I read that some talking head from the Italian Olympic Committee has come out and talked about Formula 1, in support of Ferrari’s campaign to have Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen ride dinosaurs around the Circus Maximus. I have some advice for him: Go away, shut up and worry about your own sport. If that seems uncharitable, I can only say this: What would his reaction be if Bernie Ecclestone or Jean Todt got up and started spouting on about doping in international athletics? I gave up watching athletics and cycling years ago because I did not trust anything about either sport. It would be nice to believe in them because athletic endeavour and physical achievements can be inspiring, but too many champions have tested positive over the years…
So, Mr Malvolio, or whatever your name is, slide away somewhere and do something positive for your own sport and don’t mess in Formula 1.
I think Ferrari is a great thing for the sport. It a legend and its fans are filled with passion. All over the world there are Ferrari fans. Terrific. However, I really do not like the current attempts to manipulate the sport simply because the Italian team cannot compete with Mercedes Benz in terms of engine design. Sorry, if that does not quite fit the Ferrari image of great engineering, but if you live by the sword, you have to be prepared to get stuck in the ribs as well.
Ferrari competes in F1 with a number of unfair advantages and if there was some logical thinking going on down there someone would have realised that if there is one team that would gain from a cost cap, it is Ferrari. Why? Because it is smaller than the big manufacturers like Renault and Mercedes Benz, so when it comes to ramping up costs to win, it cannot compete. It even struggles against the soda pop manufacturer Red Bull.
So, if Ferrari was being sensible, it would be in favour of a cost cap…
But, of course, if there was a cost cap, Ferrari would probably need to give up its advantages. We don’t know for certain what these are, because these things are secret, but we do know that under the terms of the last Concorde Agreement that ran from 2009 to 2012 that the Italian team got 2.5 percent of the F1 prize fund, off the top, before anyone else got a taste of anything. While some argue that this is grossly unfair, Ferrari says that it should be rewarded for the power of its brand, which is synonymous with Formula 1. You can be absolutely sure that the new deals that last from 2013-2020 will not have given Ferrari any less money – and the likelihood is that the company got a bigger slice of the pie, straight out of the oven.
What does this advantage actually mean? Well, folks, it means that in 2011, for example, the prize fund was around $682 million. That meant that before this was divided up Ferrari was handed a cheque for $17.5 million. If you do the numbers based on that year’s prize fund: Red Bull Racing earned $98.8 million for winning the championship. McLaren got $88.6 million for coming second and Ferrari made $95.8 million for coming third. How is that fair?
These days there is no such thing as a Concorde Agreement and the sport is based on bilateral agreements between the Commercial Rights Holder and each individual team. The deals may be based on the terms of the old Concorde Agreement but the numbers involved are not known. The details are locked away in safes.
What we do know is that until 2020 Ferrari has a right of veto in respect of the introduction/modification of any technical or sporting regulations (except for safety requirements). There are some conditions that must be met in order for this veto to be used including the proviso that the veto can only be used if it is not prejudicial to the traditional values of the championship and/or the image of the FIA, and that Ferrari considers that the new regulations are likely to have a substantial impact on its “legitimate interest”.
Let us not just blame Ferrari for this because this situation was not arrived at without the complicity of others, looking after their vested interests, and it is fairly clear that Red Bull Racing has some kind of similar financial deal, and probably others have had their deals sweetened as well, either with a signing bonus or a year-by-year deal.
Is that the right way to run the sport? Would it not be so much better if all of this was transparent and in the open and everyone got the same? I am in favour of success being rewarded, but I think it would be better to have a prize fund that operated on the basis of points-per-dollar involved, rather than just World Championship points. That way the smaller teams would be rewarded from their efficiency and the successful smaller teams would be legitimately rewarded for success achieved. It would also be an incentive for the bigger teams to bring down their spending.
That way there would be a solid field of competitors, no dodgy side deals and a feeling that there was a level playing field.