McLaren calls for changes in F1 rule-making process
By Mat Coch
Wednesday 5th May, 2021 - 2:02pm
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has called for a change in the way Formula 1 votes through regulations to prevent partisan voting.
F1 operates to a complicated governance structure which outlines how rules can be introduced, with regulations surrounding whether a majority or unanimity are required.
There are also a number of different bodies through which the proposed changes progress before the Formula 1 Commission ultimately votes.
According to Brown, the existence of close relationships between some teams often sees that process complicated.
The American alleges pressure from a supplier team on its customers is used to have them vote against their own best interests.
“One example I’ll give you is when we were going for the budget cap, the reduction in the budget cap,” Brown began.
“You had some teams that are close to the budget cap supporting a larger budget cap, which makes absolutely no sense.”
To overcome the issue, Brown suggests the sport uses blind voting on such issues.
While he acknowledges it wouldn’t entirely resolve the issues within the governance structure, it would help reduce the pressure customer operations felt in appeasing their suppliers.
He was quick to point out that Mercedes, with whom McLaren has an agreement for power units, has never attempted to influence his team’s voting.
“Mercedes has never asked us to vote in a direction that we didn’t want to,” Brown stated.
“But when you look around the room and you see who votes for what, very often it raises eyebrows.
“What Toto [Wolff, Mercedes’ F1 CEO] was referring to was the last Formula 1 Commission meeting and some of the alignments on votes that maybe one team would not have voted in support for but yet did.”
On the current grid, Mercedes has supply agreements with McLaren, Aston Martin, and Williams, while Honda supplies Red Bull and AlphaTauri.
Renault power units feature only in the factory Alpine cars while Ferrari supplies Alfa Romeo and Haas.
Brown’s calls for a secret ballot are not unheralded, and the mechanism exists within F1’s governance structure.
Currently, that is rarely used, with the McLaren boss suggesting it should be utilised far more frequently.
“I just think everything needs to be a secret ballot moving forward. You know, certainly we will apply that moving forward,” he said.
“A team has a right to ask for a secret vote,” he added.
“So we’d need to go down the path of every single time we have a vote, we can ask for a secret vote, or we can just go to secret voting and be done with it.
“If you’re going to have conflicts of interest in the sport, which you’ve always had, then you have to set up governance, to protect and counter the ability to exercise that conflict of interest.”
In a veiled swipe at Ferrari, he also suggested the voting threshold be reduced.
Currently, a majority is eight of 10 teams agreeing to a proposal, a figure Brown would like to see reduced.
“I’d also like to see the voting go from eight to seven, because some people have alignment of three teams,” he reasoned.
“So I’d also like to see the threshold dropped a little bit, so you couldn’t have a single entity influence a vote.”
Asked why Brown was crusading for such reform, given F1 is typically dictated by self interests, he suggested it was a case of equalising the playing field.
“All I’m trying to do is get the sport to where, you know may the best team win, but everyone has the same size bats and same amount of players on the field, whatever sport analogy you want to use,” he said.
“I think that’s in the best interest of definitely Formula 1, but I also think that’s what’s in the best interest of McLaren.
“In my four years being here [in F1], some of these meetings become very frustrating because they become, as you would imagine, very political.
“Things that should get solved in one meeting, you’d be amazed that issues can just be around for three months, six months, a year,” he added.
“I wanted to put out there, the areas that I think are opportunities for Formula One, because I think Formula One is in great shape.
“My commentary is intended to be not critical in the sport, but areas of opportunity and room for growth.”
The sport’s governance is just one of a number of topics Brown raised in an open letter published by the team in the lead up to the Portuguese Grand Prix.
In that letter, he also looked at the need for ways to make the sport more sustainable, ways to better connect with and grow the fanbase, and manage the sport’s commercial interests through new markets, limiting races and increasing testing.