previous page: 1.1 1997 schedule
page up: Formula One Motor Racing FAQ
next page: 2.1 Benetton

1.2 What is Formula One? What is the FIA? What is FOCA? [AH]


This article is from the Formula One Motor Racing FAQ, by mitchmcc@ultranet.com (Mitchell McCann) with numerous contributions by others.

1.2 What is Formula One? What is the FIA? What is FOCA? [AH]

FIA politics is really grungy stuff.
The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) is the
governing and sanctioning body for the FIA World Driver's
Championship, which is run to a set of technical and procedural
regulations and specifications known as Formula One. The FIA's
competition committee, which consists of representatives of the
motor sport organizing bodies of the member countries (eg ACCUS
represents the US, the RAC represents the UK, the FFSA
represents France), sets the F1 regulations, interprets them,
and judges any appeals or disputes.

The Formula One Constructor's Association (FOCA) is an
organization of the chassis builders (constructors) who design
and build the cars that race in the F1 Grands Prix. Since the
rules these days say that a constructor can supply cars to only
one team, constructor and team are more or less synonymous.

Max Mosley (son of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley) is the
president of the FIA and is in charge of its day-to-day
operations. Bernie Ecclestone, who used to own and manage the
Brabham F1 team, is the president of the FOCA and also the
vice-president of marketing for the FIA. Originally, all the F1
Grands Prix were independent events, independently financed and
organized within their host countries. The FIA merely set the
technical regulations for F1, and designated certain Grands Prix
to be the qualifying rounds for the Driver's and Constructor's
Championships. Up until sometime in the 1970s, there were other
Grands Prix held besides those races included in the FIA
Championship. But the idea of non-Championship Grands Prix died
out as it became more and more expensive to hold F1 events. As
time went by, the Constructor's Association (FOCA) took on a
bigger and bigger role in the business side of Grand Prix
racing. They organized and coordinated the sponsorship of the
events, sold the television rights, and did the logistics and
financing of moving the Grand Prix `circus' from country to

Then, in the late 1970s, Jean-Marie Balestre was elected as head
of the Committee du Sport Internationale (CSI), the committee of
the FIA directly involved in supervising F1. He decided that the
FIA should take back more control over the sport. When he tried
to impose his will autocratically, Bernie Ecclestone and the
other constructors in FOCA resisted. There was a big power
struggle between FISA (Federation Internationale du Sport
Automotive, Balestre's new name for the CSI) and FOCA in the
early 1980s. Some Grands Prix got cancelled or had their
championship status stripped as a result. In the end, FISA and
the FIA won out over the FOCA, mainly, I think, because the
teams were not unanimously behind the FOCA (not all constructors
were FOCA members), and because the sponsors, race organizers,
and others involved in Grand Prix racing prevailed on both sides
to settle things amicably. But for a while, the FOCA was talking
about forming a new F1 championship series comprising the races
that it organized, while the FIA of course was threatening to
refuse sanctioning for those races. There almost were two `World
Championship' series. Later on, Bernie Ecclestone was appointed
marketing director for the FIA, but he still retains his
presidency of FOCA. So Bernie is still in charge of the
organizational and financial side of Grand Prix racing, but now
officially as part of the FIA instead of in an independent

The agreement between FISA and FOCA over control of F1 is called
the Concorde Agreement. Among other things, it says that except
in the case of emergencies, changes to technical regulations
must be announced two years in advance of the date of adoption,
unless all constructors agree unanimously to adopt the
regulations earlier. This came up in 1994 because Max Mosley
wanted to introduce several major technical changes in the wake
of a series of fatal and near-fatal accidents in F1. He made
these changes without the unanimous agreement called for by the
Concorde Agreement, by claiming that this was an emergency

So Max Mosley, as FIA president, is responsible for setting
rules and policy for F1, but he's limited by the Concorde
Agreement in how quickly and how far he can push things his way.
Since Bernie Ecclestone still controls the purse strings for
Grand Prix racing, he still carries a lot of clout. As for `can
somebody take it away', the FIA president is elected by the
representatives from the member countries. When Max Mosley's
current term is up, he could be voted out. Similarly, I think
that the constructors could oust Ecclestone if they wanted to.


Continue to:

previous page: 1.1 1997 schedule
page up: Formula One Motor Racing FAQ
next page: 2.1 Benetton