Major legal threat still looms for F1

The potential danger of a European Commission investigation into the competitive structure of F1 still looms this week, after a Labour MEP stated that a team must lodge a formal complaint before the EU is able to enact an enquiry.

Anneliese Dodds wrote to EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager earlier this year to outline her concerns that the series could be in breach of EU law after Marussia and Caterham, both in her constituency, went into administration.

The MEP recently toured Force India’s facilities to understand the inner workings of a modern F1 team and used the opportunity to reiterate her concerns about the structure and governance of the sport: “The Commissioner in charge has made it clear to me that she can’t do anything until the teams themselves submit a formal complaint. And so if that’s what the teams feel is right then that is what they should do.”

“Ever since the collapse of Marussia and Caterham last year, I have had real concerns about the way things are going with Formula 1. This doesn’t just mean two fewer teams taking part in races throughout the season; it means hundreds of highly skilled people in my constituency losing their jobs and their livelihoods.”

The closure of the Marussia team meant the loss of around 200 jobs, with a larger number for the now-defunct Caterham team.

A question of equality

The crux of any case would focus on the innate disparity at present in the funding for teams, which does not promote a fair or level playing field.

For example, Autosport revealed that Ferrari received more money than any other team for the 2014 season, despite only finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship.

This stems from the Team Agreements contracts that every one of F1’s teams has signed up to, with the exception of Marussia. Each contract running from 2013 until 2020, with a wide range of benefits for each – Ferrari’s being the most lucrative and powerful.

Under the agreement, the Italian manufacturer is granted a veto on any regulations changes – the only team to have such influence – as stipulated on page 179 of the Team Agreements document: “In respect of Ferrari only, Ferrari may terminate if the regulatory safeguards agreed between the FIA and Ferrari do now allow Ferrari to veto any change to the regulations already announced or introduced (subject to certain exceptions).”

While there is no clear indication of whether the team has used it, such an imbalance would likely be seen as a contravention of fair governance of the sport should the European Commission conduct an investigation – which would also likely revisit previous sanctions against the FIA and Formula One Management over the regulation of the sport.

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