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Wolff in favour of extending Concorde Agreement

NEWS STORY
14/07/2020

After months of doom and gloom, during which time there were some exceedingly worrying noises coming from a couple of teams, and even the sport itself, things look to be steadily improving.

The season is finally underway, which means money is coming in. The budget cap has been agreed and in a further bid to curb costs the teams will continue to use this year's car again next season.

As the sport begins to recover however there is one potential obstacle, the fact that the teams have yet to sign a new Concorde Agreement.

The agreement first came into being in 1981 in the wake of the infamous FISA-FOCA wars which saw the constructors, represented by Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, constantly clashing with Jean Marie Balestre's Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile.

Not for nothing is the period remembered by some as the F.I.A.S.C.O. years.

Since the first Concorde Agreement, which basically holds the sport together, was agreed in January 1981, there have been six further agreements, and the current version, which was signed in July 2013, runs out at the end of this year.

Keen to get the 2020 season back on track, F1 appears content to put the new agreement on the back-burner, a move with which Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, concurs, the Austrian believing that rather than letting the current agreement expire it should be extended.

"I am open to racing without an extension because in the auto world things change pretty quickly," he tells Autoweek, "and if we were not signed up for five years, that would give us flexibility."

Since the current agreement was signed only two teams have won the title, Mercedes and Red Bull, and along with Ferrari they receive around 48% of the sport's prize money, which was around $1bn last year.

The distribution of the prize pot however will change radically from next year as F1 bosses seek to level the playing field.

"I believe the Concorde gives a certain safety to all stakeholders," says Wolff. "It gives Formula 1 a safety net to have teams signed up. It gives certain stability to Formula 1 when pitching for TV or sponsorship partners because they know that the teams are going to be participating and it gives a safety net to the shareholders of Formula 1 teams and to employees knowing that we are in this for the next five years.

"If you have a rolling non-committal situation it could provide instability," he admits. "People like to have some kind of visibility: What am I buying into and what do I pay for? If there could be structural or seismic changes every year that would obviously not be great."

Jean Todt recently revealed that discussions around the Concorde Agreement are happening, however, rather than extending the current agreement, some team bosses are keen to wrap-up a new version.

"The discussions are ongoing," said Alfa Romeo's Fred Vasseur at the weekend. "For sure, we stop a little bit the discussions during the COVID system and the new regulation answer, but now we are back to the topic and I hope we will have be able to finalise an agreement in the next few weeks."

"Prior to Australia and corona taking over, we had reached a fairly - certainly at Williams, anyway - a fairly good point with the Concorde negotiations," added Claire Williams, "but corona has obviously put a pause on those discussions. But I know that F1 are looking to put those up now sooner rather than later and clearly to get that signed would be beneficial for the sport as a whole but certainly for our team, particularly, based on the situation that Williams is in at the moment, so we're looking forward to picking it up and moving it forward and closing it out sooner rather than later."

"Recently there hasn't been much activity around Concorde, not a lot of work," admitted Otmar Szafnauer, "but I anticipate that will change in the near future."

As the teams, F1 bosses and the FIA continue negotiations it will be interesting to see if the sport starts to force its hand in terms of the race schedule.

Prior to the pandemic teams were reacting negatively to the prospect of more than the 22 races initially scheduled for this year.

However, having stared into the financial abyss, the teams were immediately on board when F1 began its quest to get the season back on track, and the 'never again' attitude that followed the triple-header of 2018 became a distant memory.

F1 has now shown that the sport can manage triple-headers and survive, indeed there are at least three triple-headers scheduled over the coming months as the sport seeks to stage as many races as it can in the time remaining.

Consequently, as life returns to normal it might be hard for the teams to argue against a schedule of 25 or 27 races or more each year, the sort of schedule the sport's bosses were previously known to be looking at.

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1. Posted by kenji, 14/07/2020 12:53

"I think that one point needs to be clear...what was normal and what is now normal? Pre virus the number/location of races was already in flux. Since the virus that scenario seems to be in a continuum. What exactly is the sweet spot by number...then, what are the sweet spots by location? Looking at the facts as they are today i don't see the virus coming under control for a very long time...if ever! Second wave effects are already playing havoc and there seems to be no silver bullet. Maybe we'll see a vaccine before year end but for control to be effective seven billion plus shots need to be administered. I just think that as time goes by we'll see races/locations changing continuously by where the virus takes us. That alone can be exciting."

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