Today has seen some quite significant announcements from the FIA World Motor Sport Council, which was also meeting to judge the Ferrari team orders case. The team has got away with no further punishment, but I will post on that separately.
The WMSC announced that there would be no 13th team in F1 next season as none of the applicants fit the criteria for entry. It announced a 20 race calendar for 2011 and has introduced a licencing system for senior team personnel, something JA on F1 proposed last year when the Singapore crash scandal broke. F1 drivers also face the threat of losing their racing licences if they misbehave on public roads.
The first thing to analyse is the calendar. The 2011 season will be the longest in F1 history with 20 events from March to November in 19 countries. Spain has two races with Barcelona and Valencia (European GP) remaining on the calendar.
India is set to host its first GP, which is pretty hotly anticipated given that it is probably the most sports mad country among the emerging markets. India has its own F1 team franchise and an Indian F1 driver and is growing in popularity. I expect F1’s debut there next season to be well attended, passionate and massively appealing to sponsors, given the size of the market there.
Abu Dhabi has lost its coveted slot as the final race, in place of Brazil, which will be a disappointment to the organisers.
2011 F1 Calendar
13/03 Bahrain; 27/03 Australia; 10/04; Malaysia; 17/04 China; 08/05 Turkey; 22/05 Spain; 29/05 Monaco; 12/06 Canada; 26/06 Europe; 10/07 Great Britain; 24/07 Germany
31/07 Hungary; 28/08 Belgium; 11/09 Italy; 25/09 Singapore; 09/10 Japan; 16/10 Korea
30/10 India; 13/11 Abu Dhabi; 27/11 Brazil
The 20 race calendar has been a dream of Bernie Ecclestone’s for many years. I remember doing an interview with him ten years ago when he said 20 races was the right number. He struggled to get the teams to see it that way. They are contracted to do 16 and they receive additional payments for each additional race.
For Ecclestone’s business partners CVC, adding race revenues are a vital way of increasing the income they require to service the $2.7 billion debt they have on the business.
The 20 race calendar will bring in significant revenue for the sport. The target for revenues from circuit promotion in 2011 in the CVC business plan is US$445. If they are on target with this latest calendar then this makes the average sanctioning fee to host a Grand Prix $22.25 million (£14 million). In 2012 the US Grand Prix will return in Austin, Texas, but it is not yet clear whether this will be a 21st GP or whether one of the existing races will make way.
The 13th F1 team franchise
The Concorde Agreement allows for 13 teams to race in F1. There are currently 12 including the three new teams which joined this season. The admission process last year came in for some criticism after USF1 was granted an entry, but turned out to be smoke and mirrors.
The three new teams have struggled to varying degrees but Lotus and Virgin have made a decent fist of it on budgets of around £45 million for the season and everyone expects them to be on the pace of the smallest of the established teams next season.
This summer when ART Grand Prix, the most successful team in junior categories, announced that an F1 project was unviable, it always looked likely that no team would be able to make the 13th and today that was confirmed, “It was considered that none of the candidates met the requirements to be granted an entry into the Championship,” said the WMSC statement. “Consequently, the allocation of the 13th team will not be granted.”
Even if a team had the financial clout to do F1, it would have been very hard to be alone as a new team in 2011, driving round some three or four seconds off the pace.
Today’s decision may prompt some mergers among the small teams and aspirant teams. There is talk of a merger between the Murcia, Spain backed HRT team and Epsilon Euskadi, which has backing from another region of Spain. However HRT boss Colin Kolles has visions of moving the whole operation to Germany.
Licences for team personnel
When Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds were tried by the FIA World Motor Sport Council a year ago for their part in the conspiracy to cause a deliberate accident in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, the FIA had no lever over them as they were not licence holders. FIA president Max Mosley was keen to throw Briatore out of F1 but the way he went about it using FIA channels, proved a problem with the civil courts and Briatore was able to overturn his life ban.
Today the FIA WMSC began a process to introduce licences for key team figures, such as team principals, senior engineers and race engineers. It amounts to a “fit and proper person” test.
“The aim is to introduce a system that ensures they are subject to the criteria set out in a new FIA Code of Good Standing. This would apply to a minimum of six people per competitor, including the Team Principal, Sporting Director, Team Manager, Technical Director and two race engineers (or equivalent), ” said the FIA.
This looks to me like a good idea, indeed JA on F1 suggested this last season when the Singapore scandal broke. It is long overdue and one wonders why it wasn’t in place before.
F1 drivers on best behaviour on roads
Lewis Hamilton will be unpopular among his peers tonight after his “hooning” incident on the streets of Melbourne this year has brought about a compliance issue for racing drivers when they are using public roads in their private life.
“A proposal to amend the international sporting code will be submitted to the FIA General Assembly to clarify that any holder of an International Super Licence must also be in possession of a current road driving licence,” the FIA announced today. “Additionally, the Code will be amended to clarify that if an International Super Licence holder is involved in a serious road traffic offence recognised by a national police authority, the FIA, depending on the severity of the case, may issue a warning or refer the matter to the International Disciplinary Tribunal, which may temporarily or indefinitely withdraw the competitor’s International Super Licence.”
The FIA is very serious about its Make Roads Safe campaign, part of a UN decade of action to try to save 5 million lives on the road. F1 drivers as the most high profile motorists on the planet, are duty bound to set an example on the roads and Hamilton’s burnouts in Australia have brought about a new level of compliance which the drivers will have to observe. Most of them have been caught speeding at some point and they will have to be careful in future or they may lose their racing licence.
All Photos Darren Heathwww.darrenheath.com