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Parc Ferme: Revolving Doors

Parc Ferme: Revolving Doors

Parc Ferme: Revolving Doors

The announcement that Natalie Robyn is exiting the stage left from her position as Chief Executive Officer of the FIA is another blow to Formula 1‘s owner and regulatory body.

The fact that she’s also female and only arrived in the role some eighteen months ago will make it particularly vexing for the governing body’s beleaguered President; especially as F1 tries to divest itself of its “man country” reputation.

Hello and goodbye

Robyn’s departure marks the fourth senior executive to leave in as many months. The FIA has been at pains to signal she was pushed using the euphemistic phrase “pursuing her career elsewhere”.

This is a common exit rationale given when someone is not up to the job. However, the normally stable organization in personnel terms is witnessing a veritable exodus of high-profile personnel. This would suggest the smoke and fire is within the FIA. However, we should also consider the possibility that they may have been lured out!

Nobody likes change!

Even to the most casual observer, it’s clear there is a battle royal over who controls F1. Namely, between its commercial rights holder, Formula One Management (FOM), aka Liberty Media, and F1’s rights holder and regulatory body, the FIA.

The FIA’s attempt to increase the number of entrants and air its opinion on the value of Liberty’s commercial rights enraged FOM. In their view, this was the FIA trespassing on their territory. Conversely, the FIA feels it has every right to do both as its ultimate owner of the show and its regulatory body.

Bring in the big guns

As a would-be F1 entrant, Andretti Motorsport supports this. However, being repeatedly told their names are not on the list by Club FOM doorman Stefan Domenicali is frustrating.

Having aligned themselves with the FIA, they now find themselves a proxy in a war their backer appears to be losing; that is until they nudged the US Congress to look into the matter.

This was a big play, but I suspect that FOM’s primary shareholder Liberty, an American company, will make this a moot point. It may, though, escalate Liberty’s attempt at a coup de grâce.

It’s been a good run

Much of what the FIA President wants to achieve will benefit the fans and the sport. There’s not a genuine fan standing who doesn’t want to see bigger grids. He’s gone on record to say we will not wake up and find there is no FIA in F1.

I agree, but we may well find that there is no FOM in the FIA. Unfortunately, this hemorrhaging of competent people at the top of the FIA creates the opportunity for Liberty to say: “Yep, you go and regulate the small stuff, and we’ll bring in a more qualified organisation to run F1”. Sports Car Club of America, anyone?