The FIA fires another salvo

The FIA has issued a statement reacting to the press release earlier today from BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Honda, Renault and Toyota. The FIA says that it will continue rigorously to enforce the rules of Formula 1 and will continue to have an International Court of Appeal. The remarks in recent days from throughout the F1 world and in the media have clearly stung the court and it now wants to convince people that the perceptions are wrong and that the judicial process is independent and fair. This website has been approached by the Secretariat of the Court of Appeal to give details about reforms that have been made to the court in recent years and we are happy to report on these as soon as we get the details. There have been some changes to the system which are positive although, rightly or wrongly, these do not seem to have changed the perception in F1 circles.

Today's FIA statement is slightly worrying in that there is a very clear threat of sanction for anyone who questions the integrity of the court.

"No manufacturer, however large, will be allowed a concealed or unfair advantage," the FIA statement says. "Those unable or unwilling to accept this have no place in Formula 1. They should also understand that any sport is likely to impose further sanctions on a competitor which attacks the integrity of the governing body when caught breaking the rules. Statements attributed to the management of BAR Honda are currently under investigation in the light of the team's obligation to do nothing "prejudicial to the image and dignity of Formula 1 racing" or "prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally".

We can find no reference to the first "obligation" in the FIA Statutes, the International Sporting Code or the F1 Sporting Regulations, so we must assume that this is part of the secret Concorde Agreement. The clause about prejudicial behaviour is to be found in Article 151c of the International Sporting Code. In addition there are other rules which might be used but are probably not as easy to achieve a result.

Article 27 of the FIA Statutes states that "the World Motor Sport Council may directly impose the sanctions provided for in the International Sporting Code, may impose fines on or demand the exclusion from FIA bodies or international sporting events of licence holders "who have pursued an objective contrary or opposed to those of the FIA", or "who by words, deeds or writings have inflicted moral injury and loss on the FIA".

Any such sanction is subject to appeal to the International Court of Appeal.

Article 47 on the F1 Sporting Regulations might also be used as it states that "if in the opinion of the Formula 1 Commission a competitor fails to operate his team in a manner compatible with the standards of the Championship or in any way brings the Championship into disrepute, the FIA may exclude such competitor from the Championship forthwith."

That however would require a vote in the F1 Commission which would mean bringing promoters from all over the world, something which FIA President Max Mosley is loathe to do at the moment.

In all of these cases, however, there is still the right to an appeal in a civil court. Article 191bis of the International Sporting Code is a new rule which the FIA agreed to have as part of its settlement with the European Union. It states that "for the avoidance of doubt, nothing in the Code shall prevent any party from pursuing any right of action which it may have before any Court or Tribunal, subject always to any obligations it may have accepted elsewhere first to pursue other remedies or alternative dispute resolution mechanisms".

This obviously hints at the arrangements within the Concorde Agreement and notably Article 17 which deals with law and dispute settlement and states that disputes should be settled under the Rules of Conciliation and Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in Lausanne. However as this takes a long time there is always the proviso (as Paul Stoddart showed in Australia) that things can be speeded up with injunctions in a suitable court.

As we suggested on Friday the conflict seems to be moving into a new phase and eventually there is going to be another showdown. That may be in the FIA court and then perhaps afterwards in a civil court. While this will do the sport no good in the short term, it is now important that everything that has been going on in recent months comes out and the air is cleared between the various parties.

Given the levels of mistrust we think that a showdown is now essential to clear the air and decide whether the future is in retaining the current systems (which the FIA wants) or creating something new (if there is a good reason for that to happen). We also think it would be a good idea for the FIA to go back to court in Australia and get a ruling from the court there if it is not happy with what happened in March in Melbourne.

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