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FOTA: The new points system is illegal

March 20th, 2009

FOTA logoFormula One is a sport with so many rules and regulations that even the people who make them don’t understand them all.

On Tuesday, less than two weeks before the first Grand Prix in Melbourne, the FIA unexpectedly announced a new scoring system for 2009 whereby the Drivers’ Championship would be determined by the number of race wins rather than points scored.  In so doing they rejected FOTA‘s suggestion of a new points structure of 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 and effectively implemented Bernie Ecclestone’s medals idea.

The announcement was roundly criticised by drivers and team owners.  Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo called the change “absurd” and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli said:

It seems to be that Formula One wants to die and we will all have to go and race in some other championship.

Now, in a statement issued by FOTA on Friday, the teams say the rule change is not valid:

Following the decision of the World Motorsport Council of the 17 March 2009 to change the way the drivers’ championship is awarded, the Teams gathered and unanimously agreed to question the validity of this decision.

The amendment to the sporting regulations proposed by the World Motorsport Council was not performed in accordance with the procedure provided for by Appendix 5 of the Sporting Regulations and, as per the provisions of the article 199 of the FIA International Sporting Code, it is too late for FIA to impose a change for the 2009 season that has not obtained the unanimous agreement of all the competitors properly entered into the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Here is what Appendix 5 of the Sporting Regulations says:


1. Changes to the Technical Regulations will be proposed by the Technical Working Group (TWG) consisting of one senior technical representative from each team and chaired by a representative of the FIA.
2. Changes to the Sporting Regulations will be proposed by the Sporting Working Group (SWG) consisting of one senior representative from each team and chaired by a representative of the FIA.
3. Decisions in the TWG and SWG will be taken by a simple majority vote. The FIA representative will not vote unless the teams’ representatives are equally divided, in which case he will exercise a casting vote.
4. Proposals from the TWG and the SWG will go to the Formula One Commission consisting of six representatives from the teams, five representatives from the race promoters and one representative each from the Commercial Rights Holder and the FIA. At least two race promoters must be from Europe and at least two from outside Europe. Decisions of the Commission will be by simple majority. The FIA will have a casting vote in the event of equality.
5. The Formula One Commission may accept or refuse a proposal of the TWG or the SWG, but not amend it. A proposal which is refused may be sent back to the relevant Working Group for further consideration.
6. Proposals accepted by the Formula One Commission will be put before the World Motor Sport Council for a final decision. Proposals which are not accepted by the World Motor Sport Council may be sent back to the Formula One Commission and the relevant Working Group for further consideration.
7. Changes required for safety reasons will be considered separately by the FIA, which will take into account any representations made by the TWG or SWG.

And section 199 of the FIA’s International Sporting Code states:

c) Sporting rules and other regulations

Changes to sporting rules and to all regulations other than those referred to in b) above are published at least 20 days prior to the opening date for entry applications for the championship concerned, but never later than 30 November each year. Such changes cannot come into effect before 1 January of the year following their publication, unless the FIA considers that the changes in question are likely to have a substantial impact on the technical design of the vehicle and/or the balance of performance between the cars, in which case they will come into effect no earlier than 1 January of the second year following their publication.

d) Shorter notice periods than those mentioned in b) and c) may be applied, provided that the unanimous agreement of all competitors properly entered for the championship or series concerned is obtained.

The FIA has responded by saying that if the teams don’t unanimously accept the new rules then they will be postponed until 2010.

Some have suggested that the FIA’s attempt to radically change the scoring system just weeks before the first race was a smokescreen for the proposed £30m budget cap to be introduced in 2010, but the whole thing has been handled rather badly and the FIA just comes across as trying to assert its dominance over the newly united teams.

When the change was announced it seemed like the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone had the upper hand but FOTA’s response and the subsequent U-turn by the FIA just shows where the real power now lies.  The fact is that the teams and drivers are what the fans care about, not the FIA and their rules and regulations and if FOTA decided to set up a rival championship they could potentially take a lot of fans with them.

There were a lot of good ideas in the proposals FOTA presented in Geneva earlier this month (as well as a few dodgy ones) and the FIA would do well to take them seriously.

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