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F1 Fair Play Crusade

Zak Brown’s Crusade for F1 Fair Play and Independence

02/03/2024

Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren F1, embarked on a mission even before the season started. His crusade’s objective?

To call out what he perceives as overly close ties between Red Bull and RB F1, especially given the new “VCARB” he deems too similar to last year’s RB19…

Zak Brown Challenges RB F1 Relocation

The announced relocation of RB F1 near Milton Keynes (for the aerodynamics engineers) certainly adds fuel to the American’s fire.

In Bahrain, the McLaren F1 leader reiterated his accusations. Does he persist? And what exactly is he asking from the FIA? For Red Bull to relinquish ownership of its B-team?

Zak begins by smoothing things over, then he launches his attack…

“Red Bull has been great for Formula 1. I think Formula 1 has been great for Red Bull. So, absolutely no issue there. They host Grand Prix for us. They have two fantastic teams.”

“But the sport has evolved, we are in the era of budget caps. My issue, as I’ve said before, is with the rules.”

“If you look at what happened in the Champions League, it was quite controversial, and they had to prove their total independence.”

Zak Brown watched season 6 of Drive to Survive; and thus, he saw that it was Christian Horner who decided on Daniel Ricciardo’s return to AlphaTauri, not Franz Tost or Peter Bayer… A godsend for him!

“And when you have the sharing of facilities… and you see on Netflix the team director of Red Bull (Christian Horner) making a decision about the driver going to AlphaTauri…”

Zak Brown Defends F1 Independence

“When you hear Helmut saying we will do everything we can within the rules to bring the two teams closer…”

“When you hear their CEO (of AlphaTauri) say that we have to use their (Red Bull’s) suspension because it’s the second most important part of the racing car, that doesn’t seem at all independent to me…”

“So, I am much more interested in the independence of the ten teams than in co-ownership itself, even though there are governance and voting issues. You know, with budget caps, the CEO (of RB F1) stated no team was profitable. That’s incorrect. When I started in Formula 1, we were losing a lot of money. Thanks to the combination of budget caps, which were put in place for financial stability, and the hard work of our commercial team, we are now profitable. So, we went from ninth in the championship, where we were losing a lot of money, to nine podiums last year and a profitable enterprise for our shareholders. It wasn’t easy, but we did it through hard work.”

In essence, Zak Brown is calling for a leveling of the playing field: as it stands, it’s as if RB F1 starts with a one-goal lead in a soccer match!

“In any other sport, if you’re in soccer and there’s the best team and another that’s struggling, the match doesn’t start at 1-0. It starts at 0-0, and then you have to work a bit harder. So, it’s the rules that I have an issue with.”

“And I think 2026 is the right time to address it because the sport has evolved.”

Mekies emphasizes his team’s independence and highlights the disparities on the grid

Directly targeted by Zak Brown, what can Laurent Mekies, the new team director at RB F1, respond? Is his team truly independent? Can he even choose his own drivers?

“We are taking all additional precautions with the FIA to ensure there’s no doubt about how we operate within these regulations. And I invite anyone who has doubts about the sporting, technical, and financial regulations to question whether we comply. They can approach the FIA and ask it to investigate further into anything.”

“It’s about the clarity of the regulations today. I’m not saying they are good or bad, but I am saying that we operate in black and white within these regulations. Are the regulations suited to the sport? For us, these regulations mean we are an independent team, and all the development we do to make the team stronger tomorrow with this set of regulations aims to make the team more independent.”

Laurent Mekies talks about one thing: independence! Even with the move from Bicester to Milton Keynes?

“So, we are expanding the team. We are developing our infrastructure. We are developing our facilities to be more independent tomorrow because that’s how we go faster. We are here to compete with the other nine teams, whether they share the same shareholders or not.”

Régulations F1: Évolution ou Statu Quo?

“Then, are the regulations suited to the intended goal? Again, we have repeatedly said why we can share certain components today. We can share elements to avoid too big a gap between the leading teams and the two, three, or four teams at the bottom. And we share some elements to ensure we have more sustainable business models for the guys at the bottom.”

Laurent Mekies constantly talks about the current regulation: does this mean he would be in favor of its evolution, as Zak Brown suggests, for 2026?

This is an opportunity for the Frenchman to issue a warning: if the current regulation is broken, the gaps on the grid will widen between teams…

“Now, if the regulation changes tomorrow… there will be a discussion within the framework of the Concorde Agreements, and if it changes tomorrow, if we think that we no longer want races with closer gaps, that it’s acceptable to have a less tight grid, yes (we can change the regulation). And if we think that business is going so well that we will ask every team to be bigger tomorrow, yes (we need to change the regulation). Because today we are already between 500 and 600 people at Faenza.”

“So if we think that Formula 1 teams should be even bigger because they should do everything – the suspensions, the gearbox, the power unit – it’s a decision that would be at the level of the Concorde Agreements… and it’s strange to be so optimistic about the economy of F1 in the coming years.”

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