The fight over future Formula 1 regulations moves to the Paris courtroom this afternoon when Ferrari's bid to prevent a voluntary budget cap being introduced in 2010 is scheduled to be heard by French legal authorities.
Ferrari is seeking an injunction against changes that the FIA has made to next year's regulations – claiming that they are in breach of a technical veto that the team has had since 1998.
The move means that plans for a £40 million ($60m) cost cap remain up in the air – just a few days before the entries for the 2010 World Championship open. Sources suggest that the outcome of the court case may not be known until later in the week. And even if Ferrari's injunction request is successful, the FIA has already said that it will appeal – meaning the matter may not get sorted for several weeks.
Ferrari has joined several other teams in saying it will not enter F1 next year unless the regulations are changed. And with the FIA refusing to compromise over plans that it thinks are vital for the future health of the sport, legal action was lodged on Friday by the Maranello outfit.
FIA president Max Mosley said after finding out about the court action last week that he believes Ferrari does not have a case, because it did not exercise the veto when it had the chance, and also that the veto right was effectively surrendered as soon as the team got involved in the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA).
"Obviously it will all come out in court," said Mosley. "We will say first of all it is no longer in place, and if they wanted to do a veto – they were in the meeting on March 17 and they should have done it there if they didn't agree. Instead, they just sat there. Anyway, it will be our contention that they walked away from that agreement some time ago."
He added: "Essentially they walked away by forming FOTA. They were always supposed to be loyal to the FIA, work with us and cooperate. Of course, Enzo Ferrari traditionally, he would sit in the middle between the British teams and the governing body, and he would move slightly one way or another according to his interests."
The interest surrounding the threats to not lodge entries to 2010 has increased because of Ferrari's involvement in the matter. But despite widespread suggestions that F1 would be damaged if it lost its most famous team, Mosley insists he is not more worried about losing the Italian outfit than anyone else.
"I actually once said they were the most important team, and that got immediately interpreted as giving them special treatment, which we don't and never have," explained Mosley. "They race under the same rules as everybody else. But from a public point of view they are the most important team, and that is reflected in the fact that they get the most money in their deal with Bernie [Ecclestone].
"But the idea that they are indispensable is nonsense. It is a little bit like poor [Ayrton] Senna. He was the most important driver in 1994 but when he very sadly got killed, F1 went on. Lotus was very important once, so were Brabham. All sorts of people – Maserati in the 1950s too."
FOTA members are expected to meet in Monaco on Friday to discuss their response to the FIA's insistence that the budget cap is going ahead next year.