EU to investigate F1


Force India and Sauber have finally lodged the official complaint that will kick-start a European Union investigation into Formula One.

In November last year, British politician Anneliese Dodds, Labour MEP for the South East England region, and just a few months into her new role, wrote to Europe's competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, calling on her to investigate two moves made by the FIA which she claimed were questionable.

The first was the FIA's acceptance of a 1% stake in the F1 Group which runs F1, a deal that could be worth as much as $120m should CVC, which controls the F1 Group, successfully reach its $12bn target when selling the business.

The second being the formation of the F1 Strategy Group, which the FIA agreed to in return for a payment of $40m.

The Strategy Group, which consists of three main parties - the F1 Group, the FIA and the six 'leading' teams - has immense power, such as it vetoing of the $200m budget cap which would have gone some way to levelling the playing field and might have saved Caterham.

In November, Dodds called on the European competition commissioner to "look into this possible breach of competition rules as a matter of urgency and take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the undertakings made by the FIA are being observed as originally intended."

The request dismissed almost out of hand, Dodds tried again.

"What are the steps that the Commission intends to take next in this case?" she asked. "Does the Commission intend to open an own initiative investigation into these allegations? If not, why not? What information would the Commission require in order to open such an investigation, and what would the trigger be? Does the Commission believe that its current sports industry policy is suitably up to date and still adequate, given the pace at which the industry keeps growing within the EU market?

"I would be very grateful if either you or Mr Kuik (Krzysztof Kuik, an antitrust head at the European Commission) could answer those questions and explain in a bit more detail exactly what the Commission is doing to look into this matter, and what you expect the next steps to be. If there is any more information that you require from me, or anything more that I can do to be of assistance, then please do not hesitate to let me know."

Unbeknown to Ms Dodds, Kuik had already 'interviewed' representatives from Force India, Lotus and Sauber, the three teams most vocal about F1 costs in the wake of the demise of Caterham and (at that time) Marussia and who were said to be considering boycotting the United States Grand Prix, though two of the teams subsequently denied such action was ever considered.

It was also claimed that; "two more figures, whose names have been withheld, have given critical accounts of the way F1 is run".

Previously a complaint concerning F1 was lodged in 2009 and concerned the selection process for the new teams entering the sport in 2010 and, in particular, the fact that those selected would have to use Cosworth engines.

In July, Dodds visited Force India's Silverstone HQ and reiterated the need for the small teams to act if they want the investigation to begin.

"Ever since the collapse of Marussia and Caterham last year, I have had real concerns about the way things are going with Formula 1,"she said. "It didn't just mean two fewer teams taking part in races throughout the season. It meant hundreds of highly skilled people in my constituency losing their jobs and their livelihoods.

"That's why I've raised this issue a number of times in Brussels, to see if there is a competition case to answer here. The Commissioner in charge has made it clear to me that she can't do anything until the teams themselves submit a formal complaint, and so if that's what the teams feel is right then that is what they should do."

Finally, Force India and Sauber have taken the plunge and lodged an official complaint.

"Sahara Force India is one of two teams to have registered a complaint with the European Union questioning the governance of Formula 1 and showing that the system of dividing revenues and determining how Formula 1's rules are set is both unfair and unlawful," said the team in a statement.

"Due to the ongoing legal discussions, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

At a time the future of Red Bull and Toro Rosso is in doubt and Lotus is placing its hopes on a piece of paper, this is probably the last thing the sport needs.

Then again, maybe it is exactly what the sport needs.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 29/09/2015
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