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F1 to face legal action from promoters?

NEWS STORY
27/07/2020

Long-time promoter of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Tamas Rohonyi, who has enjoyed a 'difficult' relationship with Liberty Media since it bought the sport in early 2017, only learned that this year's race - the last under the current contract - was cancelled in a letter sent days before the news was made public.

The letter stated that five teams had expressed concern about travelling to Brazil in light of the fact that the country has the second highest number of cases of the coronavirus (2.41 million) and the second highest number of deaths (87,052).

Shortly after buying the sport its new owners discovered that a deal had been struck with the 'old management' that would see the promoter pay no hosting fee in the final three years of the contract, following the withdrawal of a subsidy that had previously been paid by TV Globo.

Though it doesn't appear to be a realistic alternative, F1 bosses were naturally delighted when president Jair Bolsonaro threw his weight behind plans for a brand new circuit in Rio de Janeiro.

Rohonyi argues that a race can only be cancelled by F1 due to force majeure and that the reasons given for the cancellation of the Interlagos event do not fall under that heading.

"First of all this cancellation caught us not by surprise," he tells Motorsport.com, "but I must say the justification, the reasoning behind it, we cannot accept.

"They talk about the virus infection rate in Brazil, which is a bit like comparing California to Florida in a country like Brazil, which is of continental dimensions.

"We have all the numbers for the state and the city of Sao Paulo," he continued. "This data has been submitted to the FIA Medical Commission by our own medical officer, who is by the way, its vice president. And they are very good figures. In fact, if you look at the figures of Sao Paulo, even Brazil, in a proportional base, compared to England, it's much better.

"So when you read this cancellation notice we got from the FOM yesterday, it just doesn't stand up. It's clearly sort of an almost invented reasoning to cancel the race.

"Had they consulted not only my company, but the city government – Could you please present what your plan would be if we came? – they would have received a 100 percent bulletproof plan, which exists, so much so that the Interlagos circuit was open for racing last week.

"Also the FIA issued a very complex 10-page protocol instrument, saying how you run races in these circumstances, which we would have followed."

As for F1's claim that five teams had expressed concerns, Rohonyi insists that this has no legal bearing.

"What I found really strange is that the whole approach is sort of rather simplistic. 'Oh, it's the pandemic, we're terribly sorry, we don't want to go, we cannot go.'

"One of the reasons presented is that five teams expressed concern. Well, none of the F1 contracts say that we'll go and race in your country if the teams feel like it. F1 promoter agreements have only one clause which would allow any of the two parties to break off the contract, and none of this is force majeure. We are taking legal advice because there are massive losses by the municipality, and by my company."

Rohonyi also cites the fact that public money was used to update the circuit and its facilities, money that may well have been wasted should Interlagos not get a new contract.

"In my specific case, and I think it's very, very similar in Mexico City, we run on a municipal circuit," he says. "And under the contract I have with them the municipality is responsible for maintaining F1 standards.

"So this year alone they spent $8m on upgrading the circuit. The whole paddock area has been covered, and lots of little stuff which people don't see but is very essential has been done, like sewage and sanitary facilities.

"When you are a government official, and you spend public funds on whatever, if the justification for it is not rock solid, you can be sued by the public prosecutor, as it's a breach in your official obligations.

"The government said to me, 'mate, you have a contract to run. So you'd better run'... I'll run if I can, but if I'm not allowed to run because F1 claims we cannot run, then it's not my fault.

"So quite rightly, although they're good friends of mine, the governor and mayor said, 'Well, will this stand up in court?'"

Though they have yet to comment, it's understood that officials in Mexico are equally confused and angry, for, as in Sao Paulo, public money is used for the event.

Though not wishing to go on record, a source suggests that officials in Mexico, like Brazil, are now considering legal action, feeling that F1 is forcing its agenda through the back door and that cancelling the events is about the economics rather than the pandemic.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by intrepid, 31/07/2020 15:46

"Liberty Media does not deserve to own and run Formula 1. Clearly they did not do a remotely adequate vetting of the Circus, simply thought they were acquiring a very nice - and glamorous - platform by means of which they could enhance their bottom line."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 27/07/2020 19:34

"We are constantly reminded by F1 about data.

Data from the cars being sent to the TV, engineers analysing data to get the best out of the cars etc.

Hopefully, F1 has used data to make their decisions around Brazil and Mexico events.

Naturally there is an emotive context to the pandemic and a certain amount of fear in the community too, due to how seriously some people are affected when infected.

An example of this in NZ is the recent announcement that we will have extra polling booths for the September election, for social distancing. However, right now we have no community transmission and it is entirely possible to go to a stadium to watch "super" rugby! One could be forgiven for thinking that the current regime is trying to remind the voter of something...

Back to the above article; if F1 has not looked at the data to make their decision and the organisers have done everything as requested, then they are at risk of action being taken against them.

"I don't want to race there because it doesn't FEEL right." isn't going to stand up to scrutiny.

Perhaps, for some reason, the owners of F1 don't trust that things will go well at Brazil or Mexico for some reason?"

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3. Posted by rop64, 27/07/2020 18:28

""It's clearly sort of an almost"

obviously"

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4. Posted by F One, 27/07/2020 17:33

"Invented the reason to cancel the race? Is the promoter as deeply stupid as their President?"

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