May 2, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
The Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) may have come to an untimely end earlier this year, but that did not stop the group organizing one final event for the fans that took place in London yesterday.
The group was set up back in 2008 with the intention of being a unified body for the teams that could work with the FIA and the commercial rights holder. Despite some initial success, the withdrawal of Ferrari, Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso by the end of 2011 undermined the ‘united front’ that FOTA stood for.
With the formation of the F1 strategy group last season – comprising of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, Williams, McLaren and Lotus – FOTA soon became redundant, and eventually folded in February.
However, away from the political sphere of Formula 1, FOTA did some amazing work to bring the sport closer to the fans. Through the forum events that were held all over the world, fans were able to put questions to a number of F1 drivers, team principals and legends. In Austin last year, fans were treated to an audience with Sergio Perez, Esteban Gutierrez, Alexander Rossi, Adrian Sutil and Pastor Maldonado. They also got the chance to win some great prizes and merchandise.
Therefore, when it was confirmed that FOTA was folding, general secretary Oliver Weingarten came up with the idea to hold a small event to offload some of the remaining items and goods that he had. However, thanks to the kindness of the teams, this soon escalated into a final big party in Marylebone with hundreds of fans in attendance.
Marussia president Graeme Lowdon made an appearance on stage, fresh from a teams meeting about cost cutting measures, but he was reluctant to talk about it. Instead, he underlined the importance of the fans in Formula 1, and how events such as this acted as proof that they have a voice which cannot be ignored.
British F1 legend John Watson also made an appearance and was happy to answer questions from the crowd, before helping to auction off some team gear and signed photos. Proceeds were divided between Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Instituto Ayrton Senna.
All in all, it was one final hurrah for FOTA, and it was fitting that this did not come in a boardroom, but instead with the fans at the heart of it.
To Olly and all the others at FOTA, thank you, and the very best of luck for the future.