JUNE 12, 2000
Formula 1 and the FIA
THERE are rumors in Formula 1 circles that the forthcoming FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in Warsaw, Poland, on June 21 could produce some radical proposals for the future organization of Grand Prix racing. As the teams have yet to get down to talks to discuss technical changes, despite being urged to do so by Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, the changes are expected to be of an administrative nature and we have heard suggestions in recent days that the governing body may propose to give Bernie Ecclestone even more rights to the Formula 1 World Championship, beyond the existing commercial deals between the FIA and Ecclestone's Formula One Administration.
Such a deal could be very attractive to the FIA because it currently has to invest considerable sums of money in the organization of Formula 1 and has to keep a permanent staff of engineers, safety inspectors and administrative personnel. Handing over the running of the sport to Ecclestone would solve that problem. Ecclestone has the money and the facilities necessary to do the job and removing the FIA in all but name from the organization would make things more efficient and open the way for new growth.
In recent years the FIA President Max Mosley has been showing very little interest in the sport. He has been a rare visitor to Grands Prix in the last couple of years and seems to be more interested in using the FIA as a lobbying body to campaign for better road safety and more environmentally-friendly cars. In addition he has been masterminding a merger between the FIA and the international touring association, the AIT. A great deal of time and energy has been spent on the European New Car Assessment Program, which crash tests new cars and rates them. The intention is for this to become a global program in the years ahead. The recent deal between the FIA and Allianz over road safety research and development programs underlines Mosley's thinking at the moment.
A move by the FIA away from Formula 1 may also help to explain the rather mysterious announcement a month ago that the European Commission was postponing its investigation into the sport because of "innovative and constructive" new proposals from Mosley. The long-running battle with the European Commission over Formula 1 has become a thorn in Mosley's side and the creation of a competitive situation between FIA championships would be a neat way to sidestep the problem.
It is possible, therefore, that Mosley will propose to the World Council that it would be better if the FIA gave up its direct control over the various World Championships on a long-term leasing basis, while retaining the ownership and, perhaps, supplying the stewards and the FIA Court of Appeal as arbitrators in sporting disputes. This would increase the FIA's income while reducing its overhead and responsibilities.
It is worth noting that the FIA is worried that a major motor racing accident - such as the 1955 Le Mans disaster - could do irreparable damage to its image and affect its campaigning activities for road safety.
There are apparently no shortage of people interested in running different areas of the sport as what would be, in effect, sub-contractors. Bernie Ecclestone would be happy to get more control in Formula 1 while David Richards would do the same in rallying. The same could occur with touring cars, GT racing and trucks. This would help to create competition as each series would be in competition against the others, although F1 is so dominant that it is unlikely to be challenged.
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