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Exclusive: F1 at risk of EC investigation

NEWS STORY
19/07/2009

Pitpass hears that the gaze of the European Commission may soon fall on F1 and, in particular, the selection process of the three new teams which are due to join the sport next year.

One of the rejected teams told Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt that it is actively considering all options for redress including making a formal complaint to the EC.

One of the bones of contention is that the teams claim they were told by the FIA that for their entry to stand any chance of success they would have to use a Cosworth engine. This seems to be a case of commercial bias and when the charge was put to the FIA it didn't deny it but instead said that it "has always considered the availability of an independent supply of engines to the new Formula One entrants and the other independent teams to be a priority."

Whether the EC would rule that this is sufficient reason to justify demanding new entrants to use Cosworth engines remains to be seen, particularly given that in 2001 it said "the Commission has been assured that the FIA rules will never be enforced so as to prevent or impede a competition or the participation of a competitor, save for reasons inherently linked to FIA's regulatory role of maintaining safety standards." (link)

Clearly, the demand to use Cosworth could hardly be inherently linked to maintaining safety standards since the FIA has also allowed other manufacturers to supply engines to F1 teams in 2010. However, there is little doubt that by demanding teams use Cosworth engines it would prevent teams not using Cosworths from competing in F1. It would also prevent other independent engine suppliers (those which are not already involved in F1) from getting into the sport.

If the complaint does indeed go ahead it will be most interesting to see how far the EC will go to investigate the allegations and redress any unfairness which it may find. Seasoned observers of F1 will remember the last time that the EC investigated F1 in the late 1990s. It led to sweeping changes such as F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone stepping down from several positions he held on the FIA and also the sale of F1's commercial rights for 100 years.

It is worth remembering that there have even been claims that the FIA specifically aided the bid of Manor Motorsport so would the EC look into this and would it even go so far as to carry out the team selection process itself if necessary?

All the EC will say at present is that "should such a complaint be filed, we would review it with a view to ensuring that the competition rules are respected."

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