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Friday's announcement that Ferrari is seeking an injunction against the FIA to prevent it from introducing a two-tier structure to F1 puts a new light on comments made to Pitpass' Chris Sylt late last year by Bernie Ecclestone. At that time, Ecclestone bluntly told Sylt that since F1's regulations affect the commercial side of the sport, the FIA should not be writing them. FOTA, the association of F1 teams, may well have cottoned on just in time.
"The sporting regulations basically are what generate the income and we run the commercial business. The FIA should just be the police looking at the rules," said Ecclestone and the teams agree.
"The international federation should simply be the referee. We should write the rules, not have them imposed by Max without speaking to anyone," said Flavio Briatore, Renault F1 team principal, on Thursday and it looks like he has the law on his side.
The reason for this is a European Commission ruling in 2001 that said the FIA must "have no influence over the commercial exploitation of the Formula One Championship." Ecclestone's comments echo this is as he told Sylt that "when we had this problem with the European Commission, they made it very clear that the FIA purely regulate the sport. Even to the extent that the teams and us should be writing the technical and sporting regulations."
But even before the EC ruling, Mosley acknowledged the FIA could not dictate on areas which interfere with the teams' businesses.
In 2000, at a UK government Select Committee meeting covering tobacco sponsorship of F1 teams, Mosley said "the difficulty is that we are dealing with commercial entities whom I have to persuade. If I could just say that is it and dictate, but I cannot. We can on the rules, on things like safety, but we cannot on things which would interfere with their commercial affairs."
'So how can the FIA make the cost-cutting regulations?', you may well ask. Well the answer, according to Ecclestone, is: "They can't really. The teams allow them." He explains that the FIA has been writing the regulations because the teams haven't opposed it. However, by suggesting the budget cap, Mosley looks to have tipped the balance and the teams are no longer playing ball.
Pitpass understands that on 10 May FOTA Vice Chairman John Howett was reminded of Ecclestone's comments that the FIA should not, under European law, be writing F1's regulations. So even if Ferrari's injunction fails, the FIA could face further action from the teams and this time its very powers of lawmaking could be at stake.
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