busy 48 hours. This was on the 7th of April.

I waited 24 hours, I waited 48 hours, no reply. I sent a second support request, this time I didn’t even get an automated response.

Surely this can’t be happening, this is Skype we are talking about.
A bit of searching gets to the Skype forum where I find an area that talks about problems, lots of problems. It was an eye opener reading about all those people with problems with support.
I decided to post on there in the hope that someone could help.  That was on the 10th of May.

You can read the entire thread at http://forum.skype.com/index.php?showtopic=319901

During that time, someone tried to help, gave me some hope but then stopped responding. In the end I decided to request a refund, that was on the 2nd of May. On the 13th of May I finally got my money back.

Despite getting my money back, this attitude is not acceptable and Skype must be responsible for their actions and treat their customers decently.

If you have any similar experiences, please post them here and lets make as many as possible aware of this poor service.

Posted in Poor Support | 15 Comments