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F1 Team Relations 2024 Governance Controversy

Clash Over F1’s Soul: Team Alliances and Governance Under Fire

04/03/2024

The start of the year has seen McLaren and Mercedes F1 openly criticize the close relationship and apparent similarities between RB F1 and Red Bull, igniting a debate on fair competition.

Since the start of the year, McLaren and Mercedes F1 have criticized the overly close ties between RB F1 and Red Bull. Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, has notably pointed out the striking resemblance between the VCARB, the first of its name, and the RB19…

The connections between the two teams also offer other benefits: for example, personnel can be transferred from one team to another without the usual ‘gardening leave’ (a mandatory period of inactivity between jobs). A leave that, for instance, Laurent Mekies, the new director of RB F1, had to observe, since he came not from Red Bull but from Ferrari.

There are also political advantages to common ownership: thus, the Faenza structure has always voted like Red Bull in recent years, even when it seemed to go against its own interest!

Governance, Votes, Imbalance

Is this another unfair advantage over the competition? Toto Wolff, the boss of Mercedes F1, answered this question in Bahrain.

“I am speaking here about our own business, as we make a good living by supplying spare parts. We sell suspensions to Aston Martin and to Williams F1, gearboxes, and aerodynamic services in terms of wind tunnel to Aston Martin. It’s a significant source of profit.”

“But I would prefer to have none of this – and that we all be constructors. We could then put an end to all these discussions. Because, as Zak said, if one man makes all the decisions, or a small group of people for two teams, what does that mean for the proper governance of the sport? You have two voices in a Commission that has 10 voters. You already have 20% of the votes. And none of us has that.”

“I know there’s always the argument ‘yeah, well, Williams is going to vote like you, Mercedes’. But look at the statistics. That is not the case. It is certainly not the case for anything related to the chassis. I have not seen different votes on chassis-related issues or other votes between AlphaTauri and Red Bull. Because it’s probably one person deciding the vote.”

Power, Politics, F1

Fred Vasseur agrees with Toto Wolff on the political aspect of this common ownership between Red Bull and RB F1… but doesn’t Haas also vote like Ferrari at the F1 Commission?

“I would completely separate the technical part, set up by the FIA – and we must follow the regulations. I think in this case, we also need to avoid being arrogant and remember that at certain times, a few years ago, some teams were not able to produce parts.”

“Regarding votes and governance, it is true that it’s somewhat imbalanced to have someone with two votes compared to other teams, because when you know you need to achieve a supermajority for a decision and you need eight votes, it means you’re almost in a position to block the decision.”

Mekies partially addresses the accusations around RB F1

Laurent Mekies, the head of RB F1, is directly targeted by these accusations.

On the topic of gardening leave, he wants to clarify things first and foremost.

“Contrary to what you might have heard, the regulations are clear on this matter. You cannot use [these links between Red Bull and RB F1] to circumvent the intellectual property rules of the technical parts. You can’t do that. How does this apply in practice? Quite simply, when we hire someone from Red Bull, we approach the FIA and say: ‘Listen, we plan to hire this person. You need to define what you consider a reasonable gardening leave for this person, and we adhere to it.'”

“In the opposite direction, I think it’s never happened… I’m not sure why, but if it were to happen, we would need to follow the same procedure.”

“Paradoxically, I could agree with Fred to take one of his guys, probably the next morning, if we reach an agreement – we probably won’t find an agreement, but we could do it.”

“We can’t do this with Red Bull because we respect the regulations too much. We make sure the FIA agrees on each of these transfers.”

However, Laurent Mekies did not take the opportunity to elaborate on his thoughts about the political ties between RB F1 and Red Bull at the F1 Commission…

F1 Team Relations 2024. F1 Team Relations 2024

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