John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
4 minute read
4 Jan 2016
1:48 pm

Who holds the reins in F1? (Part 2)

John Floyd

John Floyd continues his walk through F1's history to find its modern day power-brokers.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is seen following practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, United States on November 15, 2013

The strength of FOCA (Formula One Constructors Association) was tested continually in the struggle to ensure that the teams were fairly treated by the controlling body FISA. The latter was supported by European manufacturers of road going automobiles with Renault, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo being the major force. FOCA was formed to represent the independent teams, most of who were based in the UK.

The situation between the two bodies became rather acrimonious and was to become known as the FISA-FOCA War.

In 1981 FOCA announced its own organization known as the World Federation of Motor Sport and ran a non championship event. The race received full coverage from the world television networks and supplied leverage in the battle against FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre, resulting in the Frenchman having to negotiate with FOCA. That race was the 1981 South African Grand Prix.

READ MORE > Who holds the reins in F1? (Part 1)

These negotiations led to the initiation of the Concorde Agreement which set the guidelines for the sport for some years to come. Mosley played a leading role in the drawing up of this agreement which effectively gave FISA control of the rules and regulations while FOCA control television rights and promotion of the sport. The Concorde Agreement is the binding agreement between all the parties involved in F1.

Former F1 supremo, Jean-Marie Balestre (Picture: Senna documentary).

Former F1 supremo, Jean-Marie Balestre (Picture: Senna documentary).

In 1982 Mosley left FOCA and moved into British politics but four years later returned to the motorsport world and with support from Ecclestone and Balestre became president of the FISA Manufacturers’ Commission. Just one year later and at Mosley’s instigation Ecclestone became the vice-president of the FIA’s promotional affairs giving him authority over all motorsport run under the auspices of the FIA, including F1.

The two Englishman were progressively becoming an integral part of F1 and gaining control of the financially lucrative divisions. Mosley campaigned against Balestre for presidency of FISA in 1991 and was elected with the Frenchman remaining as president of the FIA.

In 1993 Balestre took up the post of President of the FIA Senate, a position created by Mosley, and stood down as FIA president that post now filled by the Englishman. Not long after FISA was merged with the FIA as the sporting division.

Two years later in 1995 a deal was agreed between Ecclestone and Mosley which was to create controversy and set the future course for Formula One. In his capacity as President of the FIA Mosley sold the commercial rights to Ecclestone for a period of fifteen years, at which point the rights would revert to the FIA. Just a year later Ecclestone received the rights to all FIA sanctioned events also for 15 years. It is believed that the FIA were to receive a fixed annual index linked royalty of 15%.

Max Mosley walks in the paddock of the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza, Italy, on September 11, 2009

Max Mosley walks in the paddock of the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza, Italy, on September 11, 2009

Many were not happy with this deal including the European Commission that was investigating the whole agreement and had vetoed a move for a 10 year extension. This extension was sought by Ecclestone prior to his proposed flotation of Formula One and would have resulted in a share of the new company for the FIA.

The result of the investigation was a Statement of Objection from the EU Commission Directorate General for Competition which listed several grievances in the FIA and Ecclestone deals. The outcome saw Ecclestone standing down as vice president of the FIA’s promotional affairs and the FIA ceasing all involvement in the commercial side of F1. Mosley used this demand and disposed of the commercial rights by extending Ecclestone’s contract to 100 years and stated that this could not be considered as anti competition but as an outright sale.

Amazingly the EU agreed and the deal was done netting around $300 million for the governing body.

Mosley continued as president of the FIA until 2009 when he ended his term and ex Ferrari team boss Jean Todt took the position. Mosley had initiated the move to a greener form of F1 and power plants that were more in tune with the automobile industries requirements.

So the scene was set for the future of Formula One, a new generation of cars and an even stronger commercial management situation for Ecclestone.

Whichever way you look at it the commercial side of the sport was thriving but the next few years were to witness some very dark clouds on the horizon and the struggle for control reaching levels never seen before as the new era of F1 began.