Tomorrow in Paris at the headquarters of the FIA, a very important meeting takes place with Jean Todt hosting the F1 teams and Bernie Ecclestone the F1 commercial rights holder.
On the agenda will be the new eight year Concorde Agreement due to start in January 2013, a new FIA regulated cost control mechanism (Resource Restriction Agreement) relating to both chassis and engines, and the subject of spreading the costs of the 2014 engines across the full eight years, so the development costs are not front loaded and too expensive for teams.
The idea of tomorrow’s meeting is to move as swiftly as possible towards getting a Concorde Agreement signed and there is great interest from the teams to see whether Todt and Ecclestone present them with a draft Concorde Agreement and/or any kind of fait accomplis at the meeting.
At present none of the F1 teams is entered for next year’s world championship and they do not know what the entry fee is going to be; there have been suggestions of €500,000 basic fee per team plus €7,000 per point scored in the previous year’s Constructors’ Championship.
On top of that two of the teams, Marussia and HRT, do not yet have a commercial offer from Ecclestone to take part in the 2013 championship, so cannot make any plans.
Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting I went to Paris last week with a colleague from the Financial Times for an interview with Todt – part of which is in today’s FT and part of which will appear in an F1 supplement with the paper during the US Grand Prix weekend.
There is uncertainty about the way forward for the RRA, with the two Red Bull teams refusing to go along with the other ten teams and Todt unwilling to force through something agreed by the other ten teams because he wants an agreement that works for everyone. Red Bull has dragged the process on because it wants a chassis and engine Resource Restriction Agreement and we asked Todt why he had not done what the 10 team majority wanted him to do,
“I think it is a fair view to say ‘Why have one restriction agreement on chassis and nothing on engine?’ ” said Todt. “So, I think it is fair to say that if we do something, we have to do it on chassis and on engine. Are we going to do something on the engine in 2013? No. So, I think it is a strong opportunity. On that I will say more than these ten teams agreed that it’s something which could be agreeable to all the competitors if we would include the chassis and the engine from 2014.”
One of the most important things to come out of this round of negotiations will be the position of the FIA in the rule making process. There have been a number of suggestions of what might come out, including a reduced role for the FIA.
The FIA has been very keen to get a better financial deal from F1, having sold the commercial rights for 100 years under Max Mosley’s reign to Ecclestone for around $350 million.
It seems some kind of improved deal has been agreed with Ecclestone – but not signed yet – and one of the key things we wanted to know was whether in agreeing that deal, the FIA had surrendered any of its regulatory and rule making powers. Todt said emphatically that this is not the case,
“For me FIA anyway must have a bigger impact, not erosion,” said Todt.
“I’m not a dictator trying to control. The contribution and the role of the FIA has to be protected, to be respected and I feel the FIA needed to have probably a bigger role, not as much as it had maybe 15 years ago.
“Sometimes it makes me smile when I read that we are going to lose control, that we are going to sell the… It’s not absolutely true. I am a legalist, so I will never do things which are not our responsibility but I will never allow things which are under our responsibility to be dealt with by anybody else.”
Part of the FIA’s new income from F1 will come from better terms from Ecclestone, but part of it will come from the teams with an enhanced entry fee and a “tax” (as the teams see it) on points scored the previous year.
“Successful teams, definitely they will have a bigger contribution,” said Todt. “For the smallest teams, they will have the lowest contribution. So, it’s not we just murder everybody. No, not at all. The biggest, with more income, will have to pay more. The smallest, with less income, will be able to pay less.”
Summing up the build up to tomorrows meeting Todt said, “It is time to put everybody around the table to make the final decision and the final choices. That is why on 23 October I have organised a meeting which we will host together with Bernie Ecclestone as commercial rights holder and all the representatives of the 12 teams to hopefully finalise the agreement and my dearest wish is that we are all happy about finalising.
“We have the last say to write the rules but I think it’s very important that we write the rules together with the people who are going to participate in the sport.
“We have had several discussions with the commercial rights holder, with CVC, with Bernie, and… I mean, on our side the situation is clear on what we are prepared to propose and to accept, which seems to be the same on the promoters’ level but until… We have to be very cautious until things are signed.
“My wish is to settle a balanced agreement between commercial rights holders, the teams and the FIA, respecting the rights and the duties of the competitors, the rights and the duties of the commercial rights holders and the rights and the duties of the FIA as a regulator and legislator. So, if you ask, am I optimistic? Yes. I think that what we have agreed in our discussions does answer constructively to my questions, the FIA’s questions, but until it is signed, it is not done.”