FEBRUARY 9, 2005
Time to go to court?
While most people are watching Formula 1 cars testing down in Spain, there is an important exchange of views going on between Paul Stoddart and Max Mosley over the way in which the FIA has been making rules in recent months. Stoddart, who is clearly representing the other teams in this matter, is taking Mosley to task over many small details which the teams believe the FIA has chosen to ignore in its desire to get what it wants. Mosley brushed off Stoddart's first letter but now appears to have realised that it is better to try to answer the issues raised. Sadly he is unable to stop himself taking a dig at Stoddart by saying that the Minardi F1 boss is "extremely fortunate to have time for this". Stoddart clearly does not have time to do what he is doing but is doing it because he believes it is necessary in the best interests of the sport. Mosley also describes Stoddart's letter as being written in "slightly pompous legalese", a description which is at best unnecessary. Mosley has always had a tendency to mock those who dare to question him, not least with his much-reported remarks about F1 team bosses last summer.
This will not help his cause.
Mosley declares in his letter that it is "nonsense" to say that the rules for 2005 have no legal basis. "They have been implemented", he adds. This may be the case but that does not mean that they cannot be challenged at a later date if they feel it becomes necessary to do so. That could cause considerable upset in the sport.
The Mosley letter goes on to detail, in highly-complex form, why he is correct and the Formula 1 teams and their advisors are wrong. The legalese involved in all of this is such that it is virtually unintelligible to the man on the street unless he has a legal advisor present and a copy of the Concorde Agreement (which, of course, is unobtainable). It serves no purpose for observers to try to pronounce on who is right and who is wrong because we are not in possession of all the facts. The only sensible way to solve the problem is for the parties involved to go to court and establish what the law has to say about what has happened. That would be a very lengthy business which would be very disruptive because the legal status of the 2005 World Championship would be threatened. Mosley seems to believe that teams should just stop annoying him and accept his views but it is clear that they do not believe him to be correct and are not going to stop questioning what has happened.
What is interesting in the letter is that Mosley suggests that "cost reduction may now be abandoned in F1 unless or until there is a financial crisis in F1 of the kind which seemed imminent last autumn". This will solve the problem of fighting more battles with the teams (although most want some form of cost-cutting) but will not extricate the FIA President from the disputes about what has already been done.
Mosley ends the letter with the declaration that "I have not got time to continue this correspondence which must now be considered closed."
It is highly unlikely that this declaration will be satisfactory for the F1 teams and we suspect that the issue is far from being closed.
Although reading all the documents involved in hard going, we continue to welcome the FIA's new policy of transparency. Freedom of information is, however, only going to be effective if the FIA publishes ALL the documentation relating to the ongoing battles, to avoid claims that the federation is only supplying selective documents.
One document which is important which has not been made public is a letter from the teams on January 27 which states that they believe that the FIA does not have any claim to be "free to implement change" in relation to the technical and sporting regulations to take effect from 2008. In this letter the teams "respectfully remind" the FIA of its obligations to the Concorde Agreement which apparently states that changes proposed during the term of the Concorde Agreement "irrespective of whether they are proposed to be implemented during or only after the expiration of that term" must go through the Formula 1 Commission and that the commission is "the sole authority during the term of the Concorde Agreement to approve any such changes".
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