Teams’ excessive power made F1 ‘like a pantomime’

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McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has called for stronger Formula 1 leadership after a series of episodes which he says made him feel “like a pantomime audition rather than the pinnacle of a world sport”.

Following the election of Mohammed Ben Sulayem as FIA president last month, Brown has called on the sport’s governing body to take a tougher line against teams’ efforts to gain advantages by influencing rule changes.

Some teams “effectively hold the sport hostage to what’s best for the fans and therefore the sport as a whole,” Brown claimed in an article posted on McLaren’s website. “These teams seem unable to accept that a budget cap is in the best interests of the sport and cannot break their habit of stomping their way to the front.”

He accused unnamed rivals of pushing for an increase in the budget cap, from $145 million to $140 million this year, due to the expected increase in the number of sprint qualifying events scheduled for the 2022 F1 season.

“Some teams are still looking for excuses to raise the cost cap and win world championships with checkbooks,” Brown said. “The continued lobbying by some teams to increase the cost cap for sprint racing damages is a continuing example of this.

“Formula 1’s Saturday sprint race initiative has added new viewers and raised the profile of the sport to expand its global fanbase. However, these teams continue to demand an increase in the cost cap of an inordinate amount of money, despite clear evidence that little damage was sustained at these races last year, in a thinly veiled attempt to protect themselves from the erosion of their competitive edge.

He also urged F1 to take a tougher line against ‘B teams’ – customer offshoots of incoming manufacturers – who he said have an unfair advantage in F1’s current structure.

“The regulations, as they stand today, are heavily biased towards B teams/customer teams, which is not in line with the F1 principle of a group of genuine manufacturers competing with each other. others on equal terms,” ​​Brown said. “It diminishes what it means to be an F1 ‘team’ and the fabric of the sport.”

The sport is already grappling with the aftermath of last season’s deeply controversial conclusion, in which FIA F1 race director Michael Masi was accused of changing the application of the rules to create a shootout at the last round for the world championship between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. However, Brown said the Abu Dhabi events were just one example of the structural issues facing the sport.

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“It’s obvious to focus on the events in Abu Dhabi at the end of last season, which are under investigation by the FIA,” Brown said, “but that was a symptom rather than a symptom. a cause in my opinion.

“There have been systemic issues around alignment and clarity on who makes the rules – the FIA ​​or the teams – that have come to light over the past couple of years, sometimes in very high profile ways.

He referred to the 2020 F1 round scheduled for Melbourne, which was canceled at short notice following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and last year’s race at Spa-Francorchamps, where competitors earned half points based on a single lap. racing behind the safety car in extremely wet conditions.

“Signs of organizational difficulties could be seen at the 2020 Australian Grand Prix and last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, both marked by an apparent lack of preparation for the course of events and temporary inertia on the solutions,” Brown said.

He believes that after a period of consultation with teams which resulted in the new technical regulations for this season and the financial rules introduced last year, F1 should return to a more direct form of leadership.

“Clearly some of the rules and their governance are not acceptable as things stand,” Brown said. “No one is happy with the inconsistency in policing regulations, but that has usually been exploited by teams for competitive advantage.

“I’ve said before that the teams have too much power and it needs to be reduced. We have an important role in the rule-making and governance of Formula 1 and that influence is not always driven by what is best for sports.

“Yes, teams should be consulted and their informed views taken into account, especially on long-term strategic issues. But sometimes it seemed like the sport was ruled by certain teams.

“Let’s not forget that we, the teams, contributed to the inconsistencies in policing as much as anyone. It was the teams who put the pressure on to avoid finishing races under Safety Car at all costs. the teams that voted for many of the regulations they complain about. These are the teams that used radio broadcasts to the race director in an attempt to influence penalties and race results, to the point that a overexcited team manager plays from the rostrum and pressures the race officials.

“It hasn’t been uplifting for F1. Sometimes it feels like a pantomime audition rather than the pinnacle of a world sport.

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