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Spyker Pays the Piper

I see that Spyker’s protest against the legality of the Toro Rosso cost the team $2,000. That seems a bit steep for saying, “Oi, we don’t think that’s legal!” and makes me wonder about the wisdom of Spyker making a fuss about the Toro Rosso and Super Aguri cars at all. No wonder Williams is sitting quietly at the moment, allowing Spyker to shoulder the burden of the costs involved.


Once they get to arbitration, the price to be paid will increase dramatically, of course – lawyers don’t come cheap these days. And what will Spyker gain, even if they win the case? TR and SA would have to stop using their 2007 models and that could easily mean they have to drop out of racing, at least for a time. Which would leave Spyker still at the back of the grid but with a bigger gap to bridge to the teams above them – at least TR are within reach at the moment.

It seems to me that Spyker would be wiser to spend the money on development rather than legal fees. Neither SA nor TR are going to get anywhere near the Constructor’s Championship this year, so it seems pointless to mutter about it being for constructors only. Customer cars will be legal next year anyway and any victories in court achieved this season will become meaningless. By then, Colin Kolles might well wish he had the money rather than a judgment in his pocket.

Okay, you can say it’s a matter of principle – TR and SA are probably breaking the terms of the Concorde Agreement for 2007. But the FIA aren’t interested, understandably since they ignore the agreement anytime they want to, and the other teams are only prepared to shake their heads and give Spyker moral support. The principle could cost Spyker a lot of money and distracts them from the main task, which is getting their car competitive with the others. Consider how much good it did Shadow in winning their case against Arrows in 1978; by the time the judgment came through, Arrows had another design ready and Shadow had dropped to the tail end of the field.

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me that Spyker have nothing to gain and a lot to lose in this whole business. Ultimately, their aim has to be to build a car that can beat all comers, so what does it matter if TR and SA have stolen a temporary advantage by bending the rules? In the long run they will have to compete with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren if they don’t want to remain as perennial also-rans. And a season or two at the back of the grid is part of the apprenticeship that has to be served if they are going to learn enough to move upwards.

10 Responses to “Spyker Pays the Piper”

  1. I must say I fully agree with you on this one. Not only is Spyker shooting themselves in the foot but they are also giving the sport a black eye ( not the eye the FIA punches itself in on a regular basis, the other one) . This questions the FIA’s ability to enforce there own rules and I have to imagine it hurts there creditability. Also well reading this I was thinking that the only reason Spyker would do such a thing is to steal the spotlight a little from the big boys and make a name for themselves. In actuality they are doing just the opposite, everyone has an underdog they love to root for (Sauber?), but no one likes a soar loser.

  2. Too true, Dan – if it’s being done to make a name, Spyker will end up with the wrong kind of name entirely.

  3. Well, the appeal hasn’t worked for this weekend at least, but they got their $2,000 back.

  4. Yes, I saw that, Keith. It’s some compensation for Colin Kolles, I suppose, but it also means he’s going to have to wait until arbitration before getting an answer to his questions. And that could be a long time…

  5. It’s quite a simple principle – sporting contests must have rules, rules appear to be being broken by STR and TR (in Spyker’s eyes and mine), therefore Spyker, as the main loser in this breach of the rules, has to do something. While I agree with Clive on the points that it will be expensive and that it might be cheaper to beat the two teams on developmental merit, but if the rules are to be breached wholesale, then what’s the point in competing in the first place?

    Since F1 has a long history of sweeping inconvenient rule breaches under the carpet, I’m also not surprised that Colin Kolles has adopted this tactic (i.e. protesting one of the two teams each race until the arbitration gets going). This prevents Bernie and co from arranging a quiet settlement and forces a clarification of the rules.

    It is worth pointing out that Spyker has been trying to get this sorted since before it was Spyker (Colin Kolles complained about the Toro Rosso’s car in early 2006), so if F1′s powers-that-be were so bothered about its reputation, they could have made their position on customer cars clear, re-written the rules accordingly and punished anyone who needed punishing. Much simpler than what we have now, surely?

    It’s really the FIA’s fault for writing the rules in a sloppy manner (even the 2008 customer car rules implicitly forbid customer car teams from scoring points, though this was clearly not the FIA’s intention), but don’t be surprised if we see a protest about Red Bull submitted to the Bahrain stewards by Mr Kolles next week.

  6. I agree that both Super Aguri and Toro Rosso appear to be breaking the customer car rule, Alianora. I just wonder whether it is worth Spyker pursuing the matter all the way to the courts. It is easy for us to say that “rules are rules” but, when only one small team is prepared to pay for a decision to be given, it is fairly obvious that they are the only ones who care.

    No doubt Williams would have contributed to the protest had their car not proved so competitive this year. And that says it all, really – in the real world, it’s the ones most affected who care the most and Spyker is the only team who have little prospect of beating TR and SA this season. My doubts as to the wisdom of Spyker’s actions spring entirely from the fact that, if you take TR and SA out of the equation, the Dutch team are still going to finish last. They have nothing to gain but a lot to lose and this is one occasion when I think they should face the hard facts and let things lie.

    The FIA’s position on the matter is fairly clear – they want customer cars to become a fact of life in F1 because otherwise they will end up with a championship with only five or six teams. And so they refuse to deal with the problem, pointing out that the rule referred to is in the Concorde Agreement, not the F1 regulations, and so they have no jurisdiction over it. We can wonder about their motives but that’s what they’re saying and they’ll stick to it.

  7. If I remember correctly USD2000 is the standard protest fee. It applies to just about any FIA sanctioned event. The whole point is to stop time wasters from simply lodging a protest at every chance. It deters competitors from other forms of racing obviously, for USD 2000 is a lot of money for a small privateer who prepares his car in his backyard but for a Formula 1 team its peanuts.

    You’d be surprised at the number of trouble makers even in national level events who simply cannot accept being beaten.

  8. It becomes worthwhile for Spyker if they can force Super Aguri back to their pre-historic Arrows and Toro Rosso back to, uhm, maybe a 2005 Minardi. Put simply, they feel that they are being beaten by two teams whose cars would be slower than their own if they had stuck to the rules.

    And don’t rule out the possibility that Williams (or even BMW or Mclaren or some other team that doesn’t much like the idea of customer teams) is paying the piper for Spyker’s legal battles.

  9. Yes, I know the $2,000 fee is to discourage frivolous protests, Qwerty, and that it’s chickenfeed to Formula 1 teams. This time, Spyker got their money back but will they continue to do so if they persist in lodging a protest at each race until arbitration begins? Looks like money spent needlessly to me, no matter how small.

  10. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of the possibility that a larger team is footing the bill for Spyker, Patrick. That would explain a lot.

    But I can’t see either SA or TR going back to last year’s cars if they lose at arbitration – far more likely would be that they accept the compromise solution suggested by Bernie and continue to run their “copycars” without possibility of scoring points.

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