The Italian Grand Prix marked a watershed moment for Pirelli’s long term future in F1 and served to highlight the very clear transparency issue that the sport is currently plagued by.
Following the spectacular and high-profile blow-outs suffered by both Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, both the Italian tyre manufacturer was particularly bullish in not accepting the blame for the incident, speaking out before the final data was available.
This culminated in FOM dictating to drivers that they were not to publicly criticise Pirelli ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. Bernie Ecclestone, who led the meeting, commented: “If any one of them [the drivers] has got problems, they should talk to the people making the problems.”
This course of action has presented two very concerning issues for fans of the sport.
Blanket of media secrecy
The lack of transparency in F1 is nothing new, but therein lays a considerable concern.
Transparency is the bedrock of any organisation and without its presence businesses face the risk of reputational damage from mis-information or mis-representation. This is a very present danger for F1.
By banning the drivers from criticising the quality and, importantly, the safety of Pirelli’s tyres, fans were robbed of a valuable insight into the problems that are being faced by the teams and drivers. This naturally imposes a bias on what fans are able to consume and places a very negative light on FOM and Pirelli’s relationship with both the teams and fans.
Safety is as paramount to spectators as it is to the drivers themselves – after all this year’s Italian Grand Prix marked 15 years since a marshal was tragically killed at Monza by a lose wheel. While the tyre itself was not at fault, fans and drivers alike can be forgiven for being overly sensitive about such matters following the death of Justin Wilson from flying debris.
F1 is itself the subject of a potential European Commission court review following allegations of ‘non-competitive governing’ of the sport.
This has resulted from a previous investigation, which ruled that the FIA must solely be responsible for all regulation matters in F1, while FOM could only concern itself with commercial matters, to ensure that all regulations were in the best interests of safety and competition in the sport.
However, while F1’s tender for the 2017-2020 season has been opened up to all bidders, it is known that Pirelli remains FOM’s preferred supplier. It has also been stated by Jean Todt, President of the FIA, that FOM will be responsible for making the final decision on the supplier – something that would appear to be in clear contravention of European law.
In fact, after the meeting with drivers, Ecclestone himself hinted that Pirelli would remain as F1’s tyre supplier for the foreseeable future:
“We’re not going to let them go, they’re doing a good job. I said to them a long time ago I don’t want a tyre that’s going to last the whole race. They do the very best they can with what they’ve been asked to do.”
This lack of transparency, combined with what appears to be an obvious bias is a clear concern for fans, who have made clear that they want to move away from artificial racing and back to a format where the rubber is less important to the outcome of races.
F1 simply must do a better job of informing the public on why it is making decisions and the full extent of its relationship with all suppliers if they are to win back the trust of teams, fans and drivers. F1’s reputation is on the line and action must be taken.
What do you think? Please leave your comments below.