F1 strategy group ‘on the brink’


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.

14 responses to “F1 strategy group ‘on the brink’

  1. If they can’t even manage to agree a date for the next strategy meeting then it seems like the whole exercise has just been a complete waste of tea and biscuits.

    • The strategy group has done a very good job. They put brakes on E’s crazy ideas about using various gimmicks to “spice up” the show. On the other hand, Force India’s tire proposal went through because it was one of the very few that actually made sense. (I always wondered, why can’t teams just use whatever tire type, whenever they want, for as long as they want, and as many times as they want? anything restricting team’s tire strategy is simply a rule to create some kind of artificial handicap or excitement).

  2. The primary problem here is that whilst people – like Bernie – are labelling this as a ‘democracy’, it is still far from it. Thus, its apparent failure to date isn’t indicative of a failure of an idealistic, democratic version of F1; as Bernie would like us to believe. We need to see through his and ‘Team Bernie’s’ agenda. He’s an expert at managing and massaging a message, as well as distributing it and having others believe they’ve come up with the analysis. A true genius, in my opinion…


    Another genius, Durante degli Alighieri (pictured above) was an Italian poet of the late Middle Ages and is considered to be the ‘Father of the Italian language’… He is credited with the famous quote, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” The quote – which has much academic debate surrounding its exact original source, and the exact wording – essentially is employed in some cases when one is suggesting that it is better making any option than no option, even if it’s the ‘incorrect’ option. Being caught in the middle of the road often yields a poorer outcome than picking a side. Often, it’s the hottest place to be…

    (Just, just bear with me.)

    Therefore in this situation, this version of democracy is ‘the middle of the road’, so to speak. It’s neither the old dictatorship, nor are all men (F1 stakeholders) democratically equal; as Bernie’s narrative would have you believe. It’s a strange hybrid system, and whilst it’s a step in the right direction, it’s only a step, and democracy doesn’t work like that. It either is, or isn’t. Therefore F1 finds itself in an identity crisis, and who would be the happiest that this is the case? Bernie, of course. One who would be desperate to stop any notion that a full blown, effective democracy might work. One that spies yet another opportunity to divide and conquer. One who might fear a utopian situation where all the teams actually have an equal voice in conjunction with the Regulator and Commercial Owner. The wolf is howling, and any pretext will be used to discredit anything that undermines his total ability to control. Today, that pretext is democracy… Laughable, in fact it’s totes omg lol yolo rofl, as the kids say.

    You might still think this is indicative of democracy in F1, or close enough to see how it might work, and that Bernie is correct. But close enough isn’t indicative enough, not in this circumstance…


    Take evolution, for example. Estimates of genetic similarity between humans and chimpanzees suggested they are 98.5–99.4 percent identical. Evolutionists have viewed the chimpanzee as our closest living relative. Admittedly, the stat’s on this science is fluid, the percentages alter slightly each year as our technology grows, but not meaningfully so and the point is clear… Close enough isn’t the same thing. A difference of only 1.5% results in a human, or a chimpanzee. We have a chimpanzee strategy group at the moment. Yes, F1 has moved on and evolved from the cold, reptilian version of Bernie’s dictatorship style governing, so it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s no human, yet. It’s no democracy, yet.

    I don’t want to go on, and on, and on… Well, I do and I could, of course, but I think I’ll leave it with this thought. I don’t disagree with the tone of the article, or the Judge’s implied stance on the matters associated with the Strategy Group, garnered here and in other articles. Our glorious Judge is pragmatic, and I admire that. Pragmatism breeds outcomes. But there are times we can’t always be happy to be pragmatic… Imagine if we all were pragmatic, all the time, accepting the world in which we are presented and working around it to achieve pragmatic outcomes. There would be no change, there would be no improvements, and there would be no paradigms broken.

    The world of F1 is moving toward a democratic, transparent, sustainable world of governance… It’s catching up with 2015. The hold up is Bernie, in my opinion. F1 has somehow managed to take some small steps – around Bernie – but the apparent failure isn’t indicative of a wrong path strategically, and thus a need to return to the Bernie/Max governance of old, in my opinion.

    Anyway… It’s also not that serious. It’s only sport, so take my comment with a pinch of salt. Thanks for reading, if you have.

    • Nice comment WTF, but I disagree with the first line ” The primary problem here is that whilst people – like Bernie – are labelling this as a ‘democracy’, it is still far from it”

      It is exactly like the origins of our beloved western democracy, women, poor and other riffraff not welcomed.
      So are we going from Kings and early form of democracy to klepto corporatism or more broad form of democracy. I think kleptos are on the winning streak like in the real world.

      • Fundamental concepts of democracy have not really changed, the window of who is defined as a stakeholder in democracies has widened over the centuries. The definition of the ‘many’ has increased over time. Women, etc… And that’s thanks to democracy in the first place. Civil rights has increased, the window of recognised stakeholders have increased, but the methods are similar.

        In terms of F1, we know who the recognised stakeholders are… Teams, commercial rights holder & FiA, mainly. Right now, those accepted stakeholders have ‘unequal’ power (small teams have none), and thus it’s failing, and the failing is being attributed to democracy, with the solution being a return to a dictatorial style.

        Democracy, as a style of governance, is tailored to the era and environment it has operated, so there are perceived differences when we look back. But what we have now in this strategy group isn’t indicative of a proper current democratic system with an equal collaborative approach given the voting power imbalance, some stakeholders not being represented and a passive FiA trying to be smarter than it is. It’s a strange chimpanzee hybrid.

    • I have to admit that I didn’t finish your whole post, but I guess what you’re trying to say is that F1 is on its way from a dictatorial system (Bernie) towards democracy and Bernie is trying to tell us, “you’ve reached democracy and failed, come back to me”.

    • Bernie “…an expert at managing and massaging a message…”.

      Do give over. Bernie holds the purse strings, he controls the F1 press, he has forced teams to sack personnel. With that power, he doesn’t need to be any kind of expert. In fact, the Dwarf struggles to express himself in anything longer than a paragraph.

  3. Hey wtf f1!
    Time for you to write an article for the judge.
    Well done. Very well done.
    Whether some agrees with you or not, well done.

  4. Poor old Bernie, try as he might he can’t deflect the blame for F1’s woes onto anyone else. Fans haven’t stopped watching the races because of the engines or the winners, it’s the cost of viewing on pay TV or attending the races.
    As for Paul Hembery, he’s certainly mastered the art of talking out of his backside. The rules of all sports come from those taking part, it always has and always will. It’s only when dicks like him get involved that pressure is put onto competitors to make changes – most of which never stay the course. As we know, Pirelli are the only tyre maker who are happy to bend over and grease their passage when it comes to supplying tissue paper tyres. If he believes they will get away with their current rubbish when cars are harder to drive, he’s in for a shock.

  5. First a question (ok, several): Who created the Strategy Group initially? Wasn’t this cooked up as part of the FOM/FIA deal where the FIA get $40MM (or whatever it was) in return for giving up overall regulatory control? If so, is it fair to say that the strategy group is actually Bernie’s brainchild? If so, experience tell us there is more to this than meets the eye…

    Second: I smell a rat (ok, two):
    1. If Bernie created the strategy group and now wants it disbanded, was it always just a long-term stalking horse for BCE taking over governance of F1 entirely…?
    2. There is increasing (or at least ongoing) talk of the EU investigating the “unfair” governance of F1via the strategy group – which could lead to the 100-year lease deal being declared “illegal” and BCE/CVC’s investment worthless; what better way to head this investigation off at the pass than to disband the strategy group?

  6. Nobody will miss a group which achieves nothing, except perhaps those who wanted nothing to be done in the first place. So bye bye.

  7. talk of the EU investigating the “unfair” governance of F1via the strategy group… Seems to be just that.. Talk and no substance.

    Are they really going to do anything or maybe they want to save themselves the trouble and wait for the sport to implode on itself.

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