Force India and Sauber have brought a complaint about Formula One to the European Union’s Competition Commission.
The two teams allege Formula One is being unlawfully run in a way which favours rival teams Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, Williams and McLaren.
If the EU decides to take action, Formula One would face an investigation which could last several years. If it was found to have broken the law, possible punishments include a fine potentially totalling billions of pounds as well as changes to F1’s governance.
Are the teams right to get the EU involved?
The EU complaint has been lodged to “question the governance of Formula One and showing that the system of dividing revenues and determining how Formula One’s rules are set is both unfair and unlawful”.
Reports indicate last year the five favoured teams received 71% of F1’s revenues while the other half – including Force India and Sauber – shared 29%. This is not merely unfair it is also unhealthy for Formula One as it threatens to drive those teams out of business, leaving the sport with fewer competitors.
The collapse of HRT and Caterham and the financial plight of other teams shows this danger is real, and the fact that people’s jobs are on the line is why it is correct to get the EU involved.
Bernie Ecclestone has pointed out that the teams knew the terms which were being offered when they signed up to them. The more generous compensation given to the five teams reflects their history of competing in the sport and the commitments they have given to remain in Formula until at least 2020.
Formula One has always been an expensive sport and teams have always come and gone. The high cost of competing and low reward for finishing further down the classification acts as to deter less committed entries and ensures the grid is of a high quality.
It also bears pointing out that of the five teams arguably harmed by F1’s structure, only two have put their names to the complaint.
Ecclestone invariably dismisses calls for a fair distribution of revenue in Formula One as “communism” – as if Formula One was a country and not a sport.
Sport requires fair competition. This is not possible when certain teams are given a stronger say in how the rules are written while others are shut out of the process. Nor is it possible when Ecclestone’s same preferred teams are given huge bonuses just for showing up.
While only Force India and Sauber have so far put their names to the complaint, it seems likely they would also have the support of Lotus if their financial problems were not so pressing that their team members were only able to eat at Suzuka because of a hand-out from Ecclestone.
Another of Ecclestone’s favourite phrases is about not wanting teams who come to him with “begging bowls”. But the way he has set the sport up invites those who aren’t his favourites to pump tens of millions more into their teams merely the achieve spending parity with the likes of Ferrari.
If the EU can change that – or act as a lever to bring Ecclestone to the negotiating table, then the complaint can be a good thing. However this is likely to be as far away from a quick and easy fix as it is possible to get: once the cogs of the EU’s vast bureaucracy begin moving it is hard to predict when it might stop and what the consequences might be.
Do you want to see the complaint against F1 succeed? Is a complaint to the EU the best way for Force India and Sauber to instigate change? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.
Do you support Force India and Sauber's complaint to the EU about F1?
- Support strongly (74%)
- Support slightly (15%)
- Neither support nor oppose (4%)
- Oppose slightly (3%)
- Oppose strongly (4%)
- No opinion (1%)
Total Voters: 466
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