McLaren boss wants F1 teams to have less power

Zak Brown

Zak Brown has called for reform to the amount of influence teams have when it comes to Formula 1’s regulations.

The McLaren boss has been outspoken on the topic of the sport’s governance previously but has taken it a step further by suggesting there are “systemic issues” within the current processes.

Formula 1 employs a complex governance structure which sees teams, the commercial rights holders, and the FIA all offering input when formulating the rules.

These are then approved or rejected by the World Motor Sport Council, a process which is typically little more than a rubber stamp, at which point they become enshrined into the regulations.

That governance structure outlines how rule changes must be enacted, what voting requirements are needed, timelines for the introduction of changes, and the various committees or working groups which are involved.

Consistent throughout, however, is the influence of teams on the process, a point Brown takes issue with, the American citing debate surrounding the introduction of a cost cap as a prime example.

“Some teams still look for excuses to raise the cost cap and win world championships with chequebooks,” he wrote in a column on McLaren’s official website.

“The ongoing lobbying by certain teams to increase the cost cap for sprint race damage is a continuing example.

“The Saturday sprint race initiative by Formula 1 has added new viewers and raised the profile of the sport to expand its global fanbase.

“However, these teams continue to demand a raise to the cost cap by an inordinate amount of money, despite the clear evidence that little damage was incurred during these races last year, in a thinly veiled attempt to protect from their competitive advantage being eroded.

“The current governance structure of the sport enables a situation where some teams, to protect their own competitive advantage, are effectively holding the sport hostage from what’s best for the fans and therefore the sport at large,” he added.

“These teams seem unable to accept that a budget cap is in the best interests of the sport and cannot kick their habit of spending their way to the front.”

Formula 1 in recent years has developed into a two-tiered competition in many respects, with some teams designing and building the entirety of their cars while others buy in a raft of components.

It’s created a situation where deep relationships have been created, such as that between Ferrari and Haas, or similarly with Mercedes and Williams – A and B teams, as Brown terms them.

He suggests those arrangements are counterproductive to the ambitions of the sport, and serve to complicate and even manipulate the regulations.

“F1 needs to be 10 true constructors, where each team – apart from sharing the PU and potentially the gearbox internals – must design and produce all parts which are performance relevant,” he argued.

“Right now, there is too much diversity in the business models between teams.

“Trying to apply the same set of complex regulations to each, and then policing them effectively, is needlessly complicated and compromised as a result.

“This cost-capped environment should allow teams to become more recognisable entities in their own right within a realistic budget, without the concern of significant performance differences based on how much each team can spend,” he continued.

“In a nutshell, the current situation allows B teams to be overcompetitive compared to constructors, and A teams to be overcompetitive by having the benefit of a B team.

“Without a correction, the way things stand mean that any team with championship aspirations needs to have a B team in place and that simply is not Formula 1.

“On top of this, the voting pressure placed by the A teams on their B teams is not consistent with the promotion of an equitable sport based on individual team merit.

“As I have said before – and these teams won’t admit to it – there are times when some smaller teams vote against their own interests to satisfy the agenda of their A team.”

Attentions are currently focused on Formula 1’s regulations in the wake of the 2021 championship finale in Abu Dhabi.

While Brown believes this is a positive, he suggested the issues seen in Yas Marina was indicative of the issues the sport is currently experiencing.

“There have been systemic issues around alignment and clarity on who makes the rules – the FIA or the teams – that have manifested themselves in the past couple of years, at times in a high-profile way,” he said.

“The signs of organisational difficulties could be seen at the 2020 Australian Grand Prix and at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, both hallmarked by a seeming lack of preparation for the events unfolding and temporary inertia on the solutions.”

Brown went on to call for greater clarity when it comes to the roles of Formula 1’s commercial rights holder and the FIA, and more direct leadership.

“It is clear that some of the rules and their governance are not acceptable as things stand,” he observed.

“No one is happy with the inconsistency in the policing of the regulations, but which has been habitually exploited by teams for competitive advantage.

“I have said before that the teams have too much power and it needs to be reduced.

“We have a significant role in the drafting of the regulations and governance of Formula 1 and that influence is not always driven by what is best overall for the sport.

“Yes, teams should be consulted, and their informed perspectives considered, particularly on long-term strategic issues.

“But at times it has seemed the sport is governed by certain teams,” he continued.

“Let us not forget that we, the teams, have contributed to the inconsistencies in the policing of the regulations as much as anyone.

“It is the teams who applied the pressure to avoid finishing races under a Safety Car at all costs.

“It is the teams who voted for many of the regulations they have complained about.

“It is the teams who have been using the broadcasting of radio messages to the race director to try to influence penalties and race outcomes, to the point where an over-excited team principal plays to the gallery and pressurises race officials.

“This has not been edifying for F1. At times it’s felt like a pantomime audition rather than the pinnacle of a global sport.”

The FIA is set to announce the findings of its investigation on March 18, the Friday of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

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