The 2013 F1 season is already unique in that it has got underway without an agreement binding in the teams, the FIA and the commercial rights holder. Bernie Ecclestone has individual commercial deals with all the teams, except Marussia, but the hold up was agreeing terms with FIA president Jean Todt.
However after a series of meetings recently between the two most powerful men in the sport, Todt told the Financial Times this weekend that the issues have been sorted and the FIA will sign the new Concorde Agreement,
“I think we have all the ingredients to allow the FIA and FOM and the teams to finalise the signatures of the Concorde Agreement,” he said. “All the discussions we have agreed, and we are in the situation where we need to finalise it in writing. I am confident it should happen in the coming weeks.”
Todt, who is seeking re-election as FIA president later this year, inherited the 100 year agreement from his predecessor Max Mosley. This tied the FIA to a 100 year contract from 2011 under which it licensed the commercial rights in F1 to Ecclestone’s company for around $350 million.
The contract is watertight and cannot be broken, but Todt argued that the sport had moved on commercially since it was negotiated and the FIA needed a larger slice of the revenues.
He raised the entry fee to teams to around €15m collectively for the season and sought €25million a year from Ecclestone.
The teams have already paid their money for 2013, but the FIA has not been paid by FOM as the deal was not finalised before the season started.
A new eight year Concorde Agreement is vital for F1 to proceed with a flotation later this year in Singapore. It was put off last year due to market conditions and a loss of appetite among investors after the Facebook fiasco.
CVC, Ecclestone’s partner in the commercial rights holding company, has already sold down its stock to around 35% and a flotation would provide it with an exit from the sport, which would make F1 one of the most profitable investments in the private equity company’s history.
Todt is in Melbourne this weekend for the season opener, while Ecclestone has not made the trip. It is thought that China will be his first GP appearance this year.
Regrettably, in the same interview with the FT, Todt indicated that the FIA will not intervene on cost control in F1, meaning we are likely to continue with the current “arms race” which threatens to put some of the smaller and medium sized teams under threat.
Unable to agree effective cost control among themselves, many teams had requested the FIA to intervene and regulate costs through the Sporting regulations. Last year Todt said he was willing to work with the teams if that is what they all wanted, but has now washed his hands of it,
“A lot of teams prefer to have the privilege of competition rather than reduce costs. I hope that a sensible approach from teams will be reducing costs. But it’s not something we all have to agree together,” Todt said. “We are the regulator. If they don’t want to reduce costs, that’s it. It’s not our responsibility to do things that teams do not want.”