Judge Dredd, unlike Judge Judy, was not chasing avid fans across a wide fan base. Judge, Jury, and, when required, Executioner, Dredd was a chap whereby following his strict interpretation of the law, and not just the law, was a very good idea indeed.
Way back in the cheery days of 1977, Judge Joseph Dredd appeared in the second edition of the UK comic 2000 AD. These were days when within Formula One a crisp look into the soul, as revealed behind Ray Bans or Persols, could be swiftly followed by either walking away, or hands shaking, deal done. Bernie in particular was renowned for his word, once given, being his bond. F1 legal 1977, simple, moral days.
While Judge Dredd had facial coverings, and indeed be-jewelled body armour, to out-bling Lady Gaga, rather than a simple pair of Persols, he expected utter obedience to the laws of Mega City One from all on whom he gazed. Or it was not a broken word, or bond that might distress you. No, it would be how broken your mind, body, and soul were about to become as a result of the judgement of Dredd descending like the fist of Zeus upon your mortal being. Dredd suffered few repeat offenders...
Back on planet Earth both before, and after 2000 AD, one finds contract law as a rather large part of the legal universe. Folk on the street tend to think of "breaking a contract" as a naughty move, whereby one party failed to honour the contract. This is not the case.
Wealthy individuals, plus companies large and small, use contract law to protect themselves in daily business. The ominous variable is that the more gold one has to pour into the mighty coffers of one's lawyers, the more likely your legal opponent will be to feel like they are staring into the wrong end of Judge Dredd's handgun... Remember the Golden Rule. He who has the Gold, makes the Rules.
So it is we arrive at the season-break delight which is, depending on your language delights, either developing as; Zak-Gate, the McLaren Mess, the Daniel Debacle, or the Monkey Business Mash. No matter what you call it the contract lawyers are circling the iPads, and empowering their super heroes, be they legal partners in the firm, Barristers, or Queen's Counsel, or some such other mythical beast, their might simply depending on the heft of the pot of Gold, as they prepare for legal argument. In short they are salivating like starved chipmunks over the first acorn of spring after an especially hard winter.
No one has "broken" a contract. One can do several things with a contract. If the other side is poor, that is they cannot afford a literate lawyer, one can ignore the contract. If one is a demagogue, with a large standing army in the back garden, one can ignore the contract (fresh gas anyone...?). Otherwise one can honour the contract, dispute the contract, or seek to activate a break clause in the contract.
Daniel has made clear via social media he wishes to honour his contract. Not exactly a subtle, legally sound argument, but clear nevertheless. Using a similarly casual media approach, Piastri has stated most clearly where he expects to drive.
Zak, for McLaren, and Szafnauer for Alpine have made similar public statements on their team's positions. Let battle commence! Let slip the Lawyers of (legal) War! The reason we know this is a real legal battle is Liberty could not make this stuff up. Even if they drank a few bottles of fine Penfolds red, while watching The Firm, and The Pelican Brief, back-to-back it would remain beyond them. We have a real off-track battle on our hands! Got to love that.
I like to think Daniel consulted at length with his legal advisor before nodding slowly, smiling, and saying, "You've got to lick the stamp, and send it!"
Zak, all mouth, and wrong trousers, then jumped in, possibly sending a text to his legal advisor's secretary who forgot to inform the boss until a few weeks later when they returned from Heli-skiing in the Andes. Resulting in McLaren instantly being in back-foot stance... Not unlike their on-track tactics right now, all feels too familiar, under Zak's rule does it not?
Alonso checks his contract, sees he is free to walk away, and failing to secure a water-tight multi-year deal with Alpine promptly jumps to Aston faster than one can say "Vantage!". The move might be right, or wrong, but his legal position is sound.
Daniel rechecks his small print, and cannot stop laughing. I'm sure he has received a "I know how you feel" text from Kimi, with lots of laughing cat emojis. They both end up in tears sharing a Vodka Shoey over Skype...
Meanwhile Piastri feeling the power of F1 yet never having driven it, one can only presume talked with his dog, and kid sister. Who as his de facto legal team confirmed he was their hero and he should "Go for it, get what was rightfully his, and show them how it was done!". Let's see how that legal power team goes...
In F1, as with any formal business, the only time people blow the dust off long-shelved contracts is when they are irked and vengefully seeking recompense. The contract will detail the court within which to argue (usually level of court, country, and state), how to raise a formal disagreement and the time scales within which each party has to respond to continue the legal dance without penalty. Usually a contract will also detail how you can cancel the argument, kiss, make up and continue as if nothing ever happened.
It will, usually, also detail the grounds on which a party can argue the contract has been "broken" by the other party, or the grounds on which they wish to break. The contract itself is not "broken". The legal dance continues just as intended by the framework of the law. Not in support of either opinionated position. Just following due process.
So... Daniel probably has a water tight contract that states if McLaren refuses to have him drive in 2023, then for him to walk away they must pay him his 2023 salary. There could be subtle caveats to this, but in essence they are legally bound to pay him to not drive.
Piastri has exploded on the scene making enemies in the pit lane faster than a hand grenade in a bob sleigh. That's not a good start. He can probably sack his dog, but his sister is his for life (legal disclaimer, I've no idea if he actually has a sister or a dog).
McLaren (or should we simply type Zak?) has legal arguments with multiple drivers right now! Do they even have a sober legal counsel in the building right now? Over at Red Bull Christian must be laughing himself to sleep over this issue right now. When he visits Helmut in the home for their weekly game of Rummy they must be cackling harder than the Witches of Macbeth over this one. Heck some evenings they might not get around to discussing Toto until after a cup of Milo!
Alpine, like Daniel, would appear to hold a strong legal position right now. I'd expect each of these parties to come out ahead when the legal jousting is done. If their case is strong enough they will not even go to court, as the other party realises their own petard is well and truly lodged in their codpiece...
Will it go to court? Depends on just how strong the counter arguments are... and... if those hearing how weak or strong their legal position is actually listen to their legal team. Zak and Piastri are most consistent for rushing head-long into the haunted house without a torch, clove of garlic, wooden stake, or silver cross. They are tied for first place on the "Most likely to be eaten alive by the pool of Piranhas known as the Paddock and their legal sharks" leader board. Not a P1 anyone in F1 should be chasing.
Lawyers do not hold an impassioned position in legal arguments. They are quite often, as the delightful English language tells us, disinterested parties. This is gloriously different to being an uninterested party. An uninterested party cares not what the outcome is. A disinterested party has no direct stake in what the outcome is. The lawyers are not uninterested, since a long court battle is good for the vaults of Gold down in the cellar. They are uninterested is so far as winning is not always a primary goal for this particular species of Shark.
It is the people who disagree, and the lawyers who provide a formal framework within which to hold the argument. Rather like the referee in a Tyson Fury flight, they simply want to see the rules applied fairly to each combatant. It's not their fault if some clients are, to quote Jethro Tull, as Thick as a Brick. This is going to be a big win for the disinterested fan!
Dear reader as the delightful legal melee unfolds, may the best thrower of bricks win! For as Dredd clearly stated, "I am the Law!"
(This article offered without prejudice... :-) that's a (weak) legal joke folks... the real "article 100" will be along shortly!)
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here