• The Inside Line

My family and other animals

Kate Walker July 26, 2013
The FIA was able to reach a compromise with FOM over pit lane access © Sutton Images
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Like any travelling circus, Formula One is filled with animals. We have the competitive beasts out on track, the piranhas wheeling and dealing, the cuckoos planted in nests throughout the paddock, and the odd snake in the grass.

Luckily, our little menagerie never seems to come up against quarantine issues in our travels.

We all know that little in Formula One is as it seems on the surface, that the paddock operates in direct contradiction to Occam's Razor. The simplest explanation is rarely the correct one.

So while all and sundry are shouting about pit lane safety in the wake of Paul Allen's unfortunate accident in Germany, the real issue is one of power.

On Thursday afternoon in Budapest it was made clear to the FIA-accredited journalists and photographers just what our level of pit lane access would be, this weekend and in future. Because while there was a lot of song and dance about the banning of broadcasters from the pit lane, that was a FOM directive.

Those of us who get our passes from the FIA have spent a lot of time since Germany hassling our contacts in the Place de la Concorde, trying to establish whether or not we would be subject to the same restrictions FOM had announced they would be placing on their accredited media.

It was an interesting conundrum - could FIA journalists be granted more access than FOM media, who have paid contracts with the commercial rights holder that stipulate pit lane access? After all, broadcasters invest money in Formula One. We only invest time. And as we all know, money talks - especially in motorsport.

In the end, the FIA and FOM came to an agreement that limits the number of people in the pit lane during free practice. A compromise was sought and found, in what is possibly a watershed moment for Formula One - in a battle for power, neither side lost face.

But the fact that the governing body and commercial rights holder have found a solution to pit lane crowding does not mean that it is a solution everyone is happy with. Of the FIA-accredited press pack - comprising around 250 permanent journalists and photographers - only 25 people will be allowed into the pit lane in each practice session.

For (non-broadcast) journalists, this is annoying but not insurmountable. For photographers, however, losing access to the pit lane - especially on a Friday morning, when the majority of the weekend's technical photos are taken - has the potential to cripple their livelihood.

Which is where the snakes and piranhas come in.

It's long been rumoured that FOM is trying to take over all media accreditation, with a view to charging photographers and journalists for access, as they already charge broadcasters. But the version of the rumour doing the rounds this weekend in Budapest is that the FIA has kept the journalists, and that as of 2014, photographers will be accredited by FOM.

By taking pit lane access away now, FOM have given themselves the option of 'returning' that access to photographers - for a fee, naturally - should the Budapest rumour prove true. Whatever screams of rage the snappers make should their 2014 press pass come with an invoice will surely be dulled when (if?) their precious pit lane access is returned.

Welcome to the jungle.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.
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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.