Tech Draft: Time for F1 teams to race on equal terms

testing gasly formula 1 grid

In 2021 Formula 1, many facets of the sport have been regulated more than at any other stage in its history, and the reason is quite simple; to promote more competitive races and a greater diversity of winners.

Most of us know that F1 is not only a niche industry, but also big business, and its modern history clearly demonstrates that success in it is a function directly proportional to the amount of money spent in that pursuit.

Accordingly, if the FIA’s mandate is to police the technical, sporting, human factors, and financial aspects of F1 to ensure that compliance promotes a fair and competitive forum for the championship, it is perplexing that the commercial activities of entrants and their people aren’t regulated more stringently, for the very same reason.

All around the world in regulated industries and markets, conflict of interest and anti-trust (or anti-competition) laws ensure that fair competition, fair trade, and the institutions’ best interests are protected so that all participants can compete on equal terms.

Alas, even though Stefano Domenicali and his team have signed off on, and published F1’s professionally presented Code of Conduct document with nice pictures and some lovely warm and fuzzy statements about anti-trust and conflict of interest, its extent is to suggest you confide in your manager that your wife works for the company tendering to supply your team’s uniforms if you are on the tender evaluation team.

There is an often-used saying that essentially says that culture starts at the top, and it is hardly coincidental that conflicts of interest, vested interests and commercial blockades occur on a regular basis in F1, given the sport’s previous commercial rights holder and the FIA found themselves entwined in a conflict of interest investigation over the sale of the rights to Liberty Media and the associated questionable allocation of commercial shares to the FIA.

Have you ever heard that other well known saying, something about Monkey see, Monkey do?

Consider the most recent happenings of the 2022 silly season objectively, and surely the answer to the question of, whether there are conflicts of interest and interests restricting the ability of others to compete on equal terms in F1, is answered.

Moreover, as the sport consults in good faith with its current and potential power unit suppliers this weekend in Monza to determine a future PU architectural strategy for the sport beyond 2025, that very path may very well be compromised through a lack of consensus by those giving their own interests a greater priority over that of the sports, which is a conflict of interest by its very definition.

In recent years, restrictive trading and blockades derived from vested interests have cost teams engine deals, sponsors, the ability to contract employees, and even cost some drivers their F1 careers, some before they could even be started.

In 2022 Formula 1 enters a new era, one more technically prescriptive than ever, one more considerate to the welfare of its people, and one intentionally designed to cost less, but until the business practices of the participants are policed in a similar manner, and anti-competitiveness and conflict of interests outlawed ensuring that all are capable of competing on equal terms, the level of competition will not close up and diversify as much as we would hope.