Thursday April 6th, 2000
The motorsports governing body, the FIA may cease to stage Formula One races within the European Union, if it is the loser in its current dispute with the Competition Department of the European Commission. This new position was formally declared by the World Motor Sport Council after its meeting in Paris, France today.
The WMSC voted to propose to the FIA General Assembly that, should the Commission's interpretation of EU law prove incompatible with the FIA Statutes and the FIA International Sporting Code, "Arrangements would be made to treat the EU (and its member states) like the USA: as a single country within the membership rules of the FIA, holding a strictly limited number of World Championship events."
Furthermore, the FIA appears already to have frozen its existing contracts with EU race promoters and circuit owners. The WMSC statement continues, "Pending clarification of the EU law, contracts for FIA World Championship events within the EU will not be renewed."
The countries that would be affected by this action are Germany and Italy (which currently have two races each), Austria, Belgium, Britain, France and Spain. The FIA would seek to replace these nine Grands Prix with events outside the EU, to form a new fixture list with those in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hungary, Japan, Malaysia, Monaco and the USA. The Middle East and the Far East would be target regions.
The EU Competition commissioners under Mauro Monti are investigating the FIA's current Formula One commercial arrangements and have already suggested that the motorsports governing body has abused its power. After a five-year investigation initiated by Prof Monti's predecessor, Karel van Miert, the Commission issued a formal Statement of Objections in June 1999. The FIA issued a formal response early in February 2000, when the matter was expected to come to a court hearing later this month.
Before they become FIA policy, WMSC decisions must be ratified by the FIA General Assembly, which normally rubber-stamps them.