Honda website
Honda website

FEBRUARY 20, 2003

What does it all mean?

The news that Williams and McLaren are going to take the FIA to arbitration over the federation's decision to re-interpret its rules and change a number of procedures in Grand Prix racing is not altogether unexpected as both teams have clearly indicated that they are not happy with the way the change was introduced and by the issue of safety with the new interpretation of the rules.

The decision to use safety as an argument is a dangerous one because by declaring the regulations to be dangerous but still running their cars despite this leaves both teams open to attack from the FIA. Back in 1994 Flavio Briatore, who was then boss of Benetton, said that because of rule changes brought in after the death of Ayrton Senna he could not guarantee the safety of the Mild Seven Benetton Fords. The FIA cited Article 7 of the Sporting Regulations which states that "competitors must ensure that their cars comply with the conditions of eligibility and safety throughout practice and the race" and threw the team out of the race and Briatore had to back down.

But there are underlying issues as well as both Ron Dennis and Frank Williams spoke of the need to redistribute the money raised by the sport. Dennis indicated that at the moment the teams get only 23% of the entire revenue generated by Formula 1.

There is also the issue of what Formula 1 stands for. Dennis spoke of the sport being "dumbed down" by the revised rules while Williams said that he believes the changes are "against the spirit of F1".

The big issue is whether the teams have the support of some of the other F1 organisations and although this was implied there is little evidence that we have found to back up this assertion. Most of the other teams have come out in favour of the rule changes although one or two have complained about the way in which the change was made. Peter Sauber said that the teams had been "almost raped" by the way in which Mosley had introduced the change but did concede that it was probably the only way in which anything was going to be achieved.

In the overall scheme of things the decision to go to arbitration will have real effect for probably a year. It will however not help the relationship between the big players in the sport at a time when it would have been wiser for everyone to work together towards a common goal. this however seems to be impossible.