MAY 15, 2006
Ruminations on democracy
When he was writing the rules for 2008 and beyond, FIA President Max Mosley said that he wanted all the Formula 1 teams to have an equal voice in decision-making. The result of this desire was a new body called the Sporting Working Group that would decide on rule changes with the majority winning the day. This was deemed to be a better system than having one party in a position to block change because the regulations insisted on unanimous agreement. Last week the Sporting Working Group had its first meeting and democratically voted to get rid of the engine homologation rules that Mosley has been pushing so hard for in recent years.
It was a vote of 8 teams to four. A democratic decision.
Now, however, Mosley has sent the teams a message saying that "the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship is a competition for cars with homologated engines" and adding that "in the absence of acceptable proposals for improvement to the homologation regulations, the existing rule of total homologation for three years will stand". Mosley has not asked the F1 Commission nor the World Motor Sport Council about this decision. He has simply decreed that the vote of the Sporting Working Group will be ignored.
The argument he puts forward for this is that: "by entering the championship, a team accepts the regulations as published and, equally importantly, is entitled to rely on them when deciding whether or not to enter. A major factor in deciding whether or not to enter is the cost of competing. No responsible governing body could agree to rule changes which increase the cost of competing once entries have been accepted."
The engine homologation rules are detailed in Appendix 6 of the 2008 FIA Sporting Regulations.
The argument that one could put forward against this is that by entering the championship, a team accepts the regulations as published and, equally importantly, is entitled to rely on them when deciding whether or not to enter. A major factor in deciding whether or not to enter is the method by which the sport is regulated. No responsible governing body could agree to rule changes that alter the methods of regulation once entries have been accepted.
The decision making processes are detailed in Appendix 5 of the 2008 FIA Sporting Regulations.
This clearly states that the rules can be changed using the Sporting Working Group with a simple majority vote.
In effect what Mosley is saying is Appendix 6 is binding but Appendix 5 is not. The justification for his action is that the World Council does not need to support his action because it has already voted to accept Appendix 6. That is true.
But by the same token the World Council has also voted to accept Appendix 5 and that vote must also be respected.
Teams that entered the World Championship accepted that there would be some form of engine homologation. They also accepted that those rules might be changed by a majority vote.
The FIA rule-making structure allows for the Formula 1 Commission and the FIA World Council to stop proposals made by the Sporting Working Group. The best way forward therefore would be to call a World Council meeting, appoint a new F1 Commission, and then go through the process of accepting or rejecting the SWC proposal. There are six weeks before the rules for 2008 must be set and that is plenty of time to go through these steps. In that way Mosley will avoid suggestions that he is over-stepping his power.
However, the use of FIA power is really only an issue if someone within the FIA stands up and challenges what Mosley has done.
If there are no questions asked then he will do as he pleases but he should not be surprised in that circumstance if people start asking whether the sport is being run along democratic lines.
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