Formula 1 stakeholders have drawn a lot of criticism in recent times for putting their self-interest above the greater good of the sport. Hence, Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone’s decision to revert to 2015 format comes as a shot in the arm.
During the last couple of years a new power battle has been raging in Formula 1. Mercedes and Ferrari, by virtue of supplying eight of the 11 teams with their power units, have been trying to exert their influence over the decision-making process.
Their ‘frenemy’ alliance - labelled as a ‘cartel by Ecclestone’ - hasn’t got well down with the 85-year old who has joined hands with Todt to regain control over the sport.
The two pushed for a cost cap on the supply of power units, only for Ferrari to dismiss the plan by using its controversial veto power.
The Italian team, now ultimately run by Sergio Marchionne, has also been trying to lure more car manufacturers into the sport to further strengthen his cause.
As a result, the FIA empowered its boss Todt and Ecclestone to “make recommendations and decisions regarding a number of pressing issues in F1’.
The battle over qualifying format
More recently, the debate over the new qualifying format has turned into a political battle.
All parties had jointly agreed for a new system of determining the grid for this season in a bid to spice up the show. However, the format turned out to be a disaster, with teams asking for an immediate reversion to new format.
While Ecclestone admitted that the new system had its downsides, he and the FIA didn’t even bring this option to the table when all the parties met in Bahrain. No agreement could be reached as a result and another meeting was planned for Thursday.
In the run up to the meeting, teams sent a letter to Ecclestone and Todt, urging a return to last year’s format. The teams also dismissed the proposal of an aggregate qualifying format.
To much surprise, Ecclestone and Todt agreed to step back, releasing a statement a few hours after the meeting.
“At the unanimous request of the teams in a letter received today, Jean Todt, President of the FIA, and Bernie Ecclestone, commercial rights holder representative, accepted, in the interests of the Championship, to submit a proposal to the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council to revert to the qualifying format in force in 2015. “
“This proposal, if approved by the F1 governing bodies, will take effect as from the Chinese Grand Prix and will apply for the rest of the season.“
Purely from a political point of view, it’s a major defeat for the Ecclestone/Todt duo who would have unwillingly agreed to teams’ request.
However, one must note that the ultimate winner in this case is the sport itself and its [diluting] fan base.
Maybe next time the teams (read Mercedes and Ferrari) would agree to step back for the greater good of the sport. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
We shall not forget that the 2017 regulations need to be finalised by the end of this month…Or hold on for a minute. This change needs to be approved by the F1 Commission before being ratified by the World Motorsport Council.
by Rachit Thukral