Force India waiting on 2017 rules in EU complaint

LONDON (Reuters) - Force India are waiting for Formula One’s 2017 rules to be finalised before taking the next step in their complaint to the European Union about how the sport is run and revenues distributed.

Force India Formula One team's deputy principal Bob Fernley is seen at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, south of Manama April 20, 2012. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

“We’re not looking at moving that forward until the end of the month, until we’ve seen all the changes that come in and we know exactly where things are,” deputy team principal Bob Fernley told Reuters.

Force India, controlled by Indian magnate Vijay Mallya, and Swiss rivals Sauber filed a joint complaint last September asking the EU competition authorities to investigate the sport’s governance.

Both teams believe Formula One is in breach of articles that prohibit cartels and the abuse of dominant market positions.

At stake is the amount of money top teams like Ferrari receive from the commercial rights holder as well as their influence on decision making, with the possibility that contracts will have to be redrawn.

“We submitted our complaint. The complaint has then gone to CVC (commercial rights holders). CVC have responded back (to the EU), which we have a copy of, and then we have to reply again to that final part of it,” Fernley said.

“Then they’ll look at it. It’s going through the process.”

The sport’s core Strategy Group of governing body, six top teams and commercial rights holder agreed in February to postpone to April 30 the deadline for finalization of the 2017 sporting and technical regulations.


The rules can be decided by majority vote, even though after March 1 any changes for 2017 would normally have to be agreed unanimously, because the postponement was approved on those terms.

Force India and Sauber argue that the Strategy group amounts to a “questionable cartel”. A briefing note issued after the formal complaint to the EU spoke of “unfair” side payments and “unlawful practices”.

Top teams Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Red Bull receive special payments in recognition of past performance and sit permanently with the commercial rights holder and governing FIA on the Strategy Group.

The sixth team is decided by championship standings and is currently Force India.

The smaller teams say the system is skewed in favour of the big ones, who are guaranteed millions of dollars regardless of how they perform on the track and also get to decide the rules.

Commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone last year dismissed talk of a cartel but is now questioning the influence of dominant champions Mercedes and Ferrari -- who between them supply eight of the 11 teams with engines.

Current contracts with the teams and governing FIA run to 2020 but Ecclestone has indicated he would welcome the chance to rip them up and start again.

Speaking to reporters at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Ecclestone suggested the EU was “starting to get more and more interested in the anti-competitive way that we’ve got.

“If the EU got really excited about it, they could look at it (the existing contracts) and say ‘You’ve got to tear that up’,” he added.

Editing by John O’Brien