The paddock at Singapore is a hive of movers and shakers in business and within the sport. One of those people is Oliver Weingarten, the Secretary General of FOTA. The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) are a group of Formula1 teams, set up to promote their interests and the image of the sport to the fans. In its short life FOTA has always been at the centre of the sport, with its members well known for debating future rules. But it’s also FOTA who set up the Fans forums and manage the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA). With such a wide brief, we asked Oliver in the first year of his role about FOTA and their activities.
What teams are not currently in FOTA?
It’s Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Ferrari and Sauber. The two Red Bull teams don’t really engage with FOTA, but Ferrari and Sauber do engage with us. They just haven’t put their name to membership, but they still work and agree on common issues where possible.
When I joined there was an ongoing issue amongst the teams in respect the lack of trust within the RRA, and effective sanctions. That ultimately led to Ferrari and Red Bull resigning from FOTA and subsequently agreeing commercial deals with the Commercial Rights Holder , which then had the impact of others following suit.
How are FOTA involved with the RRA?
Under the terms of the RRA, FOTA administers it. FOTA continues to administer and bind Red Bull, Ferrari, Sauber and Toro Rosso to that agreement, as it is specifically stated in the RRA that it is not conditional on Teams being members of FOTA. It’s a 12 team agreement irrespective of FOTA and as a result of the Singapore Agreement it’s in force until 2017.
How is it managed?
Essentially, as stated in the name, it is a contract between the Teams. The agreement outlines a process by which teams submit a report on an annual basis,. There’s a mechanism to cope with over resourcing, essentially it’s a cap on spend or a fine, but not a sporting sanction. Which is why we have been working with the FIA to incorporate the RRA into the Sporting Regulations; because then any breach would potentially be a bigger deterrent. It doesn’t look like that will happen for 2013, but it could happen for 2014.
How many people are in FOTA?
Just me and I’m looking for a PA! We were in Geneva, but we closed the office in and relocated to London and eventually found a small office in Marylebone. But we remain registered in Switzerland. It’s been quite a tumultuous turbulent first year in the job that’s for sure.
How does FOTA work with the eight teams?
We are doing quite a lot of good things, seeking consensus of rules and regulations. We have a Technical Regulations Working Group and a Sporting Regulations Group, which run in parallel to the FIA Technical Working Group and Sporting Working Group. So the FOTA teams will discuss and try to agree collective positions on pertinent issues which leads to the FIA groups being constructive. As a collective we have worked together to get rules drafted for 2013, on both the Sporting and Technical side. Where Teams in FOTA don’t agree, we try and find a consensus where possible, as was the case with the 2013 Sporting Regulations that were submitted to the World Motorsport Council. Cost saving is an important issue for the FIA and the Teams and we have tried to achieve that through the Regulations. whether that be in bringing less personnel to the track, reduction in aero testing or on-track testing. For example the Teams agreed to lost one in season test next year. On Testing, the Teams try to seek consensus on where they should test and then I do the commercial negotiation and agreement with the circuits.
How does FOTA promote the sport?
Promotional activities are extremely important and it is arguable that the sport as a whole doesn’t do enough of it. The teams have taken it upon themselves to do that with FOTA, whether through theFans Forums and working with Promoters where possible. We are also intending to canvas fans opinion with the Global Fan Survey; one was done a few years ago and we’re looking to do another one if not at the end of the year, then prior to the start of next Season. Thereis also a further report on the reduction of greenhouse gasses emissions amongst the teams; the last one of these was done in 2010.
How are the fans forums being developed?
We’re taking the forums to places they haven’t been before, like Manhattan which was an initiative to take F1 personnel straight from Montreal to give fans exposure to people like Sergio Perez, Alexander Rossi and Team Principals. The teams find them enjoyable and we get kudos from the fans for doing it. Everybody comes away feeling good. The Teams feel they have given something back to the fans, who in turn have an opportunity to get up close in n environment not normally afforded to them. I have been extremely impressed with the knowledge of the Fans and the questions asked.
For the upcoming Fans’ Forum in Austin, I hope to have a more interactive session. Ideally I would like to have a big screen with tweets coming in from fans, so if they watch it online they can have a question asked by the compere. I think the view that the teams are big enough and old enough to answer difficult questions, the fans should be able to ask what they want. A lot of them will may ask trickier questions than some journalists.
Is Social Media important to FOTA?
Yes, and more so with the convergence of technology. I’m trying to tweet to fans, and interact with them. The Teams have taken a good lead on the social networking front, and if you look at the FOTA website, the homepage aggregates the Teams’ tweets. I am trying to be a friendly face to the Fans, and the feedback is that they appreciate the engagement. People now feel they can email or tweet me and I will respond. I am just building up FOTA’s twitter (https://twitter.com/ollyFOTA), I think we have only got 6k followers. Additionally I am now creating a Facebook page for the fans to engage in, to go live prior to the start of next Season. The aim is for it to be an interactive hub. I am always open to ideas from Fans.
FOTA Website http://www.fota.co/