22 October 2013
Six teams could 'abuse dominant position'
Changes to the way that F1 rule changes are approved in the future run the risk of squeezing the smaller teams out of the sport altogether and is possibly "an abuse of a dominant position."
The smaller teams on the F1 grid fear that they are being squeezed out of the sport by the top six teams, which between them now hold a dominant position on the new FIA Strategy Group that met for the first time on Monday.
The new body replaces the old sporting and technical working groups and has the power to change F1's sporting regulations. However, only six teams are represented on the new panel with the remaining 12 seats split evenly between the FIA and commercial rights holder FOM, leaving those teams left out fearing the worst.
The top five teams - Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus and Mclaren - have seats in the strategy group, while Williams have also been given a place for historical reasons. That leaves Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia with effectively no direct voice in any future changes.
Although the F1 Commission at which all teams are represented will ultimately sign off the Strategy Group's proposals, the smaller teams will not be able to block or propose anything at the crucial stages.
"All teams basically pay the same amount to go racing, yet some teams have no say in how the sport is run," Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley told the Daily Telegraph at the weekend. "The only differentials are in drivers' salaries and hospitality."
Fernley suggested that the new set-up might not only be unethical, it could even be illegal.
"It could certainly be deemed abuse of a dominant position," he said. "There is genuine concern among some of the teams on the Strategy Group [about the legality], particularly the ones who are public companies. This is not ethical governance."
The teams thought to be looking into the legal side of things are McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes, with Mclaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh publicly voicing concerns that while everyone was putting up with the situation for the time being, any future challenge in the course could "be very untidy indeed."
Asked if the set-up of the new strategy group was legally questionable, former FIA president Max Mosley told Auto Motor Und Sport: "Perhaps ... To my knowledge, Mercedes has sought legal advice and the answer was that it is contestable."
The reason why the Strategy Group is seen as so crucial was reflected by the agenda for the inaugural meeting of the group at Biggin Hill on Monday. As well as tyre testing, cost reductions and rules tweaks, among the items on the agenda was the vexed question of 'listed parts' which determines the car components that teams can share with or and sell to other teams on the grid.
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