Honda website
Honda website

JANUARY 27, 2005

A very significant document

The Formula 1 manufacturers (with the exception of Ferrari) has announced that they are unanimous on agreeing to a set of governing principles which they believe represent an appropriate framework for the sport in the future. The companies involved are BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Toyota. Together they supply engines to six of the current teams. Toyota and Honda have not joined the GPWC but they have made it very clear that they are going to have a voice in the future of the sport.

Ferrari's move of signing a new contract with the FIA and Formula One Management has not gone down well and this appears to have been the deciding factor in getting the two Japanese companies to align with the three GPWC members.

The five main objectives agreed upon by the manufacturers sound very similar to those of the GPWC: to keep Grand Prix racing at the pinnacle of the sport, to provide a basis of a long-term plan for the prosperity of grand prix motor racing and its stakeholders, to support and encourage the participation of independent teams through technical assistance and engine supply, to attract and excite and provide good value to fans and to be open, transparent and fair in commercial, technical and sporting governance. The detailed provisions listed include an agreement to have a fair and open system for rule determination that only allows changes to be made against objectively defined criteria; to have a readily accessible and swift appeals process administered by an internationally-recognised independent body; to provide a significantly greater and more equitable share of the total revenue generated by the sport to the participating teams; to ensure that all revenue related to the sport including circuit signage, race title sponsorship and fees for hosting Grands Prix are included in the division of funds; to expand the overall revenue coming into the sport through optimum exploitation of the various commercial rights; to ensure that all stakeholders deal with each other and conduct themselves with mutual respect and do not act to the detriment of the interests of the sport; to ensure access to the sport on free to air TV on a worldwide basis in order to reach the broadest possible audience; to provide better television coverage for the viewers and improve and expand the media technologies through which the sport is made available; to significantly improve the quality of the live TV feed and to expand the sport into new markets through increased TV coverage and different Grand Prix venues.

This document is clearly a message being sent to the other major players in the sport that it is time for a change and the proposals include implied criticism of all involved. The suggestion that there is a need for a fair and open system for rule determination implies that there is currently not one. The need to centralise the funding of the sport is clearly a message to Bernie Ecclestone and to Patrick McNally who exploits many of the commercial rights and pays Ecclestone a fee to do so. The suggestion that better television coverage is needed implies that the current quality is not good enough.

While the statement has a conciliatory tone, there is a clear message for the FIA and for FOM that things must change. The interesting thign now is to see what these two bodies will do about it. The wrong reaction may could have devastating effects on the sport. It is a time for sensible reflection rather than quick-fire responses.