Force India, Sauber and the European Commission have all confirmed reports a formal complaint about formula one has been lodged and received. In their complaint, we can reveal that the two midfield teams say the current income distribution model and rule-making strategy group are both "unlawful and unfair".
They say that, unlike the middle-grid private teams, the powerful top outfits receive extra payments not connected to actual results, while their position on the strategy group mean they can steer rules "to their own advantage". "By locking in a permanent advantage for a select few teams, the sport has been gravely undermined," said the document authored by Force India and Sauber.
And the teams are not denying the complaint has been lodged. "Due to the ongoing legal discussions," said a Force India spokesperson, "it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time." And a Sauber spokesperson added: "The process has been initiated, so we are unable to make any further comment." The European Commission, meanwhile, admitted: "We have received a complaint and will assess it."
According to the paddock grapevine, the early reaction to the prospect of a European investigation is that it could spell real trouble for formula one. Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz is already threatening to quit, it might affect Ferrari's plans to float on the stock market, and strict company compliance rules and laws could mean that Mercedes' position is in doubt.
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone told Germany's Sport Bild: "I will not comment on that. But I am sure that the Commission will be satisfied that we have conducted our business properly." He also told the Swiss newspaper Blick: "It (the complaint) is strange, as these teams signed the contracts themselves." (GMM)