Mosley discusses current situation

The current situation in Formula One Questions to FIA President Max Mosley Q: Why did you make a deal just with Ferrari and FOM and not with anyone else? Max Mosley: We have said that we are prepared to renew the Concorde Agreement from 2008....

The current situation in Formula One
Questions to FIA President Max Mosley

Q: Why did you make a deal just with Ferrari and FOM and not with anyone else?

Max Mosley: We have said that we are prepared to renew the Concorde Agreement from 2008. We would have preferred to have no Concorde Agreement and to regulate Formula One like the rest of motor sport, but all the teams and the commercial rights holder (FOM) seem to want an agreement.

Q: Yes, but why just Ferrari?

MM: It's not just Ferrari. We have told them that if they compete in the Formula One World Championship after 2008, they will retain the rights and privileges they currently enjoy under the Concorde Agreement. The same goes for all the other teams.

Q: But haven't Ferrari been promised extra money?

MM: The money is not the FIA's business, but our understanding is that all the teams which sign up for 2008 will get the money that was originally agreed between FOM and GPWC in their so-called Memorandum of Understanding of December 2003. Apparently this will be paid from 2008 together with money from 2004 to 2007 under a formula with compound interest over the five years from 2008 to 2012. We understand the money will be split among the teams with the same percentages as for the last 25 years.

Q: But haven't Ferrari been given a "sweetener"?

MM: We understand that money which would have been paid to Ferrari had FOM floated three years ago is involved and that the other teams concerned are to be dealt with similarly, but this is not really our business."

Q: You have been accused of dictatorship. What do you say to that?

MM: It's difficult to describe anything done by the FIA as dictatorial. Of the three major changes for 2005 and 2006, two (tyres and aerodynamics) had the unanimous support of the teams and one (engines) had a majority of 7 to 3. This is hardly dictatorship. The only unilateral FIA action was the introduction of procedural changes at the start of 2003. Even then we had the support of most of the teams and only acted when the teams themselves had repeatedly failed to agree on how, for example, to eliminate the danger and cost of qualifying cars and engines. It has been generally acknowledged that the 2003 changes benefitted Formula One.

Q: The new tyre, aerodynamic and engine rules have been widely criticised?

MM: The tyre and aerodynamic rules for 2005 and 2006 were agreed unanimously by the teams, the engines by a large (7 to 3) majority. The tyre companies, also, are pleased and will be bringing (we are told) 4 sets per car to a race compared to 19 sets per car last year. All rules can be criticised, but we must wait for a few races before we can be sure if we and the teams which supported us were right.

Q: It has been said that car speeds could have been reduced much more easily and cheaply by introducing control tyres from a single manufacturer?

MM: If it were that simple, the Technical Working Group (or at least the necessary 8 out of 10) would have suggested it -- either during their initial two months of reflection on how to slow the cars or, at the latest, during the 45 days when they were looking at the FIA's three packages. The fact is that with engines passing the 1000 bhp mark, the current circuits and cars could not cope, even with a control tyre. It is for this reason that the teams' technical directors repeatedly and unanimously asked for a reduction in engine power in meetings of the Technical Working Group.

Q: Going back to the proposed 2008 Concorde Agreement, how could you sign this with just FOM and Ferrari and without consulting the other teams?

MM: We haven't signed the 2008 Concorde. It has not yet been drafted. We have simply confirmed to Ferrari that if they continue to compete in the World Championship and/or enter into a new Concorde Agreement from 2008, they will continue to enjoy their current rights and privileges. We have made it clear that the same applies to all the other teams.

Q: But why did you not involve the other teams?

MM: There was no need because the same offer is open to all. The other teams have never suggested they are not happy with their own current rights or privileges or those of Ferrari. Don't forget they all signed up for these for ten years in 1998.

Q: They are certainly not happy with the money?

MM: That's between them and FOM. They were apparently happy with the money on offer under the December 2003 Memorandum of Understanding. We are told that FOM have now put that money back on the table for anyone who competes through to 2012. It is reasonable to assume that the teams would still be happy with this money, but it is their right to bargain with FOM if they wish. The FIA has to remain neutral.

Q: You say the teams are happy with their rights and privileges, but some of them complain about the FIA's governance of the sport?

MM: This is what we read in the press, but we have heard no specific complaint. It is natural that when a team fails it looks round for someone to blame. This will probably stop if it starts winning.

Q: Some say you favour Ferrari?

MM: The Ferrari accusation is a myth and does not stand up to scrutiny. What we did in 2003 actually disadvantaged Ferrari. Last year things ran smoothly with no controversies involving Ferrari or any other leading team.

Q: They also say that the FIA lacks transparency?

MM: We are probably the most transparent organisation in international sport. We have never refused admittance to a meeting or access to documents to anyone with a legitimate interest. Our Court of Appeal is open to the press, which we believe is unique among international sporting bodies.

Q: Some teams say the FIA Court of Appeal is not independent?

MM: This is just nonsense. A team could easily check by asking one of the big law firms they all use, to look into the question. They would soon find that the FIA Court of Appeal consists of independent professional lawyers and judges who help the FIA without pay. For example, the judge from the UK is actually a full-time professional judge in England. Anyone in any doubt should investigate before making absurd and unsustainable accusations and insulting the judges who give their time voluntarily for the good of motor sport.

Q: Even if the Court is independent, aren't the rules made to favour Ferrari?

MM: That's easy to say, but can we have an example? New rules are all agreed by a majority of the teams and, more often than not, unanimously. The procedural changes in 2003 positively hindered Ferrari. It is not the fault of the FIA that Ferrari have been so successful in recent years, nor will the FIA be entitled to the credit if other teams now start to win. The rules are made for the majority. Winning depends on outstanding competence.

Q: The majority of the teams say they should make the rules, not the FIA?

MM: Provided the rules do not compromise safety or fairness this is entirely reasonable and the FIA would almost certainly accept their proposals. The problem is that they frequently fail to agree, leaving the FIA to try to find a compromise. The FIA has never refused a proposal which has the support of all the teams. Indeed, under the Concorde Agreement the teams already make the rules. Technical rules need 8 out of 10 in favour in the Technical Working Group. The FIA does not even have a vote in the Group. Then the proposed rules go to the Formula One Commission, where the teams have 12 votes and the FIA just one.

Q: Some of the teams are going to meet on 7 and 8 April to agree their own rules for 2008 with the manufacturers?

MM: If they can, so much the better. The problem is that two of the manufacturers want unlimited technology (or at least minimal restrictions), which means virtually unlimited costs; two want costs kept down to enable them to stay in Formula One; and two are somewhere in the middle. There are similar divisions among the teams. The problems will come when detailed technical and sporting rules have to be agreed.

Q: But they have already published a comprehensive list of principles?

MM: Indeed they have, but these are not detailed rules. No-one could dispute these published principles and objectives. The problem is writing rules to achieve them.

Q: Haven't you gone too far with the new engine rules? Couldn't you reduce power without placing so many restrictions on technology?

MM: Up to now it has always been the chassis engineers who have had to cope with restrictions. The engines were sacrosanct. But restrictions were necessary to slow the rate of increase in power. Don't forget that back in 1994/5 we were told by the engine builders that "the laws of physics" would prevent a 3-litre engine going much above 600 horsepower. A very helpful side-effect of the technology restrictions is that commercial engine builders like Cosworth or Mecachrome will be able to supply engines for the new formula (2.4 litre V8) which will be at, or very close to, the level of performance of even the highest-spending major manufacturer.

Q: Why is that helpful?

MM: Because Formula One can only survive if a competitive commercial engine is available for any team which wants it. Without that you will only have a full grid as long as there are enough major car manufacturers able and willing to provide engines for all the teams.

Q: But we have seen in a recent press release that the manufacturers are willing to supply second teams?

MM: Without wishing to be unpleasant, one must remember that a group of well-known manufacturers promised to supply engines for ten million Euros (letter of 14 January 2003) and then failed to do so. A short time later they promised "affordable" engines if the FIA abandoned attempts to stop traction control. Again, they failed to deliver. In the end a manufacturer did supply engines (Toyota to Jordan), but was not one of the manufacturers which made the promises. Toyota did this as a gesture of goodwill to Formula One. They were not part of the group which made promises to the FIA and the independent teams but failed to keep them.

Q: That may be true of the past, but the newly-constituted manufacturers' group are now clearly serious?

MM: They undoubtedly mean well and probably intend to do as they say. But circumstances change, bosses come and go. There is a simple test. Ask the manufacturers to enter into a binding legal agreement jointly and severally to supply all the teams up to a maximum of 24 cars for the five years 2008 to 2012 inclusive. They will refuse for the same reason that led to the breakdown of their 2003 Memorandum of Understanding with FOM. They cannot take on the potential liability of a long-term commitment to supply engines or to participate in Formula One. Their boards will only allow them to commit for a year or two at a time, and even then only for one or two teams. It would be utter folly for the FIA to bet the future of the Formula One World Championship on the willingness of major manufacturers to provide unlimited cost engines to a full grid of cars for the foreseeable future.

Q: So what is your answer to this?

MM: We have to find a way to accommodate major manufacturers when they come into Formula One without putting teams out of business when they leave. We very much want manufacturers in Formula One, but we must recognise that we cannot stop them leaving when they want to. This means we have to have commercially available engines which are competitive with those of a major manufacturer, even one which can spend 250 million dollars a year or more. We believe the 2006 engine regulations achieve this.

Q: Are you saying that if one of the top teams were to lose its engine supplier for 2006, it could go to, say, Cosworth or Mecachrome and get an engine capable of winning the 2006 Championship?

MM: Yes. This is fundamental to the future health and stability of Formula One. It would not be possible with the 2005 engine rules, or indeed any engine rule we have ever previously had for Formula One, but we are told it will be possible with the new engines from 2006.

Q: Are you against the possible manufacturers' series which might compete with Formula One from 2008?

MM: No. Part of our deal with the European Commission is that we should be fully prepared to accept and regulate a series in competition with Formula One.

Q: But some of the "rebels" say they don't want the FIA involved?

MM: In real life it would be impossible to run outside the current motor sport structure. There are innumerable reasons for this. Indeed it is precisely because of this impossibility that the European Commission insisted that we must be prepared to admit any new series into the structure, rival to Formula One or not, provided it meets the standard criteria for safety and fairness. I think it unlikely we will have two championships, because of the obvious commercial problems. But we cannot rule out the possibility of two series based on rival philosophies: unlimited technology and unlimited cost on the one hand versus technical constraints and cost-effectiveness on the other. One of these would soon gain the upper hand, but the after-effects of the initial rivalry would probably reduce the teams' income from race organisers and television for many years to come.

Q: So are you against GPWC or the new manufacturers' grouping?

MM: Absolutely not. They, and indeed the teams, are entitled to try to get more money from FOM or from anyone else. That is not our business. Nor is it our business if they fail or even end up with less than is currently on offer. They are also fully entitled to set up their own championship if they wish to. If they can agree on a realistic approach to technical rules, we might even adopt their ideas for the World Championship. The only thing we will not do is agree technical rules for the Formula One World Championship which might make it impossible for a top team to find a competitive engine were it to part company with its current supplier.

Q: What about the Formula One rules after 2008?

MM: We will agree these over the next few months with all the teams which commit to the 2008 Championship, and publish them before the end of this year as required by the Concorde Agreement.

Q: Finally, what's your reaction to Paul Stoddart as the Formula One shop steward?

MM: I think Paul is a bit too trusting, even naïve. One or two team principals who now pretend to be his best friends are the same individuals who tried to grab his Minardi money a couple of years ago. They were only stopped because the FIA insisted he should get what was due to him. They then said Paul had no place in Formula One. They are using him now, but will turn on him as soon as it suits them. Paul is doing the best he can, but in the end only the FIA protects the independent teams in Formula One.

Q: And what about his problems with his cars?

MM: Paul has known about the new bodywork regulations since 6 September 2004 -- in fact his team voted for them that day in common with all the other teams. We understand that he has the latest bodywork in Melbourne, even if he has not yet tested it fully. We also understand that at least three teams would object to him running outside the regulations (which it is also our job to enforce). If he decides not to run, we think it unlikely that the Melbourne organisers will seek compensation from him."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Paul Stoddart
Teams Ferrari , Minardi , Jordan