Since the 1980s, Ferrari has had veto power in Formula One—if it doesn’t like a rule the series or its governing body, the FIA, wants to implement, the team can step in and stop things. FIA president Jean Todt thinks Ferrari should lose that ability, which brings up the question of why the team has it in the first place.
Ferrari is one of 10 F1 teams and has the largest budget by far most seasons, in addition to being able to sway rules in its favor. Todt, who was in charge of the Ferrari motorsports from 1993 to 2004 and became FIA president in 2009, told Motorsport.com he feels like “times have changed” since Ferrari got that power in the ‘80s and that it’s about time the team gave it up.
Things have changed, quite a bit. Todt seems to tell the story about how Ferrari got its veto power every time he’s in disagreement with its existence or how the team uses it, and it always follows long these lines: The veto power came about during a 1980s Concorde Agreement, which sounds like something written up by the pilgrims coming to America centuries ago but is actually a pact between the FIA, the teams and F1, which determines how the sport will be run.
Here’s the veto story, as Todt told it to Motorsport.com:
“It is something I was curious about, because when I joined Ferrari in 1993 I tried to understand what was the story behind it. And the story behind it was simple.
“Enzo Ferrari was the founder, and he was very isolated in Maranello compared to all the British teams. He was alone and you will remember, in the 1980's, Ferrari was the only full car manufacturer of engine and chassis.
“And he was facing private teams, like Williams, Lotus and McLaren, that were all using the same engine. If I remember it was a Ford Cosworth engine. So he got that [veto] in his discussions to implement. ...”
Replacement Concorde Agreements have been signed since, with Todt telling Motorsport.com the last one was signed in 2013 and expiring in 2020. Reports last year were that F1’s new owners could get rid of the agreement altogether and replace it with an open-ended partnership.
Decades after that ‘80s agreement, the veto power seems more like a conflict of interest rather than a field-leveling measure—Ferrari, which keeps threatening to quit F1 if it diminishes the importance of powertrain uniqueness between manufacturers, has a huge voice on series regulations. Powertrain uniqueness costs money, and Ferrari has more of that than most other teams.
Ferrari used its veto in 2015, when the FIA proposed cost caps on customer engines. Sky Sports reported at the time that the proposal got a majority vote before the veto, and the FIA had to change its proposal afterward.
Todt told Motorsport.com Ferrari’s veto power changed with the 2013 agreement to make the wording of it “more precise,” and that Ferrari needs a “strong rationale to be able to exercise it” under the current terms. In order to use its veto, Todt said, Ferrari has to prove that the rule “goes against their interest.”
But Todt said most have never questioned the Ferrari veto power, and that a lot are in favor of it. From Motorsport.com:
“When we arrived in 2013, it was the first time as president of the FIA I was facing the consideration of the veto right, and I must say that I was very cautious, because it is like having a gun. So was I, as president of the FIA, prepared to give that?
“And I was surprised because Bernie as commercial rights holder was in favour of Ferrari having the veto right. All the teams were in favour of giving the veto right too. So it would have been a bit strange that myself, I would have been against.
“I know sometimes I get blamed because I try to have a harmonious situation and everyone going in the same direction, but course I agreed to implement the veto right in the discussions of the renewal of the Concorde Agreement 2013-2020. ...”
Ferrari will more than likely get to keep its veto power for a few more years, since a new agreement, whatever it may be, isn’t planned to come around until 2021. With Todt openly against Ferrari’s veto power, it could be under a lot more pressure than it was a few years ago—if the team is still around by then, that is.