by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 234
Contracts in motorsport are hefty things, often capable of keeping small cruise liners in port. Their bulk is accounted for by clauses and complicated legalese which is at times deliberately ambiguous while at others seemingly needlessly specific. They need to be as it is the contract which binds a team and its staff member together. There are no such things as a salary driver or technical director in motorsport, everyone is on a short- term contract with performance clauses making sure that, should the winds of fortune change, they can be swiftly placed on their backside on the front step. There's one story from a few years ago where one particular driver had grown weary of the sport. While he still loved the driving, the politics and media speculation drove him to despair. This guy was a front runner, a huge talent and one who had amassed a cult following, but he'd fallen out of love with professional motor racing and so announced his retirement. In the break between seasons he went home and relaxed, recharging his batteries. We all expected never to hear from him again but then his name cropped up at another team. This posed a problem because he'd walked out on a contract at Team A claiming he was burned out, only to crop up at Team B. His previous employer cried foul, as you might expect, since even despite events at the end of the previous season, a valid contract between the two parties remained. And so the lawyers from Team A began digging into the matter. For weeks and weeks they toiled, preparing their case to ensure the driver couldn't walk out on them and sign with another team. But the more they dug, the less they found. Though their former driver was pulling on different coloured overalls there was no legal document saying that he would. There was no contract, no remuneration. He was racing for free, because he wanted to. In the eyes of the law that meant, in this instance, he was perfectly entitled to race for Team B since he was not in breach of contract. All the while the driver's father became one of the best paid obser vers in the paddock. Now, a few years on, that driver remains in the sport and remains competitive. His love of competing is back and his cult following has only grown. Team A's fortunes meanwhile have floundered, vindicating his decision to walk out for 'personal' reasons. What's more he did nothing wrong; legally he was untouchable because of the ambiguities in his contract, which were exploited like anyone in motorsport worth their salt would have done. And that brings us on to Mercedes, and its enquiry to the Stewards in Abu Dhabi. It's another slightly messy affair but Mercedes is looking to tidy things up as the sport looks to move into a new phase. From next year Ferrari at least will have a perceived junior team, one with whom it has a close technical relationship. Mercedes' questions to the Stewards, which they'd previously asked of the FIA's Charlie Whiting, were designed to clarify exactly how much help Ferrari could give Haas. More the point, the request was a veiled questioning of just how much help Haas could give Ferrari this year. Every team in the sport is bound by the technical and sporting regulations, which combined are hefty enough to keep the QE2 at the port. They're incredibly prescriptive but Mercedes felt there were a few points which weren't specific enough - namely around the sort of help teams can buy in. There are few facilities or businesses out there currently in a position to take on design work for a Formula One team, but Haas' new team, in theory, could have worked on its own design, tested it in the wind tunnel and sold it to Ferrari before it was bound by the sport's regulations (which it now is). Mercedes first asked the question back in October, and while officially there is no finger pointing at any team it's not difficult to deduce exactly what path it was leading the stewards down. It's a fair question to ask, and the sort of thing that happens reasonably frequently, if not to quite the same extent. Teams seek technical clarification regularly and these can result in new directives from the FIA. In this instance Mercedes isn't alleging what Ferrari has done is incorrect, but whether the loop hole it may have exploited actually exists. If it did, Mercedes in theory could do the same - out-sourcing work which enables it to run in a wind tunnel more than the technical regulations allow the team to do itself. It was important then that the FIA shut off that avenue, which it did, because it had it not Formula One design departments would have been quickly out-sourced, circumventing the rules and once again driving the cost of the sport needlessly higher. 17 GPWEEK.com // 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION OPINION Mat coch Editor the letter of the law