Reg loopholes found when team bosses & F1 feud

Since Liberty’s take over of F1 and the subsequent demise of Mr E, already we see potential tension between the new owners of the sport & the teams.

Liberty put forward a means of giving teams a slice of ownership by offering shares. Something promptly dismissed by team bosses, similarly paralleled back when Bernie Ecclestone took control of F1 35 odd years ago. He offered teams a share of the new TV deals he put in place and of course the short sighted team bosses dismissed the offer, oh what could of been…

Mr E fought many a battle during that time. He was one of the leading figures in the FISA-FOCA war of the 80’s.


At the time FISA (Féderation Internationale du Sport), a committee created by FIA, was in charge of Formula 1. Constructors has formed their own committee FOCA (Formula One Constructors Association). Names one might remember (and those of the faces in the featured image) are Jean-Marie Balestre (FISA) and on the other hand Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley (FOCA). Note the Anglo-French opposition between organisations: this already predicted painful dispute..

The forcefield of difference of interest was the beginning of many a battle: money and regulations. In this respect times haven’t changed much.. FISA was more on the hand of the bigger teams and smaller teams felt underrated both in terms of money, as well as by the application of the rules. FOCA felt that in some cases rule-transgressions were solved with a priority treatment for the larger teams. Also FOCA thought that smaller teams should get a larger portion of the money (what else is new?)

In the beginning of the 80-ies the spanish Grand Prix formed a spark in the keg of gunpowder. FISA had fined drivers (mostly FOCA’s) that hadn’t appeared at driver briefings. They were threatening to revoke racing licenses, effectively stopping drivers from competing. Spanish king Juan Carlos was called in to broker a deal where the Grand Prix could take place, and drivers did not have to pay the fines.

Matters didnt stop there. FOCA actually formed a competing organisation WFMS (World Federation of MotorSport)  This short lived WFMS actually organised a South African Grans Prix. Unluckily, the larger teams did not follow, and FOCA returned under the FISA flag.

1982 marked another chapter in the war. This time the reason was that FISA wanted that drivers could only drive for their team, making it next to impossible to drive in other series and making switches between teams harder. Obviously the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association), represented by Niki Lauda and Didier Pironi, was quite unhappy with this move. The GPDA announced a drivers strike, and were supported by the teams. GPDA, FISA and FOCA finally decided to scratch any forced drivers obligations.


driver strike Kyalami 1982

However a couple of months later FOCA threatened to boycott the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix to enforce regulation changes and application thereof, and of course, better financial compensation for the teams. Discussions were heated and at some time Lotus’ Colin Chapman, and Frank Williams (name giver to the Williams team) said they would stop talking as long as Balestre was FISA president.  In the end the race was held, but with only 14 (!) contestants. Some of these 14 cars were member of FOCA, and this caused major discomfort in the ranks of FOCA…

The mud-slinging did not end there. FOCA later stated they did not want to compete for reasons of the disqualifications of the Brabham and Williams cars.

Renault had introduced turbo engines in the late 70-ies, and in the beginning of the 80-ies these turbo engines had come increasingly powerful, effectively overpowering the standard Ford Cosworth engines. Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and BMW jumped the turbo bandwagon, but the rest of the (FOCA) teams still used the Fords.


Prost in the 1981 Renault

In a bid to overcome the power difference Brabham and Williams (FOCA) started looking for “creative ways” to be faster. They found this by (mis)using weighing procedures: cars needed to be weighed before the start, including all coolants and oil, but according to FOCA the regulations said nothing about the necessity of these fluids still being present at the end of the race…

So Brabham and Williams started the Brazilian Grand Prix with water cooled brakes. Water tanks were fitted to the cars, and although they were intended to cool brakes, teams emptied these tanks early on in the race, effectively giving those teams a weight advantage! At the end of the race (or when taking pitstops) FOCA claimed teams had the right to top off any fluids before weighing.


1982 Brabham BT49C

As response (and to jest) Ferrari answered with a double-winged car (one on top of another), to show what could happen if teams were allowed to look for loopholes in the regulations.


Ferrari’s double wing

The case ended before a FIA court. In the end the Williams car of Keke Rosberg (dad of..) and Brabham’s Nelson Piquet were disqualified. Other teams using the same techniques weren’t disqualified since Renault only protested the cars which finished ahead of their’s.

Other notable (mis)uses of the regulations were Tyrrell’s special wing for weight-check. Tyrrell made a wing heavier then they would normally run, just to put in on for weighing the car.. Brabham concocted a ride-height adjuster: cars needed to be 6 centimeters of the ground, but Brabham added a pneumatic component to the suspension, so it could easily adjust during the race..

This kind of battles raged on until the creation of the first Concorde Agreements of 1981 and 1987. Gradually FISA agreed to a more equal distribution of the money, and to be more clear in terms of regulation and arbitration. FOCA on their part promised to take part in all races, and share transport costs evenly among teams. Parts of those initial Concorde Agreement still survived and are present in the latest 2014 Concorde.

FISA’s role ended in 1993, when its functions were given back to FIA. In the end Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley started working for FIA: their work for the sport made them acceptable for both sides.

Was that the end of tension between the governing body and constructors? No not really, but we will write about  the following FIA-FOTA battle in a next article!

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