Today we are looking at a situation in which there may be a need for Formula 1 teams to run extra cars in 2015, in order to meet a minimum number of cars that are required in the contract. One of the problems is that the number of cars required appears to differ from one contract to the next. The Formula One group and the teams are required to deliver 20 cars to the FIA, but the individual race contracts appear to vary between 16 and 14, depending on the deal. There is also the agreement between the FIA and the Formula One group which is known as the “Umbrella Agreement”. It is not known what is in these confidential agreements, but the prospectus of the aborted Formula One flotation included a summary of “key contracts” which said that Formula One “must attempt to procure that at least 16 cars participate in the World Championship”. The FIA rules say that an event “may be cancelled” if fewer than 12 cars are available for it. So, the answer to the question is somewhere between 12 and 20.
We have been given a fairly decent clue by Bernie Ecclestone, who told the Mail newspaper that Caterham and Marussia will miss the next two races (at least), when he said that “we don’t have to introduce a third car at this stage, because they can miss a couple of races. They lose any money they would have got for those races but they don’t lose their position in the championship”. By implication he confirmed that there need to be 20 cars, if not for the 100-year deal, certainly to meet the requirements of the FIA on a week-to-week basis.
Ecclestone went on to suggest that big teams could provide smaller teams with cars. The Mail reporter – a person by the name of Christian Sylt, who is not an accredited member of the FIA Formula 1 media, but has appointed himself an F1 business expert – clearly had not read the rules when he wrote the story, because these state that while design can be outsourced to a third party, that third party “shall not be a competitor or a person who directly or indirectly designs parts for any competitor” and that “no competitor shall be entitled to share any information on the parts including but not limited to the supply of or access to drawings designated by such competitor with another competitor nor to receive or supply consultancy or any other kind of services to another competitor in relation to the parts including, but not limited to, the supply of or access to drawings”.
One must presume that Bernie knows the rules of the sport and that the reporter did not bother to check – and got himself into a muddle over the quotes. One might suggest that all this can be changed easily enough but that is to overstate Bernie Ecclestone’s power. In order to get an agreement for everyone to run third cars, Ecclestone would need the agreement of all existing teams (including Caterham). Unanimity is never possible in F1 because everyone is always looking for a way to grab a little extra. Right now third cars are random and have no value, all they will do is mess up the way the championship is run. They are an emergency measure. To get all teams running three cars the FIA would need to change its rules (and why would they want to?) and at least half the teams would likely be up-in-arms about the idea. As an illustration, one should look at the current levels of competitiveness (based on the points scores in 2014). If one introduced third cars, the best that Ferrari could hope for (if everyone was reliable and avoided crashes) would be 10th place, McLaren could not expect to finish better than 13th, Force India would have to be content with the best possible result of 16th and Toro Rosso would have to satisfied with a maximum of 19th. Even if all the cars were allowed to score points it would be a disaster for the midfield because they are all pushed backwards and finding the money to compete would be harder and harder. They would thus be much more likely to fail, which would reduce the F1 manufacturing base, on which the sport is built. Formula 1’s primary strength is that it is for Constructors. Trying to negotiate new agreements would require concessions and teams would be throwing all kinds of things at Ecclestone to get their agreement.
In short, it is not going to happen.
There are published regulations, issued by the FIA, with regard to the technical and sporting rules and there is the International Sport Code that deals with procedural matters. However there are other rules that the general public is not privy to, because they are contained in a commercial contract between the various parties involved in the sport (the governing body, the commercial rights holder and the teams being the three groups of signatories). This used to be known as the Concorde Agreement but this became too difficult to negotiate at the last renewal and so Ecclestone resorted to bilateral agreements with the teams. These agreements, by their very nature, had to include identical stipulations, except in relation to money. The details of these deals are protected by confidentiality clauses. The key question that has been raised now is whether or not the rules relating to additional cars ought to be public, given the confusions that exist.
Article 1.1.1 of the FIA International Sporting Code states that “the FIA shall be the sole international sporting authority entitled to make and enforce regulations based on the fundamental principles of safety and sporting fairness, for the encouragement and control of automobile competitions , and to organise FIA International Championships”.
Boil that down and it means that the FIA makes the rules.
The FIA also says that it adheres to the Statement of Good Governance Principles of in 2001. This states that “The main aims of sports governing bodies are to draw up rules for the sport, to develop and promote it, to widen its popularity and to represent the sport and those involved in it Governing bodies will, in part, achieve this through good governance and by ensuring that the principles of democracy, independence, fairness, solidarity and transparency are respected”.
The European Council Declaration in Nice of the same year stressed the EU’s support for “the independence of sports organisations and their right to organise themselves. However it also noted that such support was conditioned upon the sports bodies observing principles of democracy and transparency, solidarity across the sport and observance of a code of ethics”.
The FIA has made much of its recognition by the International Olympic Commission a year ago. However, the “Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic and Sports Movement” states that “all regulations of each organisation and governing body, including but not limited to, statutes/constitutions and other procedural regulations, should be clear, transparent, disclosed, publicised and made readily available”.
The one word that runs through all of these statements is “transparent”.
This is clearly not the case when it comes to third cars and that means that the FIA is falling short of its own declared standards. The confusion could be solved very easily if all the signatories agreed to reveal the rules about third cars.
It is no good pretending to be fair and transparent when clearly you are failing to do that.