#335 1980 French Grand Prix

2022-08-22 00:00

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#1980, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Margherita Urpi,

#335 1980 French Grand Prix

The arm-wrestle between Jean Marie Balestre, president of FISA, and Bernie Ecclestone, the leading figure of FOCA, ends up involving the drivers. In f


The arm-wrestle between Jean Marie Balestre, president of FISA, and Bernie Ecclestone, the leading figure of FOCA, ends up involving the drivers. In fact, on Saturday, May 24, 1980, thirteen drivers are suspended by FISA starting from the next Spanish Grand Prix (June 1) for not attending the meeting in Belgium called by the race director. The thirteen had previously refused to pay a $2.000 fine for this absence, as instructed by their respective teams. The drivers in question are Jones, Reutemann, Lammers, Prost, Watson, Fittipaldi, Rosberg, De Angelis, Pironi, Laffite, Piquet, Zunino, and Needel. The Formula 1 World Championship is now at risk of being disrupted. It should be noted that Piquet is leading the World Championship standings with 22 points, followed by Arnoux (21), Jones (19), Pironi (17), Reutemann (15), and Laffite (12). However, there are doubts about the suspension being applied, both due to the strong reaction of those involved and because the regulatory rule in question, voted on by the FISA assembly in Rio de Janeiro, has not yet been ratified and included in the sporting code. Ecclestone says:


"No official communication had been given at Zolder. The meeting was scheduled for Sunday morning. It was then advanced, without notice, to Saturday, right after the qualifying sessions. It's strange, however, how the so-called big manufacturers, namely Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Renault, were aware of the meeting, and not the others, including almost all English teams. It's a premeditated move by FISA, a move that has all the aspects of a provocation. For seven years, FISA has been stirring the waters. Balestre believes he can govern through press releases, which, then, at the crucial moment, he refrains from issuing, as happened precisely at Zolder".


And he continues:


"Formula 1 is a large industrial and commercial complex and should be treated as such. Balestre cannot revoke the licenses of thirteen drivers just to make a show of strength. There is nothing in the FISA regulations that prescribes the mandatory attendance at the pre-race meeting. We will certainly all go to Spain. If the thirteen drivers are excluded from the race, FOCA will withdraw all the cars from its Association from the race. It is absolutely unfair for the FISA decision to benefit a few drivers and harm all the others. An appeal will be filed soon by the British Royal Automobile Club on behalf of the drivers".


The news of the FISA measure naturally elicits various reactions among the drivers. At the Nurburgring in Germany, where the 1000 km race for the World Sports Championship is taking place with five Formula 1 drivers (Piquet, Mass, Patrese, Cheever, and Brambilla), official statements are cautious. Nelson Piquet says:


"As far as I'm concerned, Ecclestone can go ahead. I did what he wanted".


And the drivers state:


"In this matter, we are not at fault. It is a battle between the constructors and the sports authorities. We are caught between the anvil and the hammer. Balestre wants us to attend the pre-race meetings, our managers prohibit us from doing so. And they are the ones who pay us. What are we supposed to do?"


In any case, the drivers believe that the race in Spain will take place regularly, with a full lineup. At most, Ecclestone will be forced to pay the fines. Balestre will have to back down: it is not even thinkable that the Spanish Grand Prix will take place without the current protagonists of the championship. Only on Friday, May 30, 1980, at 10:00 a.m., when the official non-timed qualifying sessions begin, it will be known for sure whether the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix will have a regular development. 


The case of the drivers suspended by FISA (eighteen in total, the number increases) looms over the race, although everything suggests that the issue will certainly be resolved positively, at least for the moment, with possible repercussions in the future. This controversial and tangled affair overshadows what will be the dominant reason for the race, the penultimate before the conclusion of the first period of the World Championship. Leaving aside the spoken controversy to focus on the competitive aspect, it must be said that the Spanish race, on the small but challenging Jarama circuit, looks very interesting for the title fight. Two teams present themselves with the credentials for victory: Williams, which won in Monaco, and Alfa Romeo, which was clearly the fastest in free practice. Having progressed significantly in recent times, Alfa Romeo will have three cars in the running for Depailler, Giacomelli, and Vittorio Brambilla, who is making his return to the Formula 1 scene. Three cars to follow and fine-tune: it won't be an easy task for the men of engineer Chiti. But what could be a technical and organizational problem could also turn out to be a winning move, especially if the 179s confirm the competitiveness shown in recent races. For Alfa, in any case, it will only be a matter of seeking a prestigious victory. The battle will also be open between Nelson Piquet, the leader of the points standings, and his pursuers Arnoux, Jones, Pironi, Reutemann, and Laffite. Last year, the race was won by Depailler, who was then driving for Ligier. If historical precedents carry any weight, the favorites for the final victory could be divided between the same French driver, now at the wheel of Alfa, and the blue cars of Pironi and Laffite. And Ferrari? As usual, it is very difficult to make predictions about the chances of the Maranello team. While the qualities of drivers Scheckter and Villeneuve remain intact, the performances of the T5s remain uncertain. It is highly unlikely that Engineer Forghieri and his technicians have solved the grip issues of the cars, and especially that they have overcome the impasse with Michelin's radial tires.


"If we continue at this rate, Formula 1 will cease to exist in two years".


This is Bernie Ecclestone's bitter and interesting comment on the suspension of the drivers that is troubling the eve of the Spanish Grand Prix.


"If they suspend even just one FOCA driver, I won't let any of the others on the track. We'll see how they manage to hold the race without us".


Ecclestone's threat is very risky: Ferrari and Renault have not accepted this position, and since the drivers of the two teams, Italian and French, are outside of any controversy and are comfortably in compliance with the licenses (while all others have been withdrawn), they will be able to race regularly. The same will happen with Alfa Romeo, which, although not belonging to the drivers' association, will follow the two Formula 1 sisters. Ecclestone's risks are linked to the fact that a serious split could occur within his association. And furthermore, the Formula 1 boss also runs the risk of having his bluff exposed in these days. It should not be forgotten that the shrewd Bernie is interested in organizing the Grand Prix, and the men of the Spanish Automobile Club are putting great pressure on him to ensure that the race takes place regularly. Ecclestone has high hopes for the meeting that will take place on Saturday, May 31, 1980, and Monday, June 2, 1980, in Athens, regarding FISA. He hopes that Balestre will be outnumbered and practically ousted from the Federation. In the meantime, the situation at Jarama is still uncertain. Predictions are always optimistic enough about a normal development of the race, which everyone hopes for. But the frictions between the various components, drivers, teams, organizers, and sports authorities are very strong, and it is not excluded that a sensational twist may occur. In fact, even the night does not bring advice in Formula 1. Despite the discussions and continuous meetings of the parties involved, an agreement is not reached; the Spanish Grand Prix will take place, but it will probably not be valid for the World Championship. And the race will split the entire Grand Prix environment in two. The battle between FOCA and FISA reaches a boiling point. Ecclestone sticks to his positions, and the same goes for Balestre. The two leaders in opposite fields do not intend to relinquish power, and their battle has practically destroyed a world built over years of racing. 


There are not many hopes that the issue will be straightened out before Sunday when the seventh round of the World Championship was supposed to start at 4:00 p.m. The betrayal of Race, the Spanish Royal Automobile Club, against FISA and in favor of FOCA, has further complicated things, and probably, for years, we will go on with courts and lawyers to unravel the intricate tangle built in these days. Drivers and teams risk very heavy disqualifications if FISA were to prevail. In any case, Formula 1 drivers (those who have taken part in the qualifying sessions and will compete in the race) will find themselves seriously in difficulty and will be increasingly tied to Ecclestone's noose. Only the major manufacturers (Renault, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and the young Turin-based Osella) have the courage to stop and not take part in what could be considered a farcical race. The French team and the three Italian ones wanted to remain within the law, and theirs was a courageous act, all in all because the other teams look at them with disdain for what was considered a betrayal but instead demonstrated the seriousness of the most important teams. The drivers are confused, often with a fixed gaze, and it is not clear what they are thinking at this moment. They are divided into two fronts: those who want to race at all costs and who do not care at all about what will happen, and those who would have preferred to wait to see how the situation could be resolved. For some, it is even a drama. This is the case of Riccardo Patrese, forced by Arrows to take to the track.


"I was forced to drive because otherwise the contract would have provided for heavy sanctions. I had to take to the track reluctantly, and I didn't even have the chance to postpone it for at least a day. I could have pretended, claimed to feel unwell, but it's not in my temperament. Now I hope that the sports authorities, in considering the situation and judging it, take into account the plight of us drivers, who are caught in the middle, between the anvil and the hammer".


At this point, the race no longer has much interest. There are still minimal possibilities, although technically it is now almost impossible, for an agreement to be reached, and for the Spanish Grand Prix to return to legality. The statements released by Race, however, leave little hope for a return to normalcy: there is a lot of presumption in these organizers, and it's unclear how they can backtrack. The on-track battle is, therefore, of very little interest: it will be a matter between the Ligiers of Laffite and Pironi and the Williams of Jones and Reutemann. Nelson Piquet will try to defend his position as the leader of the World Championship with a good performance. But his effort will be in vain: now the championship is split in two and perhaps it will not even reach its conclusion.


"Jarama, Saturday, May 31, 1980, at 4:30 p.m., Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Renault confirm with regret that they are unable to participate in the competition scheduled for Sunday, June 1, 1980, at the Jarama circuit. Despite their repeated attempts, no new valid element has intervened to allow the FEA, the only national sports authority recognized by the FIA, FISA, and the Spanish Higher Council of Sports, to authorize the organization of the Spanish Grand Prix, suspended in its regular course on Friday, May 30, 1980. Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Renault wish to express their deep regret to the public, the Spanish press, and the international press".


With this joint statement, the three major car manufacturers in Formula 1 rule out the possibility of racing at Jarama. Bitterness, fatigue from the long negotiations, but also satisfaction at having stood firm against Ecclestone characterize the initial comments of the three teams. Alfa is heading to France to reach Le Castellet, where it will test in the coming days, Ferrari and Renault are going to Brands Hatch, where they will conduct tests on Michelin tires. The three teams have made every diplomatic move possible to try to salvage what could be saved, but everything has been in vain. It is a widespread opinion, however, that the case that erupted in Spain could have, in the long run, positive effects. Supporting this view is, among others, the World Champion Jody Scheckter.


"I hope that the sacrifice of this race is useful to everyone. Sooner or later, we had to come to a clarification, and it's better that it happened now. I am perfectly aligned with Ferrari's position. There was no other way to act".


When asked why he did not convene the drivers for a meeting as the president of the GPDA, the South African responds:


"I believe that the drivers are mature enough to know what they are getting into. I hope that each of those who were forced to race reflects and realizes that they have been treated like garbage by their own team".


When everything is decided, even FOCA explains its reasons. Mar Mosley, the legal representative of the Association and Ecclestone's right-hand man on the sports side, says:


"Everything could have been resolved. We could have done the practice, raced, and then discussed around a table calmly".


These words speak for themselves. It was enough to accept all of Ecclestone's impositions, ignore the sporting authorities, and there would have been no problems. But at the cost of everyone's freedom. The Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix will take place at the Jarama circuit but will not be valid as the seventh round of the World Championship. The race will have the same value as a private race. The Italian and French executives have not changed their attitude favorable to the sporting authorities, devalued by the Real Automovil Club de España, the organizer of the Grand Prix in partnership with the FOCA. Eddie Cheever will instead participate in the race (there will be a total of 22 cars), driving an Osella. However, the car, as explained separately, has not been entered by Enzo Osella. Saturday is also characterized by frantic attempts to bring the Grand Prix back into legality, but every initiative is blocked by Ecclestone and his associates. In the morning, while the outlaw teams conduct free practice, the Race continues to issue vague and unilateral statements, according to which the Spanish Grand Prix would be valid for the World Championship. In reality, the officials of the Spanish Automovil Club shamelessly play on the misunderstanding, claiming to be the custodians of sporting power following a telex request to the FIA. The Race was indeed the holder of this power until an October 1979 congress, but on that occasion, it applied to the FIA to transfer it to the Spanish Automobile Federation (FEA). With the request accepted, only the FIA assembly (callable in about a month) could potentially revoke the decision, and a simple telex is not sufficient to arrogate all power. Despite protests from the sports directors of Alfa, Renault, and Ferrari (Corbari, Larrousse, and Piccinini), discussions proceeded on this basic misunderstanding. 


At a certain point, the intervention of Prince Ferdinand De Baviera, president of the FEA, seemed to have found a compromise solution, in agreement with the representatives of the three constructor teams. The manager had been authorized to act by the FISA president, Balestre, who had left on Saturday morning for Athens, where a meeting of the FIA executive committee will take place on June 3-4, 1980. In Greece, Balestre could already be facing some problems due to his recent behavior, considered by many not exactly exemplary and subject to severe censure. However, it is also likely that in such a difficult moment, FISA members will agree to avoid internal fractures and to overcome the serious problems with the FOCA for Formula 1. In any case, De Baviera negotiated extensively with feverish negotiations. A plan was prepared that envisaged a return to normalcy with the cancellation of all previous tests, the possibility of at least two hours of training for Ferrari, Renault, and Alfa, which had not been able to take to the track. Subsequently, a unique one-and-a-half-hour qualifying session would determine the lineup. At the moment of signing this compromise, Marquess De Cubas, president of the Race, refused. De Cubas would have had to acknowledge sporting power to the Spanish Federation and give way to FEA men who had been dismissed. It must be emphasized, however, that FEA would have taken on a great responsibility in reclaiming the Grand Prix. First, because the team managers of the FOCA teams would not have accepted the agreement, as they considered it favorable to Ferrari and others. Second, because it would have been easy for any dissatisfied competitor, after the race, to request its invalidation from the FISA due to the many irregularities committed in recent days. What is surprising in this whole affair is the obtuseness and arrogance with which Ecclestone, who is considered a skilled and intelligent manager, conducted the negotiations.


Despite being right in some points in his struggle with Balestre, the president of the FOCA did not realize the irreparable damage he caused to the circus he helped create. He antagonized the major industries and provoked a negative reaction from sponsors; the French oil company financing Ligier would be determined to terminate the contract. It is not excluded that before the French Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, June 28, 1980, everything will be resolved, and Formula 1 will return, with the approval of all the protagonists, to legality. On Sunday, June 1, 1980, in front of about 60.000 spectators, truth be told, not very excited about this Spanish Grand Prix without Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Williams, and Ligier, with a brief interlude of Brabham, kept the race interesting. Alan Jones wins, preceding the incredulous Jochen Mass, Elio De Angelis, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Patrick Gaillard at the finish line. Only six cars, therefore, completed the race. And this means that there were repeated incidents, retirements, and breakdowns. Alan Jones, although he will probably remember this victory as a futile success for the World Championship, can be satisfied with the luck that accompanied him. After being in second place until lap 12, behind his teammate Reutemann, the Australian, due to an outward slide at Monza, found himself in fifth place, with Laffite passing him. Piquet and Pironi, all direct competitors in the world championship. From that moment on, Jones, who had cooling problems with his Williams, only tried to maintain the pace. And in the end, he found himself in the lead. At the start, Laffite, having a bad start with wheels spinning, lost the pole position to the two Williams and the always attentive and aggressive teammate Pironi. Reutemann then took the lead, closely followed by Jones, then delayed, as mentioned, by the slide on lap 12. In the rear, Kennedy (on the first lap due to a spectacular off-track), Prost betrayed by the engine of his McLaren, Rosberg, who also went off the track with broken brakes, and Daly, who went straight to the Nuvolari turn for the same problem, immediately retired. Brake failure was indeed the most common technical problem in the race, as Lammers and Patrese (who was in ninth position on lap 25) also struggled with the braking system. 


The central point of the race, which determined the final result, was a spectacular three-car crash - which could have had much more serious consequences - between Reutemann, who was still in the lead, Laffite, who was closely chasing him, and the Spanish De Villota, who had already been lapped twice. The greater responsibility in this multiple collision lies with the Ligier's Frenchman, even though Laffite tried to blame De Villota. The incident occurred at the entrance to Le Mans, a narrow left turn that drivers approach in second gear. Reutemann found De Villota much slower ahead, in the middle of the track. He overtook him on the outside fairly quickly. Villota thought of facilitating the maneuver by moving to the left towards the inside, but abruptly, Laffite slipped in from that side, hitting full force, overpassing, the Williams of the Spaniard. The Frenchman ended up against the guardrail, lost a wheel, and re-entered the track, hitting the unsuspecting Reutemann's Williams, who, among other things, took a good hit and a big scare. Piquet passed into the lead with Brabham, followed by Pironi and, more detached, by Jones. Behind, Eddie Cheever made his way with a beautiful race with the Osella, demonstrating the progress made by the Turin constructor's car. Piquet remained in the lead for only seven laps before being forced to retire due to gearbox failure, leaving a rampant Pironi. But even for the aggressive Didier, joy didn't last long: on lap 65, his Ligier spectacularly lost a wheel at the Farina turn, and Jones had a clear path. His advantage allowed him to endure the hardening of the gearbox and the drop in tires that began to degrade. In addition to Jones's happiness, that of Mass and Elio De Angelis who climbed the podium (the Italian driver had the merit of bringing to the finish a completely uncompetitive, even undriveable car) was countered by the bitterness of Eddie Cheever, who for six laps, on two occasions, was in third place and twelve laps from the end, while he was battling with De Angelis, had to retire due to a joint failure. Alan Jones steps down from the podium smiling, but as soon as he finds himself in the middle of the crowd, a shirtless boy tries to take away his hat with the embroidered winner inscription, which is then given to the first-place finisher for the award ceremony. The driver reacts, and in a fraction of a second, a fistfight ensues between the two.


"I was particularly attached to this hat because I earned it. People might talk about luck for this victory, but I worked hard and wisely managed the car, which wasn't in perfect condition. I would have settled for a second place after spinning at the Monza turn. Towards the end, however, I realized I could aim for the full result even if the engine, gearbox, and tires weren't at 100%. I had problems, especially with water and oil cooling, so I had to be careful without being able to attack".


The first question to Jones is about the validity of the race.


"I don't see why it shouldn't be good for the championship; in any case, we'll see. I'm leading the world championship, and it's always an extra win to add to my record".


Next to Jones, on the topic of the race's validity, Frank Williams intervenes:


"We will also take action to validate the result. Jones is highly regarded by the Australian authorities, and with Leyland, I will exert pressure on the English ones. Our Arab sponsor, moreover, has a big card to play with oil in our favor. It's not just Alfa, Ferrari, and Renault that carry weight at a high level".


Statements that speak for themselves. It's like saying that whoever has the most powerful sponsor will be fine. If they're an oil tycoon, even better. At the end of the race, in an interview with some English journalists, Bernie Ecclestone makes serious accusations against Ferrari. The president of the FOCA, speaking about the Spanish Grand Prix incident, indulges in an illusion that calls into question the fairness of the Italian team.


"If they didn't want to compete, it's mainly because their cars are not competitive at the moment. If they were on top, they would probably have done everything to participate in the race".


These words, obviously, are later reported to the Ferrari team. Engineer Forghieri, Ferrari's technical director, responds:


"Ecclestone doesn't even deserve a response. If he speaks like that, it's because he doesn't know Ferrari, doesn't even know how it works and has always behaved. It would be better if he focused on his own cars. In four years, he has won three races".


What do you think of the future of Formula 1?


"We will continue to work as if nothing has happened. I am convinced, and I hope that before the French Grand Prix, an agreement will be reached to return to normal. We will be testing at Brands Hatch for the British Grand Prix on July 13th from Wednesday to Friday. In any case, if there is a split, I don't think Ecclestone will have an easy win. Without Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, there would be no chance of maintaining the current popularity of Formula 1. The World Championship can only happen under the auspices of the sports authorities. I am convinced that Ecclestone has miscalculated. In the fight with Balestre, he made a misstep. Also, because he has embarked on the wrong path, that of irregularity. I am especially sorry for those who have blindly followed him, without thinking about the possible consequences. Drivers, technicians, and mechanics who could suffer serious damage from this action, which I consider illegal. On Saturday, we had almost reached an agreement, but when I presented a letter to be signed by organizers and FOCA, they refused".


Bernie Ecclestone, the main person responsible, along with Jean-Marie Balestre, for what is happening in Formula 1, does not lose the traditional English composure. He moves around the pits as if nothing has happened and takes care of the ordinary administration of his team, Brabham. Only his tense expression reveals his tension. Someone, with irreverent spirit, nicknames a potential FOCA championship the Dwarf Cup, referring to the British manager's short stature. Ecclestone issues a long statement on FOCA letterhead, in which, with shamelessness that knows no bounds, he addresses questions and answers tailored to him. It is obvious that this document shows that FOCA and the Real Automovil Club de España are perfectly right, and the race was regular and valid for the World Championship. Here is the text of this curious document. This race counts for the World Championship.


"Yes, the championship was created by the FIA. The Automovil Club is among the founders of the FIA itself. It has the right to hold the championship as it is doing".


But Renault, Ferrari, and Alfa Romeo are not competing.


"This makes no difference. There have been many World Championship races without them. Nowhere in the regulations does it say that the presence or absence of a particular team makes any difference".


Balestre says this is an illegal competition.


"Balestre is the president of the FISA. The FISA is only one of the five permanent commissions of the FIA (touring, customs, traffic, and technical). The FISA does not govern the motor sport".


You are wrong: it is known that Balestre and the FISA are responsible for everything.


"The FIA is the only international organization that governs motor sport. Even Balestre must be accountable for his actions".


But Balestre is also vice president of the FIA.


"Yes. And he has a vote in some committees of the FIA. But he cannot change the regulations or interfere between the FIA and its members. He can give his opinion, like the others, but he does not have a special weight".


Suppose Balestre convinces the FIA to declare that the Spanish Grand Prix is ​​not valid for the World Championship...


"This changes nothing. In Article 11 of the FIA statutes, it is said that the FISA cannot make unilateral decisions, and it will eventually be the plenary assembly of the FIA to decide".


Suppose then that Balestre convinces the FIA assembly to declare that the Spanish Grand Prix does not count.


"There is no chance that this can be done".


But is there anyone who can say whether, for the law, the Spanish Grand Prix is ​​valid?


"There is: it is the International Court of Appeal of the FIA. If the Automovil Club de España is confirmed as the holder of sporting power (power it has in its hands), there will be no problem".


Is the Automovil Club really the holder of sporting power in Spain?


"Of course."


Why did the negotiations on Saturday to include Ferrari, Renault, and Alfa fail at the last moment?


"Every possible effort was made. At least two of those teams wanted to race at all costs. The formula prepared for the agreement was imposed by Ferrari. The Race could not accept it because it would have had to give sporting power to the FIA and cancel the tests already carried out".


What will happen to the drivers whose sports licenses have been suspended?


"The Race has established that all drivers who took part in the race had a perfectly valid FIA license. The Race is the only authority that can decide on this matter in Spain".


How do you foresee the future for Formula 1?


"A certain number of national sports associations will follow the steps of the Automovil Club de España".


And the next French Grand Prix?


"FOCA has a legal contract with the French Federation, which it will duly respect".


But what do the pilots who participated in the outlaw race of Jarama really risk? The international sports code published by the FIA ​​is clear. Article 118 states:


"Anyone who commits, leads, holds an official position, or participates in any way in a prohibited competition will be suspended by the national sports authority that issued their license. If the race took place in a territory different from that of the authority that issued the license, the two associations must agree on the duration of the suspension. In case of disagreement, it will be up to the FIA to decide".


In such a situation, the duration of the suspension is typically around one year. However, it seems that the president of FISA, Balestre, considering that the majority of drivers have faced strong pressures to race, has indicated that sports justice will be lenient with the guilty parties. The stance of FISA towards the teams that have complied with FOCA's directives will be different. There are no precedents in this field. On Monday, June 2, 1980, the sports authorities won the battle against FOCA: Bernie Ecclestone is defeated. Enzo Ferrari himself communicates this news from Athens, where the FIA executive committee is meeting. A vibrant and energetic Ferrari, as usual. Arriving in Maranello to discuss the events of Formula 1, the sensational occurrences in Spain in recent days, the media finds the Modena constructor ready for anything, with explanations already printed in an official statement with his signature. 


And while discussing the events and what could have happened in the future, a call from Marco Piccinini, sports director, arrives. Enzo Ferrari says with a satisfied smile, removing his sunglasses:


"Here is the verdict, which could not be otherwise because otherwise we would have been wrong to believe in the law: confirmation of trust in FISA and its president Balestre and the procedures carried out in Rio de Janeiro; confirmation that the only Spanish sports authority is represented by the Automobile Federation and condemnation of the Royal Automobile Club of Spain; confirmation that Sunday's race was an illegal event; expulsion of FOCA, the association of constructors, from the FIA executive committee and the Formula 1 Commission".


These few sentences clarify any misunderstanding about what happened in Spain. Between the lines of the communication, there is also a technical defeat for FOCA. Not only was the Spanish Grand Prix not considered valid in any way (it is not just an irregular race but even illegal), but the decisions made at the Rio de Janeiro assembly were confirmed. A few minutes before receiving this information, Enzo Ferrari had released another document in which he clarified his position and explained how he had long anticipated and predicted the sensational rupture that occurred in Spain.


"As a preamble to the FOCA meeting held in Modena on April 30th, when the signs of a power conflict in Formula 1 were already evident and worrisome, I made the following statement to all FOCA members: Every statutory, organizational, and financial decision of FOCA, once made, must be kept firm for at least a year. It cannot be reconsidered or modified every 15-30 days. FOCA must maintain the integrity of its institutional nature as a category association and, as such, define economic agreements with entities and organizations in the interest of its associates. Since the legal power of FISA must be recognized, it is vital to reconcile any technical-sporting modification, highlighting the evolutionary purposes of automotive technology that inspire the formulas. These purposes cannot be transformed into a privileged source for the association or individual competitors but must offer a field of competitive emulation generating progress. My proposal to appoint a commission of three FOCA members (Chapman, Murray, Forghieri) with full powers was unanimously accepted, and I obtained from FISA the appointment of three of its delegates who, with full powers, would agree on the future of Formula 1, making the desired agreement binding on the parties".


And he continues:


"Balestre accepted my proposal on May 13, appointing Benzing, Crombac, and Schild. On May 28, the six delegates were supposed to meet in Paris, but Ecclestone informed me on May 20 that he considered the meeting useless because, given the names proposed by FISA, the meeting would have been political and not constructive-technical in nature. What can I add? My attempt, in the name of sport, to reconcile this conflict has failed. I must point out that Ferrari belongs to a group that involves Fiat in rallies, Lancia in the World Sport Championship, and Ferrari in Formula 1. Ferrari did not sign the document demanded in Madrid by FOCA, which intended to establish the denial of legal sporting power and did not even share the legal action taken by FOCA against FISA. What happened in Spain is the consequence of this situation, in which, amid rights and wrongs on both sides, sports suffer. FOCA was established in 1970, and Ferrari was forced to join it after the mistaken Geneva pact of 1971. Ferrari will continue to race, as it has done from 1929 to 1971 without FOCA, and in any case, even if it has sometimes had conflicts and discussions with sports authorities over certain regulatory formulations or interpretations, it will conform to the international sports code".


Few believe in the success of a FOCA Formula 1 championship, organized like a professional tennis circuit. Enzo Ferrari believes even less, and he is willing to change everything in the near future.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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