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Will teams come and go in 2010?

NEWS STORY
12/02/2010

It has been a long time since F1 has seen the kind of contradictory statements which have been bandied around in the last week. On Sunday we read Bernie Ecclestone's comments that the Concorde Agreement allows teams to miss three races. Then, only a few days later, we read Jean Todt saying the same thing. The last thing we expected was for the FIA to release a statement, just one day after Todt's comments, saying that teams are obliged to take part in every race. As the man who got the comments from Ecclestone, Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt explains what is really going on.

What's the big deal you may say. Well, in a nutshell, there is a very big issue at stake and it concerns nothing less than the teams that you will be watching at races this year. If teams come and go during the season it will indeed be a big deal, particularly given that the FIA's statement on 10 February bluntly declared that "each Team that has registered for the Championship is obliged to take part in every event of the season."

Surely that puts the matter to rest you might think. If every team is obliged to take part in every race then presumably it must be a sheer fabrication that there is a clause in the Concorde Agreement which suggests teams can miss three races before losing their grid slot . Surely there can't be one clause suggesting that teams can miss three races before losing their grid slot and another clause stating that they are obliged to complete in every race? In F1 anything is possible.

The Concorde Agreement reportedly contains a clause stating that if a team does not participate in more than three events in one FIA Championship then it will be considered to have withdrawn from the Championship.

This implies that if a team only fails to participate in, for example, two races, then it will not be considered as having withdrawn from the Championship. However, this is an implication of the clause and not something believed to be directly stated.

What we know to be directly stated is the following clause 13.2 (f) from the Formula One Sporting Regulations which refers to an "undertaking by the applicant to participate in every Event with the number of cars and drivers entered."

Would this clause in the Sporting Regs take legal precedence over a clause in the Concorde, as described above, which implied that teams could miss three races before losing their slot? And if the Concorde clause is written as stated above then would it be a valid implication that if a team only fails to participate in one, two, or three races then it will not be considered as having withdrawn from the Championship? These are questions which may only be answered by a court (if the matter were ever to proceed to legal action). Of course, it all hinges on the Concorde clause being open to interpretation and without seeing the Concorde, what evidence could there be for this? As it happens there is plenty.

From the bluntness of the FIA's recent statement you wouldn't think there was any chance that the Concorde could be interpreted in a way to suggest teams could miss three races without losing their slot. After all, it seems pretty definite to say that "each Team that has registered for the Championship is obliged to take part in every event of the season." But just how definite is it?

The biggest give-away that things are not as black and white as the FIA statement makes them out to be is the fact that Ecclestone, Todt and, according to the New York Times, Todt's spokesman, all believed that teams could miss three races without losing their grid slot. Where did they get this idea from? Presumably it was not from thin air. In fact, it was certainly not, since their explanation of the matter ran very deep indeed.

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