Its common knowledge that F1 is a sport where the headlines often deviate from sporting affairs and instead focus on political matters and over the past 24 hours, this has most certainly been the case. Unfortunately, the headlines have been a story of negativity, as Manor have been denied entry to the 2015 season, with the Strategy Group vetoing their use of a 2014 chassis. The verdict has provoked a vehement response for fans – for me, it is more a sigh of disappointment.
For anyone who is unaware, F1’s Strategy Group is made up of six teams; Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams, McLaren – and replacing Lotus for 2015 – Force India. The group met with the FIA yesterday and the result of the summit was that the Strategy Group had vetoed Manor’s application to run a 2014 specification car in 2015. This was necessary for the formally-known-as-Marussia squad on the basis that they would not have time to build a new car prior to the curtain-raiser in Melbourne. While Caterham had formerly been granted this dispensation, it has emerged that Force India voted against Manor’s request – with the FIA looking for a unanimous approval by the Strategy Group members, Manor’s hopes of fielding a car in the opening rounds have been quelled.
This decision does not necessarily mean that Manor will not make an appearance this season – they could potentially enter as late as round four, assuming of course, that they have built a 2015 car by this point. Considering their current lack of a base, employees and resources, this seems like a lofty ambition, but is certainly not out of the question and the team are already outlining contingency plans.
After fans of the sport from all corners of the globe basked in the news that Marussia were on their way out of administration, this particular story comes as a hammer blow. However, the criticism faced by Force India in light of the verdict is in my view, entirely unjust. It is the system itself, rather than the teams which should be criticised.
This headline is just another example of the broken politics within the sport. One of the fundamental issues which has largely led to the financial crisis is the fact that the teams have an extortionate amount of decision making powers. Of course, it is important that the competitors are given a platform upon which to voice their opinions and in their regard, the Strategy Group and F1 Commission is effective. However, I would argue that two much power is concentrated in the hands of the teams who ultimately, will always seek a competitive advantage over their rivals. As Bernie has eluded to in-light of the verdict, the decision means that the £34 million of prize money will be distributed to the remaining teams – a powerful reason behind barring Manor’s request for a team like Force India, who are facing an uncertain financial future themselves.
I my opinion, the sport needs an independent body to have the final decision on all matters such as this – factors which will effect and be effected by competition. I cannot think of another sport where the competitors themselves have such potent powers at their disposal.
Image Credit: "2014 Australian Grand Prix" By J.H. Sohn from Melbourne, Australia (2014 Australian F1 Grand Prix) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons