News and views on motorsports

Saturday, November 18, 2006

FIA / GPMA And Rule Making

Two articles ago, I stated that a specialist engine maker like Cosworth would not be able to effectively compete in grand prix racing's new future due to the technical challenges. Having read the Mosley/Goschel Q & A in full, I think I was completely wrong on that one. The way it looks, I think they would be able to do so on technical grounds. The difficulty for a company like Cosworth would be mainly financial and political.

In future, the manufacturers will be dominant and together with the FIA will set the technical direction and rules of the sport. Lets not underestimate what the consequences. The technical agenda for all future rules will be driven by the needs of the manufacturers and in relation to developments in road cars.

In the past it was the teams that made the rules and this was not lost in the Q & A. Repeatedly, references were made to how the teams never got anything done and how the rule making process frequently degraded into argument and shouting. Again, this is slightly deceitful. For the rule making process is defined in the Concorde Agreement, a document that Max Mosley himself helped in its formation. According to the Concorde, rules can only be made with a unanimous decision among the teams and frequently, one or two interlopers could simply raise objections and kill a particular rule. Some red coloured team apparently was quite famous for doing this.

To address this problem, the FIA itself formed a Sporting Working Group in addition to the Technical Working Group whose members include the teams, the FIA, CVC and other representatives. These working groups required only simple majority to push through a piece of regulation. And yet, wasn't it Max Mosley who recently vetoed (and in contrary to the FIA's own regulations) a motion to scrap the engine homologation rules in May of this year? And yet he says that all the teams do is bicker. Oh the duplicity of this man.

And wasn't it Max who once said that manufacturers come and go but it is the independents who soldier on in the sport and their welfare should therefore be protected? And yet here we are now, power is given to these manufacturers, all of whom have only in recently times become team owners themselves. From the Q & A, we learn that in future "we now have a mechanism for sitting down with the manufacturers at board level to agree on objectives... That is the most important point, that discussion takes place at board level and not at team level."

In future rules would be made using a "three stage process." At the first stage is to define objectives at the board level. Now this means exactly as it says. The decisions are made by the FIA and the board of directors of the manufacturers. Then at the second stage "technical experts from the major manufacturers... will flesh that policy out." At the final stage, "you would have input from the technical experts at the teams on the details of the rules.. work[ing] out how to achieve the predefined objectives." After being pressed, Goschel admitted that "if this means we bypass Ron Dennis, then so be it." Meaning to say, tough luck to the teams.

Regular meetings are planned to define future rules and objectives and "to define the next areas we should look to introduce into F1 which are relevant to the car industry." But this "has to be driven from the manufacturer level alongside the FIA, not from the teams. It will be a common working group made up of GPMA and FIA members."

So you might ask, what's the problem? Especially since teams these days are all owned by or closely associated with the manufacturers. I can't quite explain it but I always thought there was something wrong with Max ramming regulations down the throat of the teams. An FIA/GPMA board of directors alliance setting the agenda doesn't make it any better if you ask me. The teams should be the ones to come up with the rules. Again, this is back to the overall point of grand prix racing. I think it ought to be purely sport and speed but these people think there should be industrial and social relevance. And so, it is industrial captains that now set the pace.

The only good thing about this is that it should lead to better governance. The keyword is "should." One of the bones of contention in the past between the FIA and the GPMA was a lack of transparency in the rule and decision making process. The GPMA then argued that the sport was poorly governed on all fronts be it technical, sporting or commercial. This was not good for their collective image but was also costing them billions because some rules were arbitrarily decided by Max and cohorts with apparently no consideration to the costs of compliance and to the objectives of the car makers. And not to mention, rules or decisions made in favour of certain teams, which was my personal gripe. The latest developments will hopefully result in a more balanced governance.

Still I cannot help but feel that the sport has been usurped from the independent teams. I bet Ferrari would want to call themselves a manufacturer now after years of insisting that they are independents. But teams like Toro Rosso, Red Bull and Williams will not be represented at the "board level." This simply wrong, for they too should have a say in how they will compete in the future.

If one wanted to change the rules of football, shouldn't the football clubs be consulted? And of course the players themselves? If Nike, Reebok or Adidas in their capacity as equipment makers and sponsors, made the rules, you know there would be an uproar worldwide. Why should motor racing be any different? The manufacturers say that the environment are at the forefront their concerns these days. Puh-lease. This is only insofar as it projects a better image to their customers and helps them sell cars. At the end of the day, money is the real objective. And sport of Formula 1 has been truly raped and turned into a marketing tool for the manufacturers own purposes. We have forgotten that it is a sport.

Back to Cosworth and their like, I can imagine it could get quite frustrating for them if they had no say in the future direction of the sport. And would they even be allowed to compete should someone want their engines in the future?

1 comment:

Clive said...

I agree completely. The sport has been taken from those who created it and put in the hands of big business so that they can make even bigger profits. And the worst of it is that they won't make a profit - as soon as the fans see what is happening, they will desert in droves. Without the fans, F1 is worthless.