Ferrari logo, 2016

Why Ferrari got its power to veto F1 rules changes

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FIA president Jean Todt has said Ferrari’s power to veto Formula One regulations will be up for discussion in negotiations over the team’s future commitment to F1.

Enzo Ferrari, 1988
Enzo Ferrari obtained the veto in the eighties
By then Ferrari will have held their controversial right for four decades. Todt shed light on the history of Ferrari’s veto in an interview in 2015, when he was asked if it was introduced during his tenure as Ferrari team principal.

“No, I think it was introduced around 1980 when the first Concorde Agreement was done,” Todt explained. “The reason why, something I heard, because I was to curious to know the story behind it when I joined Ferrari in 1993, and the story was simple.”

“Enzo Ferrari was the founder and felt that he was very isolated in Marenello compared to all the British teams, so he needed a protection. And in 1980 Ferrari was the only full car manufacturer*. He was facing private teams like Williams and Lotus and McLaren which were all using the same engine, the Ford Cosworth, so he got that in his discussion.”

“And then it is something over each negotiation of the [Concorde Agreement] was always taken into consideration and accepted.”

Ross Brawn, who joined Todt at Ferrari in 1997, said he was unaware of the existence of the veto for much of his time at the team.

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After Todt left Ferrari and was elected FIA president he said he was surprised to discover Bernie Ecclestone and other teams supported the veto power.

Maurizio Arrivabene, Sergio Marchionne, Ferrari, 2014
Poll: Should Ferrari have the power to veto F1 rules?
“When we arrived in 2013 and it was the first time that myself as president of the FIA was facing consideration of the veto right, I must say that I was very cautious because it is like having a gun and so, as president of the FIA, was I prepared to give that.”

“I was surprised because of course the commercial rights holder, Bernie, was in favour of Ferrari having the veto right and all the teams were in favour. So it would have been a bit strange that myself I would have been, and sometimes I get blamed to have a harmonious situation with everyone in the same direction, so of course I agreed to implement the veto right into the discussion of the renewal of the Concorde Agreement 2013-2020.”

“We check, we simply changed the wording of it to make it more precise. So you need to have a strong rationale to be able to exercise it.”

*In fact Renault and Alfa Romeo were also competing in F1 as full constructors at this time.

In his latest column for F1 Fanatic coming up later today, @DieterRencken will explain who really calls the shots when it comes to writing F1’s rules. Don’t miss it – get the latest from F1 Fanatic by following us on Twitter and joining us on Facebook.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “Why Ferrari got its power to veto F1 rules changes”

  1. Hm, interesting piece of background information filled in. IT does seem to make sense, at least from a Ferrari perspective and from the time period

    1. @bascb – quite true, in that context it makes eminent sense.

      That’s why it also makes sense that such rules (and grandfathering clauses) should be time-bound and re-evaluated periodically.

      1. To clarify – I can see how – in that time and context – it felt like the right thing to do.

        However, the FIA as the governing body should have reassured Ferrari that all rule making would be fair and balanced, and not give such a powerful tool to a team, and definitely not in secret.

        In today’s context, that would be equivalent to giving a team like Sauber a say in the prize money allocation for the top teams, instead of fixing the underlying problem.

        1. The rule was officially revealed in 2009. Turned out that every single team principal had long since known about it (which did not suit the FIA’s tactics at the time!)

      2. Indeed @phylyp a good rule should be re-evaluated after a given time. In this case, it should probably have been ditched in the 1990s IMO

    2. In every context it makes sense and you can verify it quite simple: ask every british fan who should win in Formula 1 and none will answer anything but: british teams or drivers. Since most teams were british, those team would had voted always against any other ideas, or help each other to win rather than playing it fair. Coulthard said something quite interesting during an interview last season, that Dennis asked both McLaren drivers to let the Williams drivers pass when they fought with Michael Schumacher which means that he was trying to interviene in a fight which is for sure not fair from any point of view. British people hate or dispise other nations who win, in every competitions and I don’t think this will ever change.

      1. @neogalaxy

        I’m guessing with the bias and hatred that you yourself are showing that you’re not British yourself. I am and can tell you. That within my group of close F1 friends, 5 of us in total. That it is only myself who supports a British team (McLaren). Also I’m the only one who supports a British driver although that is not exclusive as I like many and dislike none.

        Also the British do not despise other nations success at all. We rarely have any ourselves so we can only applaud other nations success, providing it has been achieved fairly and cleanly of course. The only thing we despise is cheating and cheaters, British or any other nation.

        Think you should look closer to home regarding hatred and despising of outsider’s. It’s very clear your wrong opinion is never going to change.

        Maybe a trip to Silverstone in future and actually meet some British fans. You’ll soon see you’re talking utter BS!

  2. Ferrari need that veto, and the special attendance money that only they get. Without these advantages they’d be dead last in every race (and thus would flounce off in a huff…).

    The governance of F1 is a disgrace. It’s more like some shady underworld organization than a modern sporting system. We’ve seen the scandals at FIFA, and the Olympics; it can only be a matter of time before we see stories of dirty money buying influence in F1. FIA should clean house now. The longer they leave it, the worse it will get. Jail time beckons…

    1. @rsp123 I think that without that veto and money not only Ferrari would be dead last in every F1 race but also in every other competition they participate. Moreover, every Ferrari owner won’t be able to move when a traffic light turns green and I bet global warming is involved too.

    2. Why would they be dead last in every race if they didn’t have the veto? Ferrari are more than capable of designing and building a Formula 1 car that challenges for wins and championships, what advantage on track did Ferrari receive from having the veto?

  3. Enzo Ferrari was the founder and felt that he was very isolated in Marenello compared to all the British teams, so he needed a protection. And in 1980 Ferrari was the only full car manufacturer*. He was facing private teams like Williams and Lotus and McLaren which were all using the same engine, the Ford Cosworth, so he got that in his discussion.

    Has to be the worse excuse to demand veto rights from any governing body, but congratulations to Ferrari, because it worked for the FIA.

    I wonder how much longer they’ll continue to have this privilege. It seems archaic and entirely ridiculous that in the modern sports era any team to has the right to veto regulations.

  4. Great article. Thanks.

    What I would like to know is how often has it been used (if any). PLease reply with the instances you know of.
    Of course, a veto right in itself – and threatening to use it – can be strong enough to steer decisions (without actually using the veto).

    1. a veto right in itself – and threatening to use it – can be strong enough to steer decisions

      Good point, re. influencing and abandoning decisions.

    2. I believe there was a case a few years ago where Ferrari had to use their veto to stop some harebrained idea.

      1. @drycrust, we know that the FIA have confirmed that they have placed quite a few restrictions on Ferrari’s use of the veto, such as specifying that the veto can only be applied in respect of technical or sporting regulations that have a clear and direct negative impact on Ferrari.

        Whilst the veto power is much talked about, in practise it seems that Ferrari have only attempted to use it a few times. The first time where it is known to have been attempted was in 2009, when the FIA wanted to force through a budget cap and multiple teams objected to the access that would have given the FIA to their accounts (and not just the big teams either – Frank Williams was furious to the point where he said he’d rather shut down Williams than let the FIA trawl through his accounts).

        However, the attempt to use the veto in those discussions was immediately rejected by the FIA – they even threatened to file a counter suit against Ferrari for trying to use the veto in those negotiations, forcing Ferrari to back down in the face of threats of legal action.

        The second time that Ferrari are known to have used their veto power, and the only known time it has been successful, was in 2014. On the face of things, the dispute was over implementing a cost cap on engines, but in reality many felt that there was a lot more at stake.

        Around the same time that the Strategy Group was due to vote on the regulations, the World Motorsport Council had voted in favour of giving Todt increased authority “to make recommendations and decisions regarding a number of pressing issues in Formula One, such as governance, engines and cost reduction.”.

        In the Strategy Group meeting that followed, it was reported that there was “a majority vote” in favour of the new rules – but it seems that was because the FIA and FOM voted en block to push the new regulations through, whereas the teams were pretty much all against the move.

        The reason for that is because of that World Motorsport Council resolution – many teams believed that the vote would have had the effect of transferring additional powers to Todt under the guise of “making recommendations on pressing issues”, and really boiled down to a power grab by the FIA and FOM. Because of that, it seems that quite a few teams, in private, supported Ferrari’s use of the veto in those negotiations as they saw it as fending off that attempt to increase the power of the FIA – which is why, later in the year, the FIA and teams compromised on a less formal agreement instead to cap engine costs.

  5. Really interesting insight. To be honest, I’m not totally against older teams (not saying specifically Ferrari), having a bigger say than the newer ones. The same can be said for prize money.

    Ferrari, McLaren and Williams have stayed in the sport through thick and thin since joining and have earned the right to have more input than for example, Renault, who as a manufacturer flicker in and out as it suits. Granted it’s difficult to police this as “when is a new team a new team?”. Did Sauber leave in 2006 and return in 2010 or was it them all along? If you get my drift…

    It makes no sense for Ferrari alone to have this privilege, but if more of the older teams were included I could be sympathetic.

    1. Granted it’s difficult to police this as “when is a new team a new team?”

      That is imho easy as all Formula One entries are bound to the originating company. So to answer your question, yes the Sauber of the 90s is the same as the current Sauber whereas the current Renault (which originated from Toleman) is different than the Renault of the 70/80s. Just as Mercedes (with Tyrrell as its roots) is different from the team from the 50s.

      So Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Sauber and Haas are all original teams, whereas teams as Red Bull (Stewart Racing), Toro Rosso (Minardi), Force India (Jordan) and the already mentioned Mercedes (Tyrrell) and Renault (Toleman) all are continuations of other teams.

      1. I don’t think it is that simple either.
        Yes, the ‘original teams’ are still known by the same name, but as with the latter list, many have gone through ownership change(s).
        McLaren & Sauber have been merged and sold to what it is today, similar to Stewart Racing/RBR and others. The only difference is that one company decided to largely stick to the original name, whereas the other changed the name along the (ownership transformation) way.

  6. Very interesting, and most interesting is that the other teams continue to support Ferrari having the veto power. Probably because they know that if a really stupid rule was proposed, they at least had a way of stopping it.
    I also find it interesting how a large number of F1 fans are against Ferrari having the veto power when the other teams are OK with it.

    1. Yes it would be interesting to hear how OK teams are with this and why. Perhaps they have bought into the Ferrari as icon motif and feel Ferrari needs to be in F1 first and foremost at whatever cost. Of course some of the other iconic teams get extra ‘historic’ money as well, so perhaps there’s the reason for their compliance.

    2. I think it comes down to the extent to which Ferrari is trusted to wield the great power it has, along with the matter of whether a single team should have so much more power than the others in the first place.

      I am against the Ferrari veto but I am highly thankful that it did have it in 2009, because otherwise F1 would probably have stopped existing in any meaningful sense by the end of 2010. Granted, the veto didn’t do anything directly, but it forced the FIA to take into account that eight teams openly disagreed with it, and (eventually) back down enough for F1 to survive.

  7. I find these ‘explanations’ shady and vague, but anyway suffice it to say I don’t see why Ferrari needs ‘a protection’ anymore. They have chosen to stay in F1 all this time and have become pretty much the biggest most recognizable brand globally. They have reaped much reward for deciding to use F1 as their main marketing tool all these years. And on top of that they get extra ‘historical pay’ because of their tenure.

    It will be interesting to see what Ferrari keeps getting for choosing to stay in F1, because what I find most interesting is Brawn’s claim that he and Todt when at Ferrari didn’t use the veto power because they thought it was wrong. Ok…so if they thought it was wrong then, then I think they should find it even more wrong now that we are past the BE type way of managing F1 and there is more and more talk of fairness and balance to bring the smaller teams more hope and opportunity to compete and grow into something more sustainable.

    Brawn claims he didn’t even know about the veto power until later in his tenure at Ferrari. I find this very hard to believe, but if that is true that it was such a ‘secret’ then to me it doesn’t need to exist.

    I think the reality is as @Egonovi has hinted at…even the existence of the veto power may have influenced rules directions in the past, so they may not have technically used the veto power much, but that is because they were approached first and foremost about rules proposals and had a chance to say yay or nay before they were written in. At least, that is my suspicion anyway.

  8. Is it just me or us there important information missing from this article. For example: under what conditions can Ferrari exercise their veto. Over what and when? Is it a blanket veto? If so, it needs to go, no, it needs to go anyway. It’s no secret that Enzo hated and despised the British “garagistas” who bolted someone else’s engine into mostly, someone else’s frame, completely sidestepping the irony of his own humble beginnings as an Alfa Romeo mechanic. His first formula races were with Alfa engines and, er, someone else’s frame, but then dear old Enzo never liked a level playing field.

    1. In theory, it used to be a blanket veto. In practise, the FIA and Ferrari alike knew that the veto wouldn’t last long if Ferrari attempted to use it that way. As such, Ferrari has always been more selective in its use. (For example, it is no coincidence that Ferrari supported the FIA’s 2003 rule changes, even though McLaren and Williams started a court case over them and Ferrari stood to lose the most from the changes).

      Since the end of 2013, those limits have been formalised; the rules now have to be changes that would substantially change F1 in a way that would prevent Ferrari from meeting the purpose of its participation. I believe the point of the rule change was to make it so Ferrari only used the veto when it thought that not getting its way would force it to leave F1. Ironically, this may contribute to why Ferrari keeps downtalking its likelihood of remaining in F1 over the long-term; without that background threat, the veto would not be usable, even as a threat.

  9. It appears the problem Ferrari now face is that with the sports takeover by Liberty, the comfortable relationship the Italian team had with the sports heirachy has become threatened. The real issue here is finding a balance on what is good for the
    sport in general not on what is good for Ferrari as a team.
    We all know that Bernie Ecclestone was not adverse to the odd shady deal, but with Liberty, the days of the ‘old boys club’ of F1 racing maybe numbered? The world is changing and although F1 has made positive strides recently, these are changes that should and could have been made ten years ago.

  10. @Baron Arrivabene gave some insight into that when Ferrari used its veto in late 2015:

    1. Thanks @keithcollantine
      Here we go. We had years of Ronspeak but this is without doubt a new version of Ferrarispeak:

      “We exerted our veto in compliance with our legitimate commercial right to do business as a power train manufacturer,” Arrivabene told an FIA press conference in Mexico. There’s nothing to add.”

      Pressed to explain the team’s position Arrivabene asked: “Why I have to justify more? Here we are talking about commercial right.”

      “We are not talking about budget, we are not talking about anything else. If somebody they are asking you, they give you a specification to produce Red Bull, OK you produce Red Bull in line with the specification.”

      “And that somebody they are asking you ‘OK, we want to impose you the price of that’, what you are going to do? This is the principle. It is nothing to do with the rest.”

      All clear now? 🤔

  11. This does provide context as to why the veto exists – for that time period it does make sense.

    However, I am still strongly opposed to Ferrari’s advantages – the context of the first Concorde Agreement no longer applies here as we have three auto manufacturers plus a fourth making PUs only, Ferrari with its own de facto junior team, and considerations for another manufacturer name to be brought alongside Red Bull Racing (Aston Martin, even if it is just for show/sponsorship).

    Either way, Ferrari should have their veto powers and historic bonus lifted. I said it before and I’ll say it again, no team should have such an advantage provided by the governing body or the sport itself. If some teams make more off merchandise/branding/sponsors etc. that’s all fair game, but a bonus because you’ve been around a long time is absolute nonsense.

  12. Unfortunately power corrupts, which is why this rule shouldn’t exist. It’s like a wasp nest in a public park: everyone needs to stay clear of it regardless of how inconvenient it is. Ferrari have used the power of veto, will use the power of veto, and, regardless of how inconvenient it is, every time a rule change is being drafted it has to be done so as to not upset Ferrari.

  13. Just had something in my mind that I wanted to say.

    I find Ferrari’s favoritism in F1 very interesting. The way they are considered favorites of the organizers and the way they can cry to manipulate the rules and regs in F1 though it looks unfair is just plain awesome for me. They are considered the bullies, the villains in F1 that most of us also seem to love.

    Their history in the sport, their legendary drivers in the present and past, the evil team orders, the controversies, that most drivers on the grid want to wear the red outfit all makes us love them even more.

    Mercedes reigning over Ferrari or Red Bull does not look or feel spectacular cause we believe they already had the technology in V6 to go beyond the other teams (in 2014). They just had to improve on the engines from their performance car designs.

    I await the day an underdog beats Ferrari or the Mercs in the championship. It will be a spectacular win.

  14. I realiae its likely been translated, but even so, Jean Todt makes less sense than Ron Dennis much of the time

  15. How de we save the FIA from itself if teams don’t have a veto?

  16. So protection against what exactly? That all British teams would frame rules that suit them without consulting Ferrari. Seems legit to me then.

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