If the FIA and Liberty set out to ‘make everybody a little unhappy’ with their package of Technical, Sporting and Financial Regulations for the 2021 F1 season, they certainly seem to have succeeded.
A delay to 2022 was suggested by a minority of teams, but fell on deaf ears, not least because of the commercial and political implications. For starters, a delay would hit Liberty right in the NASDAQ share price through perceptions it had lost its way, while also complicating F1 chairman/CEO Chase Carey’s employment contract: he is said to be keen on stepping aside from his CEO role (but remaining chairman).
Equally, FIA president Jean Todt’s third (and, he insists, final) mandate expires at the end of 2021, and his legacy is as likely to be defined by his road safety achievements as by the success of the ‘new’ Formula 1. Thus he would prefer to be in the driving seat during the 2020/21 transitional period.
No team was ever likely to end up completely happy in a sport which arguably features six models of competitor: Ferrari’s ‘in-house’ set-up; Mercedes and Renault’s separate chassis and engine operations; Red Bull’s model of sister teams sharing parts; independent teams (McLaren and Williams – own cars, customer engines); ‘front end’ outfits (Racing Point and Alfa Romeo buy their ‘back ends’); and the Haas satellite operation.
Add in team budgets which range from $120m to four times that, and a ‘one size fits all perfectly’ set of regulations was simply never going to happen. Realistically, the best the FIA and Liberty could aim for was a broad compromise, keeping all 10 in the sport while delivering a much-improved, sustainable ‘show’.
Time will tell whether that objective was achieved. But the crucial point is that both parties appear to have stood firm in the face of overwhelming resistance to change on the part of a trio of teams who have had it too good for too long for the sport’s better good. There were fears that the powers-that-be would cave-in – or, at the very least, dilute the package to appease the ‘big three’ – but they seem not to have blinked.
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By agreeing to extend Ferrari’s regulatory veto, albeit in diluted form – with the vital proviso that any challenge be mounted through the FIA Court of Appeal, and not open courts – the sport’s masters appear to have bought off the Scuderia and, by extension, the other major teams. Whether the regulations remain free of challenge can only, however, be revealed in the fullness of time.
Saliently, Ferrari has not commented officially since the meeting, which is either a very good sign or an exceedingly bad one.
So happens next? According to sources, the game plan is to prepare an explanatory dossier containing briefing papers for submission to the FIA World Motor Sport Council, which needs to ratify all decisions taken by the sport’s lower ‘houses’, in this case in time for publication of the regulations by October 31st.
In the 2021 Technical, Sporting and Financial Regulations Implementation Agreement signed on June 13th 2019 and seen by RaceFans, the teams waive all rights to challenge said delay; equally significantly, they also agree to waive any right to challenge the provisions of the Financial Regulations (budget cap), including the spend limit of $175m and all exclusions.
However in return the FIA agrees to publish the full set of regulations within five business days of FIA ratification, meaning an October 25th deadline for approval. Given that no WMSC meeting is scheduled until early December, ratification is likely to be via e-votes. RaceFans understands that the targeted WMSC lodge date is 23 October, with a 48-hour turnaround time to allow for perusal, clarifications and time zones.
Slippage could leave the FIA – and, by extension, Liberty – open to costly and time-consuming legal challenge, thus scuppering the entire process, including the much-vaunted Financial Regulations. That could, in turn, potentially damage Liberty’s NASDAQ performance and tarnish Todt’s legacy.
Rest assured he and Carey will fight to ensure the regulations are published by due date without slippage. Ferrari’s veto permitting, that is…
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2021 F1 season
- Will F1’s stewards face the toughest call of all? Five Abu Dhabi GP talking points
- Hamilton “gives as good as he gets” with Verstappen – Horner
- F1 title-decider to get free live TV coverage in Britain as well as Netherlands
- Todt defied expectations as president – now he plans to “disappear” from FIA
- Mercedes and Kingspan end sponsorship deal following Grenfell controversy