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The Forces Behind Formula One

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There is more to the sport of F1 than simply the races, the cars, the teams and drivers. It takes a great amount of effort to promote and run a race, especially when it comes to financing the whole operation. Income is generated from three major sources - sale of media rights, merchandising, and advertising/sponsorship.

The Owners

The single most important person in Formula One is Bernie Ecclestone, who owns a 50% stake in the group of companies which manage and promote F1 worldwide. Born in 1930, his initial involvement with motor-racing was as a driver in Formula 2 and 3. Soon he was exercising his business acumen through various ventures such as real estate and acting as an agent to Formula One driver Jochen Rindt. Eventually he raised enough money through his activities to buy the Brabham F1 team. He subsequently became President of the Formula One Constructor's Association (FOCA), and later Vice-president of the FIA (see 'The Regulators' below).

The other 50% stake in F1 management was sold by Ecclestone to a German media company, EMTV, who in turn have sold 49% of the total to their rivals the Kirch Group. The F1 companies themselves have been granted commercial rights to the sport until the year 2110, an extension recently negotiated by (you guessed it) Mr Ecclestone!

There are other parties interested in gaining a measure of control at the highest level in the sport, not least of which are the constructors of the competing cars. To this end, the latest incarnation of FOCA continues to influence decisions made by the controlling companies. Note that FOCA are concerned with the business primarily - any issues the constructors have with the sport are dealt with through the Commission (explained below).

The Regulators

Once the finances have been sorted out, the task of supervising the races and their participants falls to a number of governing bodies. The official body responsible for legislating and enforcing the many technical and sporting regulations is known as the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile or FIA, which has been presided over by Max Mosley since the early 1980s. FIA officials conduct checks on cars at the end of each race, and if they find parts which do not comply with the rules they have the power to strip the driver of any points he may have gained from that race.

The teams have their own body, the F1 Commission, whose membership consists of the management of the five highest-placed teams from the previous season, plus a seat for the team which has competed in the most Championships (currently Ferrari). Before any change to regulations are authorised both the FIA and the Commission have to agree. The other teams are consulted also - a unanimous agreement from all teams is usually required before rules can be altered, with the Commission taking care of negotiation with the FIA. This process ensures that the interests of the teams are taken into account, for the benefit of the sport as a whole.

Finally, the competitors themselves have a voice through the Driver's Committee, who meet to discuss matters of concern to them. The most common issues covered are those of safety and driver conduct during races.

The Media

The sale of television rights to F1 races is a major source of income for the sport, as the worldwide interest from fans and sponsors alike will in turn benefit the owners of those rights. Even if a media company loses out on these rights, they are likely to become sponsors themselves (this is even more likely in the 21st Century, as the original batch of major sponsors - the tobacco companies - are gradually phased out). In terms of TV coverage, one of the most highly sought-after aspects is access to pictures from onboard cameras, which is negotiated as part of TV rights deals. Digital TV providers are keen to have these cameras as part of their interactive Grand Prix coverage, and so the majority of onboard shots can only be seen by digital viewers (the global broadcast which most viewers see only have shots from a select few cars, whereas digital viewers may eventually be able to select any given car in the race).

The Fans

Sport is nothing without support, so it is fortunate that F1 attracts a massive audience each year (both in person and via television). The loyal following of fans which individual teams and drivers attract is phenomenal in size and enthusiasm. Of course, the drivers command great support in their home countries, as do the teams and even the engine manufacturers in some cases!

A special mention must be made of the Tifosi, supporters of the Ferrari team. They are the most numerous and widest-spread of fan groups, due in no small part to Ferrari's record of success in F1. It is not uncommon to see whole stands of red-clad Tifosi at every Grand Prix, not just in the team's home country of Italy.


Formula One exists because people have a desire for competition, against each other and against the limits of their physical endurance and innovative ability. The forces outlined above serve to fuel that desire - inspiring the teams and drivers to success, keeping the supporters interested, and generating revenue to continue to improve the sport.

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