SEPTEMBER 2, 1996
Political gains and losses
IN the days following the Belgian GP there has been much talk about who has gained from the political upheavals surrounding the new Concorde Agreement - and who is going to lose out.
The outcome is, of course, far from decided although one thing is very clear. The F1 teams are all losers in that the FIA has gained more control of the sport than was previously the case.
This may not seem to be the obvious outcome, but with the big teams such as McLaren and Williams currently outside the system they will have to make considerable concessions if they wish to rejoin. And when they do, their political clout will be dented.
One can argue that Benetton has gained - at least that is the image that Flavio Briatore has been busy promoting in recent days - but the reality is that he has gained little.
McLaren and Williams will agree to sign the agreement. To do otherwise would be an act of suicidal folly. Williams will probably be the first to come crawling back and, while some teams might say loudly that they will never agree to let the rebels rejoin the party, they will do what they are told to by Bernie Ecclestone. With the current political situation in F1 it is not wise to disobey Bernie.
The measurement of power in F1 can only be judged by the FIA F1 Commission, the most powerful body in the sport. It decides on the development of F1 and its recommendations are then forwarded to the FIA World Council which can either agree or disagree with the changes - it cannot change them. Before the current crisis the F1 Commission consisted of four promoters, two sponsors, the FIA President and the six "team bosses" - including Ecclestone, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, Jean Todt, Giancarlo Minardi and Flavio Briatore. The new body - based on today's championship situation - would be the same except that Minardi is replaced by Eddie Jordan and Ecclestone is no longer with the teams. He is certain to stay on the F1 Commission and will, no doubt, represent the FIA instead.
Where the FIA has gained is that rules can now be changed with fewer difficulties than in the past, while the FIA can still block changes from the teams which it does not want to happen.
Before the changes, revising the rules was difficult because every competitor had to agree before the matter went to the F1 Commission. That agreement has now been reduced to 80%.