Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014

Smaller teams query F1’s compliance with EU law

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Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014In the round-up: Four of F1’s smallest teams told the FIA in a letter they believe some aspects of the sport’s governance may not comply with EU law as it applies to sports.


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

Is the EU going to get involved in F1? (The Telegraph)

“The meeting called for [today] largely came about because four of the smaller teams – Marussia, Caterham, Sauber, and Force India – wrote a letter to [Jean] Todt in which they expressed their unhappiness at the abandoning of the cost cap. While it did not state that they will go knocking on the European Commission’s door, it did reference the legality of F1’s governance within the context of EU law.”

F1’s smaller teams want reassurance on cost cuts (Reuters)

Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley: “It was a unanimous agreement to introduce cost controls and a cost cap… the question that we have is how can something that’s unanimous across all teams and stakeholders be overruled by a strategy group? For us, that’s the crux of the matter.”

Revealed: F1’s new cost cut scheme (Autosport)

“The ideas that are up for discussion during Thursday’s meeting are: 2015 – Tyre blanket ban, fuel system simplification, brake duct simplification, front wing simplification, gearbox usage flow brought in line with engine life, increase in curfew, ban on front and rear interconnected suspension.”

Formula One race in Baku confirmed after deal officially signed (Inside the Games)

“‘We have signed the deal with Bernie Ecclestone and will announce it officially with an event in Baku shortly,’ said Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sports, who is also the chief executive of Baku 2015.”

David Brabham Blog: Imola 1994 (Brabham)

“I was asked in the evening if I wanted to race on the Sunday or not, the team and the FIA said it was my call. I had never experienced losing a team mate before, so I just didn’t know what to do. My mind was all over the place and I just couldn’t think clearly enough. For whatever reason, I suggested I do the warm up and see how it went and then make a decision.”

Ratzenberger ‘should have Imola tribute’ (BBC)

“Brabham believes [Roland] Ratzenberger should at least have a ‘simple plaque’ at the circuit to commemorate him.”

No More Formula One Modding Content on VirtualR (VirtualR)

“From now on, VirtualR will not be showcasing or hosting any modding content related to Formula One cars or F1-related content, all past postings featuring such content have been removed from VirtualR. […] As you have probably guessed correctly by now, this action is taken due request from the license owners (Formula One World Championship Limited). Needless to say, I can’t and won’t take any risks in this matter, so the above rule will be enforced with absolutely no exceptions.”

Roland Ratzenberger: Memories of a friend (Adam Cooper’s F1 Blog)

“Once we even discussed Austria’s appalling run of racing tragedies – Jochen Rindt, Helmuth Koinigg, Jo Gartner and the sadly forgotten F2 driver, Markus Hottinger. He was not impressed when I mispronounced the latter as ‘Hot,’ instead of something like ‘Hurt,’ with an umlaut. We didn’t know that a couple of years later he would join that sad list.”

Ayrton Senna: F1 photographer Keith Sutton recalls a remarkable journey (The Guardian)

“‘Bernie Ecclestone called,’ [F1 photographer Keith] Sutton says. ‘And he said: ‘I’ve been getting your press releases and I’d really like to speak to Ayrton and give him a test drive in the Brabham.’ I thought great, so I just put him in touch and then it all started.'”

The glorious majesty of Imola (McLaren)

“So, yes, Imola will always be associated with Ayrton’s death, and understandably so, but for me it will also always be associated with the beginning of the European season, with Italy in the spring, with Ferrari, with McLaren, and with the beauty and majesty of the sport of Formula One being played out on a wonderful racetrack that I may never visit again but I will for ever cherish having seen at its glorious best.”

Nico Rosberg via Facebook

“Twenty years since the tragic events in [Imola] of Ratzenberger and Senna. I was sitting in the kitchen in Monaco with my mum and my cousin and we were listening to the radio long into the afternoon and evening for news on his condition. As a result of these terrible accidents our sport has been made so much safer over the years and several more deaths have been avoided since. Let´s never stop to improve safety.”


Comment of the day

A memory of Ratzenberger from @Magnificent-Geoffrey:

What I’ll always remember about Roland Ratzenberger was the story Heinz-Harald Frentzen recalled about when they went to a Japanese nightclub during their time racing in the Japanese Touring Car Championship.

They were in the club when Ratzenberger apparently spotted or heard a young woman in distress. The woman was being assaulted by a male attacker wielding a knife. Roland confronted the man with no regard for his own personal safety and was able to see him off before helping his victim to safety.

Ratzenberger really was a hero. It’s a terrible tragedy that his life and career were cut so brutally short.

From the forum

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Ivan and Ivan!

If you want a birthday shout-out tell us when yours is by emailling me, using Twitter or adding to the list here.

On this day in F1

No one reading this is likely to need reminding that today is the twentieth anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna.

On a more cheerful note, today was also the day which saw Senna’s first race victory after moving to McLaren, which he scored at the same circuit in 1988:

Image © Caterham/LAT

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  • 38 comments on “Smaller teams query F1’s compliance with EU law”

    1. So long as they don’t use the layout used by the Blancpain GT Series, a race in Baku could be interesting. I get the feeling it’ll flounder somewhat though, and be dropped a few years later.

      1. that’s 22 races providing that New Jersey doesn’t make the cut for the calendar. I would love to see all of those races, but I would put Baku as the finale of 2015 calendar. I hear 2016 or 2015 will be the start of the European Baku Grand Prix. where is Cape Town or even Morocco? Argentina has had success last weekend with MotoGP and its eager to return to the calendar.

    2. Unfortunately Ratzenberger’s death is often overlooked by Senna’s. I couldn’t agree more with Brabham’s in that they should put a plaque with Ratzenberger’s name on it. If anything the plaque should be next to Senna’s. We lost two great drivers that weekend, one no more important than the other and their achievements and bravery for putting their lives on the line for a sport is something that should be commemorated and honored.

      1. +1. His journey was truly amazing.

      2. Although Ratzenberger should certainly be remembered as one of the last drivers to have died, that he is remembered at all is nice- there are many drivers of his calibre who died earlier whose names I can’t recall and probably wouldn’t even recognise.

        But certainly, I was amazed to hear that there wasn’t a plaque already.

      3. I think it would be a nice gesture for all tracks to commemorate the people that have lost their lives there. Maybe it wouldn’t be too great PR-wise though.

        1. Zandvoort only recently made a monument for Roger Williamson. No mention of other drivers who died there.

          Not to mention, I don’t think many people will want to sit at Eau Rouge if it reads ‘RIP Stefan Bellof’. Tracks could have some plaque somewhere, but perhaps rather a general sign, as tracks such as the Nordschleife, Monza or even Zandvoort would have a rather morbidly long list were they to name names..

          1. For me, commemorating the people that lost their lives in a grand prix, driver or no driver, is the least we can do for them.

            These people, put their lives at risk for our own entertainment every two or so weeks. Sure, they enjoy what they do, they do it on their own will and as far as drivers are concerned, some of them make more money in a single race than most of us will ever dream of earning in a single year.

            The fact remains though that F1 (although regarded as the pinnacle of motorsports) is still a sport, an entertainment for our weekends. If someone lost his life, I would like to be commemorated. Yes we might feel a bit uncomfortable seeing how many lives a circuit has claimed but I feel it is our moral obligation to remember them. A simple commemoration should stand as a reminder of the risk involved in our beloved sport and a token of appreciation.

            After all, these people were someone’s family before they were athletes or support staff. I’m quoting @f1freek as I couldn’t have said it better:

            We lost two great drivers that weekend, one no more important than the other and their achievements and bravery for putting their lives on the line for a sport is something that should be commemorated and honored.

    3. I’m not entirely sure how they could phrase the EU Law situation. The FIA or FOM are not signed up to the EU, and the sport takes place both inside and outside the EU member states. To apply EU law to the entirety of the championship seems a bit unlikely.

      Having said that, I am completely on-side with the smaller teams about the needs for cost control. It’s possible that over the next few years we could see the F1 grid finally swell to it’s maximum size, I don’t want to see that opportunity slip away again due to cost issues…

      1. Any anti-competitive practice that takes place in whole or in part within the EU, whether by a company based in the EU or outside of it, is subject to EU competition law and may be investigated by the European Commission. This is how companies like IBM and Microsoft, which operate globally, and aren’t based in the EU can be fined by the Commission.

      2. It seems like EU intervention is inevitable so there is no reason to cave to the small teams. They knew what they were getting into as F1 has been a spend fest for decades so it’s unreasonable for them to expect that the big spenders would suddenly agree to cut back. I agree that rather than just complaining about it, the small teams should bring some constructive ideas to the table. Ultimately racing success is often directly linked to spending even in a spec series, so getting everyone competing with the same budget is never going to happen.

    4. Wait, so a website was banned from posting 3D renders of F1 cars? By the FOM?

      I hope people with 3D printers who are planning in printing F1 model cars are ready for FOM lawyers. Or old Grand Prix 4 modding sites. You know what? I better delete those car shapes I have for Grand Prix 2 off my computer, before Bernie gets me.

      This is mad. It’d make sense if a team was against the 3D recreation of a current car in a sense where it could hurt their advantage. Heck, brands like Minichamps and Hot Wheels buy their rights from the teams. The FOM somehow having the right for 3D visual reproductions of F1 cars is mad. Why on earth start now, too? Games like rFactor, Grand Prix 4, GRID and what not have had mods for years.

      Sorry for rambling, but as someone rather involved in Grand Prix 2 modding at some point, I’m just perplexed.

      1. They really go for every penny, don’t they?

      2. I assume their thought process is if people can’t drive a modded version then they have to buy the official game, just like if people can’t watch F1 videos on youtube they have to watch it on TV/buy the season review.

        I find it somewhat pathetic, and as a consumer the lack of competition can only be a bad thing.

        1. It’s weird though, because not every season has an official F1 game (the barren days of 2007 and 2008, plus the limited Playstation releases of 2003-2006, barely recognizable games before 1995) and official F1 games take ages to get released (heck, I’ve played 2010 mods for Grand Prix 4 before Codemasters even announced a release date for F1 2010) and this practice has been going on for ever. I really don’t understand why now, why this site (I can name 2 websites that probably have a lot more ‘copyrighted’ 3D models on their site) or why even bother?

          This ordeal just sets a terrible precedent…

        2. @george

          No one will act that way. They will simply play the game they prefer. I haven’t played any F1 game for over a year now.

          I was a huge fan of Geoff Crammond’s series and was doing some modding for it, but I haven’t played that game probably for some 7 years at least. I don’t really remember when I last played it, but I don’t think I played it anything near the release of the F1 2010.
          So, I simply didn’t play any game when I didn’t find it that thrilling any more.

          When I got F1 2010 somewhere during year 2011, I was very disappointed. I played for a few seasons in a span of some year and a half and that was that. I kept being disappointed by the superficiality of it. I kept feeling like I’m playing some game in the arcades that you pretty much just sit down, play, and turn off. There was no depth in the menus, not control over cameras and similar during the race. It felt like it was all style over substance.

          So since the game is not good enough for me, I just don’t play any F1 games at the moment. Codemasters obviously offers every season a new game, but I’m just not interested.

          So the conclusion is, it has nothing to do with modding or having current cars. If the game is not entertaining, it won’t be played/purchased, no matter how current it is and how much they try adding irrelevant nonsense like realistic driver’s faces and gimmicks like that.

      3. As a graphic designer and an amateur 3D modeler, I find this utterly infuriating. One of the main things that got me playing GP4 for so long was modding. Making competition for the official game is not a point. Nobody does modding for that. It’s sheer enthusiasm. I made all kinds of cars, fantasy, real everything. I don’t even think they have a right to forbid someone from doing that as long as they are not making money of it. These are, to make a music analogy, like covers people do of the songs for their own pleasure, not releasing it for sale or something like that.

        This is basically fan art and I’ve never seen a company stupid enough to ban fan art. I mean, it’s free advertizing, plus even the one who is giving you free advertizing isn’t even making some other money from it. People are just sharing. I remember making classic 1992 Ferrari livery on their 2004 model and stuff like that, just for pure pleasure. I made my own livery for BAR 2001 shape and raced it as my own team in the championship.

        These new games with trend towards console simplification are so disappointingly superficial.

        Seems like Bernie truly wants people to get fed up and start hating F1 before he gets thrown in prison, so that no one else gets to benefit from its popularity.
        I mean, I can’t see any other reason to ban modding community. It’s just beyond ridiculous. It’s not about money it’s about inspiring people to get creatively involved in F1, beyond being just an observers and spectators.

        Heck, I even included in my portfolio a 1998 X-wing Prost that I made with one other member of the forum, all the way back in 2004 or 2005. I made the textures and he made the model and it looks awesome.

        I honestly think that FOM has no ground on which to ban modding community since they are:
        1. not making any money of it (not doing it for the commercial purposes)
        2. are not in competition with anyone affiliated to F1. I don’t understand how it could hurt F1 games. It can only get even more people interested. Each time new F1 game comes out, everyone will just want to start modding that one since it will probably be better than the older one, so it’s a win-win situation.

        1. @npf1 forgot to address you for the comment above :)

        2. Exactly. I can understand if they were going after paid mods (I know some people who modded Grand Prix 2 early on tried to challenge people selling their mods for a couple of bucks) but this seems to be a rather general ban. I don’t see how downloading a free mod for an old game is unfair competition to Codemasters’ games, either.

          @tribaltalker Are 3D models of F1 cars really intellectual property of FOM, though? I’d imagine the designs are property of the teams (as I said in my original post, that’s where model car manufacturers get their rights) rather than the FOM. If the FOM somehow wants to protect their right to reproduce 3D renders of F1 cars, they should be much clearer in that assertion.

          Sadly, the FOM cares as much about transparency as they care about people having fun with F1.

        3. It is not as if Formula 1 is the only party that takes that attitude towards their intellectual property though – Porsche is notoriously aggressive towards mod makers for racing sims, to the point where they did actually file a lawsuit against one modding group that was making a mod based on the Carrera Cup series.

          Part of it does seem to come down to the issue that most nations require companies to actively enforce their rights to their intellectual property, otherwise those rights are diminished or even revoked if the term is thought to be in common usage. However, that is only a partial explanation for the zealotry with which the right to Formula 1’s trademarks are enforced with…

          1. I think you’re confusing brand names with copyright. Brand names can suffer from dilution but copyright can’t, as I understand it.

      4. Commercial entities have to defend their intellectual property (IP) robustly or it sets a precedent – then their grip on the monetisation process slips and shareholder hell breaks loose.
        Of course the cost in defending IP is bad publicity, if done clumsily. In this case, perhaps older cars designs could have been placed in the public domain. That would have softened the blow.

        1. Given that the official game is using historic cars since this year, and its not inconceivable that they will be introducing more of that for the future, I don’t think there is much chance of anything being released for use outside of those games @tribaltalker

      5. As much as an ad this post looks like: http://www.fsf.org/ seems to be rather related…

    5. To be honest considering the unique characteristics of Formula 1, I don’t readily see how a case can be made that how F1 is run is anti-competitive. Regarding the cut of the profits I expect such defences could be made that it’s prize money and therefore isn’t applicable. Further to this any decision by the Commission would almost certainly go before the EU judiciary, and any ruling there could have massive consequences for how sporting operations are run throughout the EU (consider that a ruling about revenues and teams in F1 could affect how such revenues are distributed in soccer).

      It has the potential to be a minefield, and considering the Commission’s limited resources this may not be a fight it’s willing to take on considering its limited impact compared to other anti-competitive practices affecting larger markets. The last probe by the Commission was quite different in that the complaint made was regarding F1’s restrictions on other companies from how they did business. This is a bit different from going after prize money or profit distribution.

      1. I believe they are querying the legality of the governance not profit distribution. They would say that the 5 teams that form the permanent members of the f1 strategy group have an unfair advantage in being able to dictate the rules to the smaller teams. I.e they argue that the richest teams have vetoed the cost cap plan so they can continue to win through higher expenditure

    6. I never thought I could get so emotional after 20 odd years. Senna was the man when I started watching F1, but my first F1 hero Nigel Mansel and when he left I jumped to Schumacher and I was the only person backing Schumi in my house, where my dad and brothers were big Senna fans and I clearly remember that day when my older brother and me started crying when they confirmed Senna’s death. I had lost my grand mother 3 years before but I did not understood the meaning of eternal loss then; however seeing my brother crying for his hero tears started coming down my eyes because the idea of loss was becoming clearer to me in that moment.

      In May 1st 1994 I was 9 years,10 months and 2 weeks old. I will never forget.

      Rest in peace Roland Ratzenberger. Rest in peace Ayrton Senna da Silva.

    7. Besides knowing that he died a day before Senna, I hadn´t heard much about Ratzenberger. But to be honest that article by Cooper didn´t shed to much of a positive light onto him. If a guy goes after my girl, I´ll rip his head off. If he is a colleague of mine even worse. Cooper goes into detail of anecdotes that don´t have anything to do with racing, but that show a guy that I would not stand. Why remember a guy under that light? I think the article should have focused more on the positives of Ratzenberger, those that he only hints at…
      RIP Senna, RIP Ratzenberger…

    8. That COTD put a smile on my face :)

      Also, if you haven’t already, David Brabham’s piece about Roland Ratzenberger is really worth reading.

      1. Nick Wirth’s memories (Racer) are gut-wrenching too, but well worth reading before the deluge of Senna stuff.

    9. The way I see it, sporting and technical regulations listed in the agenda for the May 1st meeting are simply not substantial enough to make any meaningful reduction in costs. Sure, there will a slight reduction perhaps a couple of hundred thousand pounds. But in F1 scale, that is laughable. What is two hundred thousand compared to 300 million? Regulations that would limit spending by several millions makes more sense to me rather than implementing cheap marketing ploys like banning tyre blankets or using less expensive paint thinners and such silly regulations
      Also, with technical regulations, richer teams can simply hire more engineers and use even more resources to find ways to get around the regulation. So, you save a few thousand on the design and implementation, but spend an few extra millions for the resources.
      On the other hand, a cost cap will put an absolute limit on the spending. No more throwing away millions to buy your way out of trouble. It would make the teams spend more wisely and on actual innovations that makes a difference rather than follow every nutty possibility that would crop up on a computer screen.
      The FIA is showing off the green era. Why not make the finances green too.. That’s what really counts.

      1. To be honest, it feels pretty bad when rules are made that “do not go against the biggest teams” as Wolff mentions. IMO that is a clear statement of favouring the big teams, and upsetting the sporting competition in their advantage.

    10. Was Senna’s death the best possible result of the Imola accident in 1994? I know that’s a controversial thing to say but I am sure that in his mind death was preferable to a carrier ending injury that forced him to stop racing, ironically something that happened to Karl Wendlinger at the very next race in Monaco.
      There had been crashes at Tamburello corner before i.e. Gerhard Berger crashing and car bursting into flames also showed how vulnerable the drivers were in the right circumstances but nothing was/ could be done showed how urgently this change was needed.
      The fact that one of the greatest Formula one drivers of all time could have a fatal accident yet have no visible signs of injury i.e. bruises etc shows just how vulnerable the drivers were, so can only have encouraged the feeling amongst the whole F1 paddock and fans that something needed to be done to improve safety.
      Roland Ratzenberger accident was indeed a tragedy for everyone who knew him and Formula one in general but he was in his rookie season in an uncompetitive car so possible could have been gradually forgotten for example the last driver death during a grand prix weekend was before him was in 1982 but few people can recall his name. (Riccardo Paletti)
      Even today 20 years after both accidents Senna has had a lasting impact at the circuit i.e. a statue and Brazilian flags but there isn’t even a Austrian flag for Ratzenberger So it’s important that he isn’t overlooked/ forgotten when mentioning the tragic weekend of Imola 94 as two drivers died that weekend not just one

    11. On the cost cap – the ideas mooted: Tyre blanket ban, fuel system simplification, brake duct simplification, front wing simplification, gearbox usage flow brought in line with engine life, increase in curfew, ban on front and rear interconnected suspension, maybe 18 inch wheels.

      All these measures are “more of the same” in terms of technical restriction, not financial restriction, and will only make the cars look more identical. What is needed is a spending cap, not a technical cap. We need less technical restriction – more innovation, only for less money. We want new ideas, not just mountains of cash thrown at problems.

      One thing that the FIA might look at is the possibility of a so-called claiming rule to enforce the spending cap. Under such a rule, a team would have the right to “claim” (i.e. purchase) the complete car of another team for a set price – say 50 million euros. There would thus be no advantage to spending a gazillion quid on your car if someone else can buy it for 50 million during the season. (Two cars = 100 million – the effective “cost cap”) A team should have the right to refuse to sell its car if it can demonstrate unequivocally that its total budget, for both cars, is less than 50 million. Teams found to be spending over the cap would face fines, loss of points, and/or exclusion from races.

      The way to enforce this is for all teams to agree to a system of forensic accounting run by an expert outside body. Probable cost: in the region of 500,000 euros per team. This would be about 0.5% of the operating budget of a top team. But as they already have to hire accountants anyway, the overall cost would be negligible, and perhaps even less than at present.

      1. yep, they restrict but there is no guarantee at all that is will bring the cost to compete down @rsp123. The Tyre blanket ban had already been agreed long ago, so its not even a change. Bringing in 18″ wheels won’t save any cost either, it might help bring Michelin in though, so that makes Todt happy (I understand that the active suspension idea is tied in with this change, because having less tyre flex means a big change in how the suspension has to be designed)

        The simplification of front wings, etc will mean standardizing the cars, something that rather goes against what most would like to see in F1.

    12. From the forum: Did the right drivers win the championship over the last two decades?


      Yes. Every year the championship was awarded to the driver with the biggest points haul. That’s how it works.

      1. We’re just having a bit of fun with ifs and buts. ;)

      2. I don’t think i used the phase “did the right drivers win” anywhere in that thread. I used the phrase ‘which driver deserved to win’, although in hindsight a better phrase would have been “who was the best driver in each season”.

        Also, it’s a forum – just trying to create a discussion, you have no obligation to contribute, or even read it.
        Also, why post here rather than in the thread?

        Apart from that, i agree with everything you’ve said ;)

    Comments are closed.