Domenicali: We must take this chance to “reshape” the sport

James Allen

Speaking exclusively to for the #thinkingforward series, the former Ferrari F1 team principal, now CEO of Lamborghini and president of the FIA single seater commission, said that the sport has dragged its heels too long on effective cost control and other measures to ensure long term health.

But with the economic collapse triggered by the pandemic putting the investment of manufacturers, sponsors and teams in question from F1 downwards, there is a huge effort going on behind the scenes to reset the sport.

“The FIA and Liberty together with the teams, I feel that what they are really thinking about for the future, they are heading in the right direction,” he said. “This is a take it or leave it opportunity and you cannot leave it, you need to take it. Otherwise the risk will be very high of it not returning to be the platform it was.

“We mustn’t forget that if I look at the number of tickets that were sold for the Grands Prix that were due to take place up to now, they were incredibly high. This was the situation before the crisis and it’s the duty of all the stakeholders to ensure that this kind of attention will be there after the crisis.”

Last week the FIA introduced a ‘safeguarding’ clause to the International sporting code that allows it to push through changes for 2021 in a shorter time frame than normal and with a majority of teams’ consent, rather than unanimous. The key moment for this to bear fruit will be the mid-June meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council.

“I think that it would be criminal not to take this opportunity to revisit the points we know we need to improve,” added Domenicali. “Therefore we are really working in these weeks to make sure we can present to the FIA World Council in June (scheduled for June 19), ideas that we were discussing but always postponing because the system was accepting that when the [economic] situation was really good.  Now we need to take it on board, knowing that if we miss this slot it would be criminal.

“I see this as an opportunity for the motorsport industry to reshape. There’s no doubt that motorsport will be an essential part into the future, but short term we need to revisit the level of investment and maybe the level of technology and the number of championships. And maybe also the attitude of the manufacturers; whether to be a supplier to privateer teams or involved as a constructor. These are discussions that need to be made immediately because it’s fundamental that we keep the momentum, even if the disruption is massive.

“We need to have a baseline zero to consider how we build back up, considering that over the next couple of years the situation will improve and motorsport will remain a very important platform for our industry.”

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Domenicali observed that while much attention is currently focussed on Formula 1, where teams like McLaren want to bring the budget cap down to $100m, while Ferrari has said it cannot accept lower than $145m, the need for a hard reset runs through all categories. His FIA role puts him in charge of the single seater pathway from F4 to F1, often referred to as the professional career ladder.

He said: “Speaking as president of the FIA single-seater commission, we are thinking of the right decision for F4, F3, F2 to restart and when this will be possible, what can be done to reduce costs further and to make sure that this ‘formula world’ can be still attractive for the future. 

“We will delay the introduction of new updated technology to help keep the teams alive. Everyone is trying to keep the championships alive in the second part of the season but we also need to identify the cut-off time when we need to concentrate completely on 2021.”

The Italian, who has steered Lamborghini back into the sport with a GT programme that has led to victories in the Daytona 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours and International GT series, expressed a note of caution about the feasibility of staging races before September.

“It’s quite challenging because of the complication of the legislation that has to be considered,” he said. “It’s not just the country where the race is held, but teams from different nationalities that have to respect the legislation of their country. I don’t want to close the door to that: as you know in F1 they are trying to do something [earlier] – that would be fantastic but it would be very challenging for sure.”