There’s always been something special about Formula 1 that has nothing to do with racing. The politics, the off-track intrigue, all adds another dimension that is so intoxicating to many.
It’s still a battle, just without the cars. And it pitches every aspect of a team against another.
That’s not to say teams trying to outdo each other on social media or with partner activations breeds bad blood. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as there’s a huge amount of respect between team members regarding what their counterparts are doing in this crazy little circus we follow around the world each year.
But at the very top level, it is all so much more intense. It’s understandable really, given that the people running these teams are responsible for hundreds or even thousands of employees in a competitive environment. But it sometimes can all turn a little sour when accusations start to fly, as they did over the past seven days.
As the FIA’s planned deadline to issue the certificates that show whether or not each team complied with the 2021 Financial Regulations drew nearer, like a slimmed-down boxer heading to the weigh-in, so too did rumors about certain outfits failing to make the grade.
And it didn’t take long for a spark to ignite as a result, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner livid at accusations that his team had failed to come in under the cap and could be in line for some sort of punishment.
Horner’s anger stemmed from not only the fact that he was claiming Red Bull had comfortably complied with the financial regulations over the previous 12 months, but also that his team’s accounts were being spoken about at all. The audit between the FIA and each individual team was supposed to be private until a certificate of compliance was – or wasn’t – provided.
It meant the deadline for those certificates became tremendously intriguing and important in Formula 1, as it would either show the apparent leak to be true – and therefore, repercussions to follow – or reveal that the accusations were false. And therefore, repercussions to follow…
That deadline, set by the FIA itself, should have been today.
There was no shortage of interest, no lack of questioning of the governing body about when the information would be made public, and how. It wasn’t just the media wanting to know that, either, because teams were in the dark, too. On Sunday one team principal told me they didn’t know how the FIA was going to announce which teams had complied and if any hadn’t, and by the day of reckoning they were still none the wiser.
So under intense scrutiny, the hours started ticking by with no information from. By nearly 6pm Tokyo time – where the majority of the F1 paddock finds itself ahead of the next race in Suzuka – an FIA spokesperson stated they “should be able to share some information regarding timelines for the financial regulations compliance process in the next couple of hours.”
Six hours went by with no further comment. And then it was made public that the certificates were actually going to be delayed until Monday, October 10.
Don’t hold your breath.
Either you can be cynical and wonder if that’s a specific date given to ensure questions can’t be asked in person by the gathered media and teams at Suzuka or, based on recent history, you can have major doubts that the deadline will be met.
If there was no clarity that the certificates would not be ready on Wednesday until the day was almost done – 4:54pm at FIA headquarters in Paris and Geneva – then a five-day extension suggests there’s a lot of uncertainty around their final issuance.
The FIA calls the analysis of the financial submissions “a long and complex process that is ongoing” and I completely agree that it’s better for the governing body to take its time than rush something through that is incomplete, but it has to communicate better.
Huge numbers of fans have lost trust in the FIA since last season’s controversies, so it needs to work twice as hard to regain some of the faith in its authority. I want to call on the FIA to be transparent, but I get the impression it’s not intentionally withholding information – it’s simply not organized when it comes to its own process.
It can’t clearly and accurately tell stakeholders how it will publish the certificates, what the process will be for distributing that information, or when it will do it. And all it has done now is put itself in the center of a story – and in the firing line of many fans – even more.
The FIA is in control of the timelines and processes, but doesn’t seem to be able to formulate them right now. And that certainly doesn’t instill confidence, nor does it give it any chance to quell the “unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture” it was so keen to refute over the weekend.
Instead of seeing which boxers have made the weight, it’s like watching the referee fight themselves in the middle of the ring, delaying the opening round bell. The FIA really shouldn’t be the story, but somehow, once again, it is. And not for the right reasons.