Honda website
Honda website

JANUARY 15, 2003

What does it all mean?

Having spent years trying to make the Formula 1 teams agree with one another, the FIA has finally grabbed the initiative to force the teams to accept cost-cutting changes to save the smaller teams from extinction. Such moves have always been blocked up to now by the powerful big teams which want to maintain their advantage over the smaller operations by refusing to cut costs.

The FIA is very aware that if one more team drops out of F1 teams will be in breach of the Concorde Agreement and will then have to make up the numbers by supplying additional cars. The problem is that there does not seem to be a procedure for choosing which teams must run the third cars and according to the current regulations only two are officially entered in the World Championship and can score points so there is little advantage or incentive to run an extra car.

The logical way to organize who will run a third car would be by a system of ballot although there are problems associated with this because some teams are utterly opposed to running third cars. It is rumored that at least one team has said that it will withdraw from the sport if forced to run three cars, a situation which would add to the teams' problems.

The only way that the federation had to get around the problem was to revise the interpretation of the existing set of regulations rather than trying to change the rules. This was possible because many of the rules are worded loosely enough to be interpreted differently. The most obvious example of this is Article 62 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations which states that "the driver must drive the car alone and unaided". A different interpretation of this rule now results in the banning of most of the electronic systems now being used.

The only way in which a change of interpretation can be challenged by the teams is by going to arbitration. The FIA Sporting Regulations are treated as a part of the Concorde Agreement and thus are governed by Article 17.3 of that contract which states that all disputes arising "shall be finally settled under the Rules of Conciliation and Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce" in Lausanne, Switzerland. This is a process which will takes several months and is likely to cost any protester a huge amount of money as it is an expensive business.

There is also no guarantee that any challenge would be successful as the FIA has only applied the existing rules. This is, of course, open to interpretation by lawyers.