Many people thought prior to its in inception, the strategy group would be a disaster for Formula One. The premise of this conclusion was that the big powers in the sport would force through decisions and the smaller teams would be excluded.
For a proposal to reach the F1 commission – whose constituency is the strategy group members plus the smaller teams and suppliers, sponsors and race promoters – it must first be agreed by the strategy group.
This obviously means that to get anything on the table, it requires support from at least one member of the F1 strategy group, or the idea will never see the light of day.
The reality of how the strategy group has functioned has surprised many F1 observers. The members almost always fail to agree unanimously on anything.
Force India’s recent tyre choice proposal unusually received unanimous consent. It will now come into force in 2016, subject to the agreement by the F1 commission.
Majority voting is sufficient for proposals on regulation change, but usually the time line for matters which only require a majority to agree is at least a year to 18 months in the future.
So little can be done quickly. This has stemmed the flow of suggestions form the F1 school of bright ideas. Abandoned are standing restarts following a safety car period, double points and host of other suggestions which were churned out almost by the week in 2014.
At present, the strategy group has a number of working parties developing the big ideas for the “All new Formula One” in 2017. These include refuelling, wider tyres, more aerodynamics and faster cars.
However, unless four of the teams agree with FOM and Bernie, these ideas will never see the light of day – even with majority voting. As TJ13 has reported previously, this is because the FIA voting policy in the strategy group is to resist change unless there is unanimous agreement.
Clearly Bernie Ecclestone has become increasingly frustrated by this governance forum, which ironically he was instrumental in creating: “The problem is we are running something that is too democratic, and Jean won’t go along with things,” reports Autosport.
“I said to him the other day ‘if you come up with something sensible, on whatever it is, I’ll support you.
“The same thing – if we [FOM] come up with something sensible you should support it’.
“Between us we should say ‘these are the rules of the championship, if you want to be in it, great, if you don’t, we understand’.”
As TJ13 reported during the Monaco GP, Ecclestone has a sympathiser in Christian Horner – who following the Biggin Hill meeting had this to say.
“Bernie and Jean need to get together and say ‘this is what we want the product to be, this is how it needs to be governed’, and then give us the entry form and see if we want to enter or not.”
However, one person who appears to have had a change of heart is the Toro Rosso team Principal, Franz Tost. Previously whenever asked about the strategy group, Tost has muttered deferentially about their mandate and deferred to their deliberations and decisions.
But now, Tost says: “The Strategy Group itself will never come up with a proper solution.
“It should be Bernie and Jean together who should decide what we have to do.
“They should not even ask the teams because the teams never will come up with an agreement.”
Paul Hembery now joins the masses assembled against the strategy group. “In any sport it shouldn’t be the competitors that are involved in deciding changes.
“As Christian said, defining between the FIA and FOM how the sport is going to be, and then the teams can decide whether they want to adhere to those guidelines.”
Formula One’s shiny new form of governance is now widely discredited and lies in tatters.
However, the FIA are unlikely to vote for the abandonment of this forum, because it provides the Nirvana of the path of consensus – which is one Jean Todt’s presidential promises.
Currently the engine manufacturers are discussing retaining the in season ‘engine development token system’ for 2016. However, Mercedes are fundamentally opposed to the idea.
Clearly reducing the window for their competitors to ‘catch up’ means Mercedes advantage is likely to prevail for longer.
Mercedes should think twice about resisting this change. It is the lesser of more than two evils (for them) when considering what can be regulated without their consent for 2017.
Toto Wolff and Mercedes have been regularly cited by Bernie Ecclesone to be the main road block in the strategy group. If this is the case then the teams need to strengthen their resolve to drive through regulation changes for 2017 that ‘punish’ the German auto manufacturer.
The threat of this alone, may soften the stance of Stuttgart and Wolff on matters requiring more urgent attention. Deals must be done at some point and Mercedes can’t just refuse to play ball forever.
However, Bernie Ecclestone is now calling for the strategy group to be abandoned. “It’s bloody difficult for the constructors to come up with anything. If you were Mercedes you wouldn’t want anything changed”.
“At last month’s Strategy Group meeting nothing was decided – not even the date of the next meeting.
“We could have voted on something then and put it through, but nothing.”
Some may say that for a while in F1, doing nothing is better – than enacting a host of ill considered and ridiculous ideas.