This season has not been the FIA’s most glorious in its management of F1. With a new president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who unlike his predecessor is highly visible and vocal, Formula 1’s governing body has repeatedly been criticised by drivers and teams alike. The latest bust up appears to be over the release of the 2023 season calendar.
While there is no fixed time for the calendar to be agreed, outside of Covid times there is usually a provisional calendar in circulation by the end of F1’s summer break. This may be tweaked slightly and confirmed around the time of the Italian GP.
It appears the FIA have failed to get the agreement of all parties over the 2023 F1 schedule and so have rushed to post it on Tuesday thereby ending dissent.
Returning to the calendar are China and Qatar. Qatar debuted in 2021 filling the void of the cancelled Australian GP, but its 10 year contract will begin next season.
China last appeared on the F1 calendar for 2019 but the race has been cancelled by the Chinese authorities pursuing a zero tolerance Covid policy ever since.
New will be a Saturday night race in Vegas, the weekend for the season’s finale in Abu Dhabi.
Today the FIA World Motor Sport Council has voted to approve the @F1 calendar for 2023.
Read more about the record-breaking 24 GPs here: https://t.co/EubEX5bMzc#F1 pic.twitter.com/0vJ62nyM98
— FIA (@fia) September 20, 2022
The first bone of contention is over another gruelling double header involving Azerbaijan. Teams will be expected to leave Baku on 30th April and begin setting up in Miami a couple of days later.
The Baku race this season was twinned with Montreal which was a journey of around 9000km. From the Azerbaijan capital to Miami is 2000km further.
Bernie Ecclestone preferred to twin the race the other way around with reporters only able to arrive in Baku in time for the GP, rather than snoop around looking for human rights violation stories which have emerged from time to time.
TJ13 wrote in 2015: Azerbaijan given all clear on human rights by Ecclestone
Belgium has been given a 1 year reprieve because the race circuit in South Africa has not yet been awarded its grade 1 FIA license. The Spa race will though now take just before the summer break rather than immediately after in its traditional slot.
Monaco has a new 3 year deal which hardly inspires confidence in the long term future of the event and it forms part of the first triple header after Imola and before Barcelona.
F1 teams “angry and frustrated”
Reports are emerging in the Italian media that the publication of the calendar has made F1 bosses and teams “angry and frustrated”.
Apparently the triple header across the America’s had not been approved beginning in Austin Texas moving to Mexico and finishing in Brazil. Many felt the Vegas event should have been included and Brazil run as a stand alone event.
Finally the tradition has been for the FIA and F1’s commercial rights holder to jointly announce the calendar.
The calendar was released unilaterally by the FIA with rather pompous comments from Ben Sulayem claiming, “the “addition of new venues and the retention of traditional events underlines the FIA’s sound stewardship of the sport”.
The reality is that the commercial rights holder negotiates contracts and agrees the following season’s schedule with the stake holders, while the FIA merely rubber stamps it.
Ben Sulyaem is clearly wishing to make himself front and centre of the FIA’s involvement in Formula Oe, whereas his predecessor Jean Todt mostly left matters to his employed officials.
Formula One have had ‘insiders’ running the FIA since Max Moseley was elected in 1992 ousting Jean-Marie Balestre. Max Moseley had a history of working with Bernie Ecclestone at Brabham and his successor yea Todt was also a Formula One man.
However, the FIA is a federation of over 240 motorsports ‘clubs’ across many different motorsport disciplines. The retiring Todt promoted his deputy Graham Stoker in the vote for the new president, but he was routed by 65%-35% as the members voted in 14 times Middle Eastern rally champion and WRC driver.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem and his campaigners had collectively campaigned under the slogan ‘FIA for Members’ and after 30 years of rule by F1 candidates the members revealed they wanted to “take back control”. A “outsider” to F1 is now an FIA insider running the FIA.
Whilst Bernie and Max and later Bernie and Todt worked closely together understanding the sport of F1, the FIA has legal rights and responsibilities enshrined under EU law in 2000. The EU insisted there be a clear divide between sporting/technical (FIA) and commercial matters (F1).
Ben Sulayem was within his rights to announce unilaterally the 2023 calendar as this responsibility sits with the FIA. But it appears by doing so he his sabre rattling and making it clear his FIA will not be pushed around by Formula One.
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