In the history of Formula 1, disputes between the International Federation and the holder of commercial rights periodically erupt. The coexistence of two power centers is never easy, but over the years there have been long periods of peaceful coexistence, without moments of tension and with good cooperation.
Since last December 17, the presidency of the International Automobile Federation passed to Mohammed bin Sulayem, and Formula 1 had to face some thorny problems, starting with the “Michael Massey” case, which was raised without controversy, but since last spring between the International Federation and Liberty Media I started to feel some tension.
In some cases, the positions taken by the FIA president were clear, and on other occasions there was a kind of malevolence which, although not of great substance, reasserts an essential aspect.
Bin Sulayem’s position indicates the desire to draw a very precise boundary between the powers of the FIA and those of the holder of commercial rights, an intention that appears even in situations of secondary importance.
An example of this is, yesterday, when the FIA issued a press release containing the calendar of the Formula 1 World Championship 2023.
Tradition has long held that Liberty Media and the FIA send a joint press release, because if it is officially correct to consider the approval of the calendar an area of competence of the FIA, it is also true that the wording of this is the result of a long work carried out and concluded by Liberty Media, which deals with negotiation and conclude negotiations with the promoters of each major prize.
Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1, with George Russell, Mercedes-AMG
Photography: Steve Etherington / motorsports pictures
The FIA on this occasion did not notify Liberty Media to send the calendar, and in the London offices, staff under the supervision of Stefano Domenicali learned of the ratification without any notice.
Bin Sulayem also wanted to define the region with a very vague announcement, (“Adding new races and maintaining traditional events confirms the strong management of the sport by the FIA”) crediting the work already done by Liberty.
The International Federation (through the World Council) has the last word on approval (or disapproval) of the calendar, but in fact in recent years the World Council has looked more like a stamp office than a body able to enter into merits from issues by exercising its veto power. own it.
Photography: Renee Earhardt
Something is changing, and not necessarily a downside if the FIA’s institutional strength serves as a guarantee of what the sport’s core values are.
So far, however, strange situations have been taken, from the controversy over the jewels worn by drivers, to the entry into force of the TD39 directive without going through the Formula 1 commission, to the indifference to a safety alert set off in Miami by Sainz and Ocon for the barriers in turn. 14, even refusing to increase the Sprint Race, an enthusiastic decision with a possible increase in costs borne by the FIA itself.
The international federation wants to define the territory, but above all demands a greater share of the financial revenue that Liberty Media derives from the sale of commercial rights. The FIA on the economic front is not sailing in calm waters, the balance sheets are in deficit, and this aspect may not be in Ben Sulayem’s favour.
However, it is also true that without the contributions that Formula 1 guarantees every year, at the Place de la Concorde, they run the risk of not having the funds for the Federation’s very survival, so it’s a delicate game.
What Formula 1 is complaining about (in this case not just Liberty Media, but a large part of the track), however, is a lack of competence in some contexts on the part of the FIA men. In addition to the management of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the latter case is the conclusion of the Monza race, officially correct (it is right to emphasize this) but in any case conditioned on impeccable management by the FIA men.
The desire to bypass the Formula 1 commission in the “TD39” issue was not handled well by most teams, as was the “tie” introduced in Canada by bypassing the World Board in this case.
In addition, there is also an important aspect, which is related to the budget cap monitoring system, which according to some insiders working in different teams at the moment appears to be flawed.
The impression is that the game will continue, perhaps without swords but with metal bullets. To be impregnable, the IF must be able to ensure impeccable management in its role.
It is right for the FIA to do the work of the FIA, it is essential that the sport not only remain in the hands of those involved in the business, but a competent and experienced working group is also needed to protect itself from criticism and resentment. History says the FIA did well in times when the FIA men seemed almost transparent to the system. When he’s in the spotlight, it’s usually not a good sign.