F1's decision-making process has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after changes to the qualifying format failed to mix up the grid as intended, and instead ruined the spectacle of the pole position shootout. Ongoing indecision over qualifying has only strengthened calls for a new form of governance after the drivers wrote an open letter attacking F1's "obsolete and ill-structured" rule-making process two weeks ago.
The FIA agreed to the existing system (see boxout for details) in 2013, and at the time heralded "a strong and stable sporting governance framework which includes the Formula One Group, the FIA and the participating teams".
|F1's rule-making process|
Rules are formulated in the F1 Strategy Group, which is made up of six of the 11 teams, the FIA and the Commercial Rights Holder, which is represented by Bernie Ecclestone. Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Williams have permanent seats on the Strategy Group, while Force India is the sixth member this year because it was the best placed of the rest of the teams last year. Each team has one vote each, while the FIA and Ecclestone have six votes each. If they work together, the voting structure gives the FIA and Ecclestone the power to overrule the teams. However, Ferrari also has a veto based on its historical standing in the sport.
F1 Commission and WMSC
Suggestions from the Strategy Group are then passed on to the F1 Commission, which is made up of 26 votes. The FIA, CRH, teams, race promoters and sponsors are all represented and before the end of February each year, a 66 percent majority is required to pass rules for the following year. After that date unanimous agreement is required (with the exception of the 2017 rules, where the deadline has been extended to April 30, 2016). Once new rules are agreed by the F1 Commission they are passed to the FIA's World Motor Sport Commission for approval, although this is usually just a formality.
But when it was put to Todt that the system he agreed to in 2013 leaves the sport in a bind when it comes to rule making, he said: "That is the way of the triangular governance of Formula One. [We have to] wait until the renewal of the Concorde Agreement in 2020 and then decide to change the governance. It may be another president of the FIA because we are currently in 2016 and it cannot be before 2020.
"Unless the teams and the commercial rights holder and the FIA decide we want to change the governance, then we can do it tomorrow. But we can only do it tomorrow if everybody accepts to change the governance."
Todt says it is the F1 Commission, which existed before his first term as FIA president, and not the Strategy Group, which he helped form, that is the issue.
"The Strategy Group did not change anything. The Strategy Group is just proposing something to the F1 Commission and the F1 Commission has always been there. It's something I was thinking just yesterday, in the past we had the Technical Working Group and Sporting Working Group and the F1 Commission could only accept or reject proposals. So we are in exactly the same situation [as before the Strategy Group]."
Asked if he would take on full power if it could be agreed among the teams and Commercial Rights Holder, Todt said: "That would be more logical. The FIA should have complete control as a regulator and as a legislator of Formula One, but historically it has not been like that. The only time the FIA has been able to change something unilaterally is because of safety. Safety you could change without any consultation or any agreement and we still can."
The only positive that may still come out of the qualifying debacle is that it could provide the impetus to shake up the current governance. However, Bernie Ecclestone is doubtful as the commercial agreements dividing the sport's revenues are currently intertwined with the division of regulatory power in the Strategy Group.
When the Concorde Agreement was signed back in 2013, the FIA also said it "provides the FIA with significantly improved financial means to pursue its regulatory missions". Ecclestone said any changes to the rule-making structure before 2020 would also impact on the commercial deal.
"In the end we could get rid of the Strategy Group because it's a commission of the FIA, so we could change it like that," he said. "But the FIA wouldn't be so excited because it costs them 40 million to regroup with that, so it's these little side issues sometimes that create big problems."
He added: "The reason we [originally] had the Concorde Agreement was because it was a peace treaty. So that's how we got this and we haven't changed it. The world's changed, everything's changed but we've kept what we've got. The FIA should write the regulations and say these are the regulations, you all enter the championship, if you don't want to enter up to you." espn.co.uk
|F1 governance will not change for now. Drivers will have zero say|
(GMM) To the surprise of no one, the 'musical chairs' qualifying was run again on Saturday to collective cries for it to be scrapped.
"It's not good unless you have a weak bladder," joked Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is actually furious that F1 did not act collectively to revert to the 2015 system after the farcical debut in Australia.
His 'weak bladder' comment is a reference to the lack of action caused by the rapidly-expiring 90 second countdowns, with drivers normally sitting in the pits rather than pushing to better their times and stay in the session.
At one point, Williams sent its cars onto the track in Bahrain simply to entertain the confused crowd rather than push for grid position.
"Williams were out and I'm not even sure they knew why — we certainly didn't," exclaimed Mercedes' Toto Wolff. "It was terrible."
The increasingly widespread feeling in the paddock is that the qualifying debacle has been pulled into the increasingly-poisonous political wrangling that many believe is now badly damaging F1.
Four teams vetoed the scrapping of the format after Australia, but Wolff said any dissidents should be "crucified" if a change is once again blocked before China.
The sport will meet to discuss qualifying on Sunday and "Whatever we decide, I am optimistic we will get unanimous agreement," FIA president Jean Todt said in Bahrain.
But amid the current climate, no one is actually that confident.
"There is so much politics and bull—- in F1 that it is crazy sometimes," said Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. "People from the outside must look at us and think 'What stupid people, what are they doing?'"
Bernie Ecclestone, for instance, has responded to the drivers' collective call for a better sport by pointing the finger at GPDA president Alex Wurz, hinting it is a political move by the Austrian in cahoots with the teams.
"We are not political," Vettel hit back, defending his fellow GPDA director.
"It (the letter) is signed by Alex and me and Jenson (Button) but is from all the drivers generally."
The drivers' main gripe is that the governance of the sport has gone off the rails, but FIA chief Todt suggested F1 is probably stuck with what it has got until 2020.
"If we could get all three sides to agree to change, we could change the governance tomorrow," said the Frenchman.
"But I doubt we will ever get that so we are in this position until the current agreement runs out in 2020."
One team boss told the Sunday Times newspaper: "It's so frustrating. We have a president who is afraid to act and Bernie just shooting from the hip on everything and it's just not working."
Hamilton setting a new lap record to beat team-mate Nico Rosberg.