Ferrari boss expects F1 and FIA politics to disappear

Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali (left) with FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem

Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali (left) with FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem

Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur believes the developing feud between F1 and the FIA will take a back seat once cars hit the track later this month.

Tensions between the two bodies have increased in recent weeks, most latterly due to comments made by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem over the sport’s current market value.

It follows on from remarks supporting Andretti’s bid to enter Formula 1, as the sport itself tempered that enthusiasm with its own statements.

“The question is not about Andretti, it’s what a new team could bring to F1,” asserted Vasseur.

“This is the first question, and the Andretti case will come later, but it’s what the new team could bring to the system.

“About FIA and Formula 1, I’m really confident that as soon as we will put the car on track this will disappear a little off the screen.

“And for sure that we’ll have a discussion but as always I hope that we will be able to stay focused on the sporting side.”

Recently, the FIA opened an Expressions of Interest process, setting out a number of criteria for new teams.

That included financial, technological, environmental, and other considerations pertaining to diversity, equality, and more.

Contrast that to statements made by Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali who has suggested the championship does not necessarily need any more teams.

“It is not a problem having one more team to have better racing, therefore we will see and we will monitor the situation,” Domenicali said in a Liberty Media investor call last year.

“If there would be a real, credible new entry that wants to discuss with us, we are ready to discuss, but we are not in a rushed position today for that.”

Then consider the statement issued by Formula 1 in the hours which followed Andretti’s Cadillac tie-up.

“There is great interest in the F1 project at this time with a number of conversations continuing that are not as visible as others,” it announced in the first week of January.

“We all want to ensure the championship remains credible and stable and any new entrant request will be assessed on criteria to meet those objectives by all the relevant stakeholders.

“Any new entrant request requires the agreement of both F1 and the FIA.”

Points of conflict

There’s more to the current conflict than just the prospect of new entries joining the grid.

Ben Sulayem prompted an angry response from the sport’s commercial rights holder for comments made on Twitter questioning a $20 billion valuation of the sport.

That garnered an angry response from Formula 1 and Liberty Media who sent the FIA boss, and the World Motor Sport Council, a letter expressing their concerns.

“Commenting on the value of a listed entity, especially claiming or implying possession of inside knowledge while doing so, risks causing substantial damage to the shareholders and investors of that entity, not to mention potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences,” it stated, in part.

But if the ability of new teams to join the championship, and the financial value and Liberty Media’s rights to sale are not enough, Domenicali has now waded in on a specific article in the FIA’s International Sporting Code (ISC).

Inserted in the latest version of the document which underpins motorsport, it prohibits drivers from making “political, religious and personal statements or comments.”

To an extent that clause already existed, given the FIA’s ‘neutral’ stance on politics, but the latest move to enshrine that in the ISC has been viewed as a gag on drivers.

The likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel used their profiles to raise awareness for topics close to them, with a lack of clarity now surrounding whether those are now banned.

Domenicali has since stated his organisation would “never put a gag on anyone”, a move which serves to further highlight the lack of harmony between the two most important institutions in Formula 1.

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