OCTOBER 16, 2002
Who has the right to vote on the F1 Commission?
The big question in F1 circles for those who have not gone away on holiday after the last race of the season, is what will now happen at the meeting of the Formula 1 Commission on October 28. The FIA has proposed a series of ideas which it says are designed to improve the F1 show and cut costs. These have caused a lot of discontent as they raise important questions about the future of the sport. The FIA has suggested that drivers could switch from team to team in the course of a season. This is not thought to be a very serious suggestion and is impossible in practical terms. The second proposal is for cars to have weight added when they score points. This is also a radical idea in a sport which has always been against artificial ways to create a show.
There is plenty of opposition to the idea amongst the top teams but some of the smaller operations have given their support to Mosley. The big question is who will get a vote on October 28 - and which way will they vote. At the moment there are 10 operational F1 teams. Arrows has not been seen at a race for several weeks but (officially at least) would seem to still have some vague right to a vote on the F1 Commission. That would be decided by the chairman of the F1 Commission, which in theory at least is Bernie Ecclestone, although in practice Ecclestone traditionally hands over the job to Max Mosley of the FIA.
There is no question about Toyota. Despite having a team up and running and despite having scored points this year, Toyota does not get a vote.
There are some, notably McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who seems to be arguing that Minardi has no right to a vote because the team has not scored enough points in recent years. In the finest traditions of the Concorde Agreement there are no black and white answers to the question. And that means that if there is a dispute teams can go to the International Chamber of Commerce in Lausanne for a ruling. This takes months and costs a fortune.
The important point in all this is that the 12 votes which belong to the F1 teams go whichever way the majority of teams decide. Thus if there are nine teams, only five are needed to win control of the 12 votes. It is obviously in the interest of the big teams to ensure that the little teams do not disrupt things. If Arrows and Minardi are both deprived of their voting rights, there will be only eight teams left. In such a case if the vote is split four-four, the 12 votes will be split into six for a proposal and six against. In order to defeat a proposal eight votes are needed. The big teams can count on the two sponsors, the engine manufacturer and the tire manufacturer to vote with them and with four team votes that can create the necessary block. However, if there are nine teams and the split is five-four in favor of a proposal the 12 votes would go with the idea and it would pass.
At the moment the Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Sauber votes appear to be opposed to Mosley's ideas (Sauber's vote goes with Ferrari). The positions of Renault and Jaguar are uncertain. While it is felt that BAR, Jordan and Minardi would vote with Mosley. On the face of it this should be enough to block any radical proposals but already we hear that Jaguar has made it clear that it will not support any move which attacks Minardi (a Cosworth customer) and that could deprive the big teams of two votes (one for Jaguar and the other for Ford, which represents the engine manufacturers).
No doubt there are going to be other pressures from both sides in the days ahead to try to sway the action but there is no doubt that come what may there is going to be a cliffhanger of a vote on October 28.
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