Kate Walker: Flying high with the Concorde
1 October 2013
Used to keeping her eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama, here Kate Walker looks to the Korean GP weekend and discusses the new Concorde Agreement...
With Singapore behind us, the F1 circus is officially in the hard-hitting phase of the season, the final leg that sees us race seven times in nine weeks, at circuits spread across three continents and numerous time zones.
And having kicked off the Asian leg in style in Singapore, the next race is perhaps the most dreaded on the F1 calendar - the Korean Grand Prix. Teams and media shack up in love hotels in the bustling metropolis of Mokpo, where the only enthusiasm is for the cut-price beer sold in the town's countless bars and discos. There is certainly not much enthusiasm on the part of the locals, whose interest in F1 is on a par with their interest in competitive ice carving.
With all and sundry expecting another dominant lights-to-flag win from Sebastian Vettel, even the prospect of a weekend's racing does little to raise a smile in the ghost town of the Yeongam paddock. No fans, no sponsors, no celebrity guests… Which is why we are all grateful to finally have a Concorde Agreement to stick our teeth into, something real to discuss on the deadest of all weekends.
And what a Concorde! The FIA has done itself proud at long last, claiming additional funding to the tune of £170 million over the next eight years. With a rosier financial future to look forward to, the FIA will be able to divert more money to its member clubs, investing both in the development of grassroots motorsport activities around the world and in causes such as the Action for Road Safety campaign that keep the Federation relevant on the global stage.
But it's not all about the money for a change. The latest iteration of the Concorde Agreement also gives the FIA more power when it comes to shaping F1.
The creation of a new F1 Strategy Commission will change the way the sport is governed, and splits the sport's interested parties into three groups: the FIA, FOM (Formula One Management), and the teams (six of the eleven teams, anyway). The Strategy Commission will put forward proposals to the existing F1 Commission and the WMSC (World Motor Sport Council), and while those two older bodies will be able to support or reject the Strategy Commission's proposals, they will not be able to alter them.
Moving to this pass/fail scenario should, in theory, make future changes to F1 regulations mutually beneficial. Whereas before the F1 Commission could make proposals that could in turn be altered or watered down by the WMSC, now the proposals made will receive either a 'yay' or a 'nay' from the F1 Commission and the WMSC. Yes votes will see rules introduced that have been agreed on by representatives from the teams, the governing body, and the commercial rights holder, all of whom now hold equal sway, while no votes will see the Strategy Commission head back to the drawing board en masse.
For the first time, the FIA will sit at the negotiating table with as much power as the commercial rights holder, which is a significant victory for the Federation. The only losers in the scenario are the five teams excluded from the Strategy Commission, who now have no power at all. It will be a very interesting weekend in Mokpo from a political point of view, as the five teams left out in the cold will try desperately to secure the sort of alliances that might give them a small speck of influence on the big boys' table.
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.