30 July 2013
Kate Walker: The Concorde Agreement
Kate Walker's latest feature for Crash.net
Used to keeping her eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama, Kate Walker looks at the news that a new Concorde Agreement is almost signed... at last
After seven months of operating in a lawless wilderness, bereft of a Concorde Agreement, the F1 world this weekend learned that the FIA and FOM had signed a Memorandum of Understanding laying out the framework for the signing of the next seven-year contract.
Should all go according to plan between now and the signing of the official document, the new Concorde Agreement could well herald a new era in Formula One. While the exact terms are secret, the 2013 Concorde is believed to have been delayed by long-running negotiations over the balance of power within the sport.
There is expected to be a redistribution of power, which will see the FIA, FOM, and the teams given equal weight in negotiations, with six votes apiece. And while the Federation will then have greater potential influence over its own flagship championship, the real winners under the new terms look to be the teams.
Since Max Mosley left the Place de la Concorde, the FIA has ceased to enjoy a symbiotic relationship with Prince's Gate, with the Federation and FOM loath to scratch each other's backs. Rather, Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone have publicly faced off over a number of key issues.
In the likely event that the FIA and FOM each continue to defend their own interests in future – the two bodies have very different priorities in Formula One – it will be the teams who find themselves in the position of power during negotiations, as holders of the casting vote.
That position of power is likely to lead to the teams being courted by both sides, with the commercial rights holder well-placed to offer financial concessions – such as an increased share of the sport's spoils, discounts on the high cost of freight, or similar – as part of the bargaining process. For its part, the Federation could consider opening up the Technical Regulations, giving the teams more freedom to exploit their engineering ingenuity.
Of course, all of this presupposes that the future heralds no significant changes for the sport. Ecclestone is currently waiting to learn whether or not he will face trial in Germany, and the outcome of the trial could result in a change of leadership on the commercial side of things.
As for the Federation, Todt's term as president runs out at the end of the year, and it emerged last week that the Frenchman may not be running unopposed – as had long been presumed. A different FIA president will have different relationships with the sport's key stakeholders, and the balance of power could well change direction.
Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to Crash.net. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, she keeps an eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama.
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