Formula 1 has traditionally been operated in the penumbra of a document called the Concorde Agreement. This legally-binding document ties the teams, the commercial right's owners (FOM) and the governing body (FIA) together in a dance of speed, technology and perhaps most importantly...money. The agreement expired in December of 2012 and to date, no extension has been signed.
What we do have is a memorandum of understanding between the FIA and FOM as to how the Concorde Agreement will be completed. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says that the teams and the commercial right's holder have already signed a commercial agreement but the FIA's ink is the only thing missing on the signature line.
The FIA are heading toward an election for president this fall and incumbent Jean Todt will face competition from FIA man David Ward. Things are already getting political as Ward accused Todt of campaigning even before the election cycle had formally begun.
Todt has been a quiet successor to former president Max Mosley choosing to do his work off-camera and behind closed doors. One of those closed-door topics is the Concorde Agreement but another one is the notion of a new tire supplier tender that had been suggested in the press.
Todt addressed the issue at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix telling AUTOSPORT:
"We will see, but if everybody says we are very happy, then what is the point going to a tender?"
The fact is, Michelin have a different view of what their participation in Formula One should look like. While Pirelli were happy to take the antithetical direction of creating a tire that degrades quickly, Michelin wants a tire that promotes their product's durability. Michelin also want a larger, low-profile tire similar to those used in the World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Todt diffuses the issue by suggesting that all the teams need to be on board with re-signing Pirelli before he cancels the tender but according to FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone, the teams already have 6-year agreements signed with Pirelli as he told Martin Brundle:
"They [Michelin] have contacted us and they have contacted all the teams and what they have said is that if they are needed they are ready to return to Formula 1.
"There are a few conditions if they came in for 2014 or 2015...they want a different type of tyre - a lower profile tyre - which would look like a bicycle tyre on a Formula 1 car, so I am very much against it.
"We have a long-term contract with Pirelli, all the teams have now signed a six-year contract with Pirelli - so it appears that they are happy otherwise they wouldn't have signed the contract."
If Michelin do come back, it most likely wouldn't be for the 2014 season and it probably wouldn't be under the current regulations governing the tire specifications.
As for Todt, the power struggle continues as his election campaign launches but some suggest the lack of a Concorde Agreement, the increase in Super license fees, the tire fiasco of 2013 and the lack of success in the World Rally Championship recovery are signs that Ward could have a chance at winning the election.
Ultimately pinning Todt's success on a signed Concorde Agreement may prove more difficult as it is believed the FIA are looking for more revenue for their services but Eccelstone makes it relatively clear that the only thing needed from the FIA to be added to the agreement is their regulations and signature, not more verbiage about increased fees and revenue sharing.
"The Concorde Agreement has always been this mysterious document that contains all the finances - which we already have done with the teams. We have made an agreement with the FIA, the only other thing that would be in the Concorde Agreement is the sporting and technical regulations."
Makes one wonder what challenger David Ward might say about the tire tender, Michelin and the Concorde Agreement doesn't it?