• The Inside Line

F1 fight club

Kate Walker April 20, 2014
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Championships aside, there's nothing Formula One enjoys more than a bit of tit-for-tat. In this sport there is no turning the other cheek - it's an eye for an eye all the way, and that's at a minimum. Or, to put it another way, if a rival team rains on your parade, you will try your damnedest to make it snow on theirs.

Three of the sport's front-running teams are currently at loggerheads with each other, with Red Bull and McLaren looking to the courts to resolve the issue of just who Dan Fallows should be working for this season, and Mercedes and Red Bull desperately trying to score points off each other as far from the racetrack as it's possible to be.

Mercedes pushed for a harsh punishment for Red Bull during last week's appeal hearing of Daniel Ricciardo's Melbourne disqualification in a move that was widely perceived to be payback for the Milton Keynes outfit's similar pressures during last year's Pirelli tyre test tribunal.

Now, a bit of pushing and shoving amongst some of the sport's top teams is only to be expected. Rivalries exist on track and off, and every possible advantage - from FIA-imposed penalties after infractions of any flavour to securing the services of the sport's most coveted employees - is exploited to the maximum.

But in the past, all of the teams (Ferrari excepted) have had equal weight within the sport, and equal opportunities to influence both its present and its future. Now, however, we find ourselves in a situation where six of the eleven teams are in a position of power over the five not invited to sit on the F1 Strategy Group, and that's where the current inter-team battles start to get interesting.

The F1 Strategy Group is a body with 18 votes when it comes to swaying the future of Formula One. Six of those votes belong to the FIA, six to the commercial rights holder, and the other six to the teams. There have long been fears that in the event of the FIA and FOM holding opposing positions on an issue it will be the six teams voting as a single bloc that will sway the outcome. The fear within the fear is that the teams will elect to side with FOM at every eventuality, as it is the commercial rights holder who arranged for the teams on the group to receive a greater share of F1's financial pie.

The teams are not required to vote as a single bloc, however, and any schisms between them can now be exploited by the FIA, should the governing body elect to play the 'divide and conquer' games that have served the CRH so well in years past.

By encouraging the current divisions between the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull, and McLaren and Red Bull, the FIA could put itself in a stronger position in the F1 Strategy Group, manipulating a situation whereby bruised egos refusing to support each other allow for smoother passage of much-needed regulatory change within the sport. The failed cost cap would be an ideal test case, as forcing through a reduction in costs is - unquestionably - in the greater good.

FIA president Jean Todt may think himself above such Machiavellian wheelings and dealings, but when those he is up against are masters in the art of courtly politics, there is nothing wrong with using your opponent's own game plan to beat him. In fact, there's a certain satisfaction to be derived from doing it…

© 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'.