Those in charge need to take charge
Fast-forward three years, though, and the concept seems to be unravelling: between the Spanish and Monaco GPs, the Strategy Group convened in Biggin Hill – FOM’s operational headquarters – only to agree vague notions after six hours of hot air created by eight intelligent men plus observers/consultants.
Oh, they also agreed not to amend engine allocation regulations, but recognised that Formula 1 should return to what it had once been: fast and furious…
The most gratifying aspect though, is that the watershed meeting sparked introspection, with Robert Fernley, deputy team principal of Force India (the ‘other’ team), later stating the Strategy Group “is not t for purpose”, adding: “We need to look at a better system. In days gone by, with [FOM CEO] Bernie [Ecclestone] and [former FIA president] Max [Mosley] in charge, we knew where we stood. I don’t think that you should have teams making decisions on where Formula 1 is going. The teams should be told where Formula 1 is going.”
Red Bull’s Christian Horner, an early proponent of the Strategy Group, went one step further in Monaco, saying: “Every team has their own agenda, and will ght their own corner. The sport is governed by the FIA and promoted by FOM, and it’s those guys who need to get together and say: ‘What do we want Formula 1 to be?’
“Yes we want the cars to be quicker and more aggressive to drive, but you are never going to keep everyone happy. Bernie and [FIA president] Jean [Todt] need to get together and say: ‘This is what we want the product to be, and how it is to be governed – then give us the entry form and see if we want to enter.’”
There, in a nutshell, lies the root of F1’s dilemma, compounded by the sport’s horrically inequitable revenue distribution table, as revealed last month by F1 Racing – which sees three teams share approximately 50 per cent of the team ‘pot’ while seven teams split the remainder, regardless of actual championship classication.
However, one (non-Strategy Group) team boss, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, believes that: “Formula 1 has more chance of running V12 diesel engines than having Jean and Bernie agree on anything. They can’t; they are too different and want totally different directions for Formula 1.”
He believes that under Mosley and Ecclestone the sport ourished simply because between them they controlled the sport, and were friends who seldom disagreed – and when and where they did they quickly compromised. Thus, by implication, F1 ourished through friendship founded on mutual need: commercial control on one hand, and international stature on the other, with F1 providing the binding agent.
Todt, though, takes a more pragmatic view of his FIA portfolio, spending the inverse of the time his predecessor devoted to F1 on the sport, with the balance allocated to other sporting genres (WEC, WRC, Formula E) and touring matters. That, frankly, bets his brief as president – and, do not forget, the FIA owns F1, merely leasing it to FOM for another 100 years, albeit at a relative pittance in terms of a deal negotiated by Mosley.
None of which, though, helps F1 evolve during these times of crisis – although there was a welcome ‘rst step’ after that crucial meeting on 14 May: the two men issued a joint media release featuring the phrases “all parties” and “agreed to work together”. A welcome start indeed, but hopefully no V12 diesels will feature in F1’s future…