War is over, at least for a short while.
On Friday night the teams, the FIA and the F1 commercial rights holder signed the new Concorde Agreement, which runs until the end of 2012. With the signature of this agreement stability is returned to F1. There will be no breakaway series, no more new rules being imposed on teams, the F1 commission will be restored, which gives the teams a say in the new rules.
It has been an immensely damaging period for the image of the sport, with polemics, breakaway threats and constant instability. Just how damaging will become clear in the next few months when we see if any new sponsors and major corporations are attracted to come in and invest.
After so much strife the wording of the FIA’s statement was interesting. Max Mosley was portrayed as presidential, his cause helped by the shock pull out last week by BMW, which reminded everyone of how manufacturers behave and why Mosley went to war with them on costs in the first place.
“Following approval by the World Motor Sport Council, late last night FIA President Max Mosley signed the 2009 Concorde Agreement, heralding a renewed period of stability for the FIA Formula 1 world championship,” said the FIA’s statement.
“The WMSC has also approved a slightly revised set of stable sporting and technical regulations (to apply from the 2010 championship onwards), which have been agreed by the FIA and the teams and which will be published shortly on the FIA’s website.
“The new Concorde Agreement, which runs until 31 December 2012, provides for a continuation of the procedures in the 1998 Concorde Agreement, with decisions taken by working groups and commissions, upon which all teams have voting rights, before going to the WMSC for ratification.”
The problem is that next time around the teams are committed to getting a much improved share of the commercial revenues from the sport, which will set them on a collision course with Bernie Ecclestone and his partners CVC. So we will have stability for a couple of years and then the fighting will start again. We will also have a new FIA president in October, in all probability Jean Todt, so the dynamics will be different there and he may well want to make his mark on the next Concorde Agreement.
There are some senior team figures in F1 who believe that they should all sit down now and agree a deal from 2013 to 2023, capitalising on the spirit of togetherness which led to the new deal. But it’s hard to imagine the manufacturers wanting to commit themselves for that long this far out, so you can see that opportunity slipping by.
I think everyone at the top in F1 shocked themselves with the breakaway decision during Silverstone weekend and will be very keen to avoid a repeat. But at the same time the teams feel that it is wrong for so much of the commercial revenues of the sport to go into servicing CVC’s $2.6 billion debt, (some $300 million per year) rather than being shared out among the participants.
So let’s enjoy the moment’s peace before the next showdown.