FIA provokes Liberty to mark territory and strain relations
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In the history of Formula 1, the disputes between the FIA and the holder of the commercial rights are not new, because the coexistence between two bodies of power is never easy.
Since the FIA presidency passed to Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the governing body has had to deal with thorny F1-related issues, starting with the most famous case of ‘Michael Masi’. Since then, tension between the International Federation and Liberty Media, owner of the commercial rights to the category, has been felt.
The attitude of Ben Sulayem it reveals a clear desire to draw a very precise line between what is the responsibility of the FIA and what is the responsibility of the commercial rights holder, even in minor situations.
An example of this took place last Tuesday, September 20, when the FIA issued a press release with the calendar for the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.
By tradition, Liberty Media and the FIA had always sent a joint statement, because while it is true that the approval of the calendar is an area of competence of the FIA, it is also true that its preparation is the result of a long process led by Liberty Media, which is in charge of negotiating with the promoters of each Grand Prix.
On this occasion, the FIA did not inform Liberty Media of the sending of the calendar, reason for which the personnel which is under the direction of Stefano Domenicali He learned of the formalization without notice.
Ben Sulayem wanted to mark his territory with a very sibylline statement, (“The new races and the presence of traditional events underline the good management of sport by the FIA”) claiming a job well done by Liberty.
The FIA (through the World Council) has the final say on calendar approval, but in fact in recent years, the World Board has been more like an office that simply puts the seal at the request of the governing body.
Something is changing, and that need not necessarily be negative if the institutional power of the FIA is used to guarantee the fundamental values of the category.
However, so far there have been a few curious positions, from the controversy over the jewelry worn by pilots, to the indifference after complaints from Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon in Miami on the protections of Turn 14 or the rejection of an increase in sprint racing, initially motivated by a possible increase in costs for the FIA itself.
The governing body wants to mark its territory but above all, requires taking a greater share of financial income which Liberty Media obtains through the sale of commercial rights.
In the economic field, the FIA is not going through its best moment, indeed, its budgets are in deficit, and this is probably one of the main changes that Ben Sulayem wants to make as president of the federation.
It’s also true that without the dues that Formula 1 guarantees each year, they might not have the funds they need for their own survival, so it’s a tricky game.
What Formula 1 complains about (in this case not only Liberty Media, but a large part of the paddock) is the lack of effectiveness in certain contexts on the part of the FIA. Apart from the handling of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the most recent case is the controversial arrival of the Italian Grand Prix, both of which were handled questionably by the staff of the governing body.
On the other hand, the fact of wanting to circumvent the Formula 1 Commission in the affair of the “TD39” was not well received by most teams, as was the regulation that was introduced in Canada bypassing even the World Racing Council. . .
In addition, there is another crucial aspect, and that is the budget cap control system which some teams say seems to be deficient at the moment.
We will see how events will unfold in the months to come and if these darts continue or, on the contrary, both agree to, at least, learn to live together, for a common good; the Formula 1.
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