2014 F1

Teams head to Biggin Hill amid ‘discrimination’ claims

Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 16 March 2014
In the three-week gap between grands prix, F1 chiefs on Thursday are headed to Biggin Hill, Bernie Ecclestone’s airport in London.

It is there that the F1 chief executive will meet with the governing FIA and the bosses of the sport’s 11 teams, amid a potentially explosive debate over cost cutting.

The May 1 meeting was called after F1’s six most powerful teams, sitting in the controversial new Strategy Group, vetoed FIA president Jean Todt’s plans for a mandatory budget cap from 2015.

The non-Strategy Group teams are furious, and have alerted the attention of the European Commission, flagging the potential breach of competition laws.

“Discrimination against any single team would on the face of it seem to be an abuse of a dominant position,” small teams Marussia, Caterham, Sauber and Force India wrote in their recent letter to Todt.

“The European Union competition laws are supposed to prevent abuse of market power and ensure that free competition prevails,” they added.

We reported on Monday that the European Commission is now “monitoring” the situation.

Now, the body told the Telegraph in a statement: “The Commission is following developments in the sports sector, including in formula one, and monitors compliance with EU competition rules.”

It remains to be seen if the small teams are happy with the proposed cost-cutting alternatives to the axed budget cap, to be discussed on Thursday.

Italy’s Autosprint reports that, as well as extending paddock curfews, the ban on tyre warmers has been singled out as the sort of measure that would reduce costs through the technical and sporting regulations.

The magazine also said things like the sophisticated ‘Fric’ suspension innovation could be banned, while areas of the fuel, brakes and aerodynamic rules could be simplified.

The alternative cost-cutting plan would be introduced over three years beginning in 2015, with greater standardisation of parts from 2016 and the return of active suspension in 2017. (GMM)

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