Exclusive: Zoran Stefanovic explains his complaint to the EU about the FIA

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Stefan Grand Prix wanted to be on the F1 grid in 2010
Stefan Grand Prix wanted to be on the F1 grid in 2010

One of the unknown teams that filed an application to be on the F1 grid in 2010 was Stefan Grand Prix. The team’s entry has come to light since it lodged a complaint with the European Union claiming the FIA forced the potential new teams for 2010 to use engines supplied by Cosworth.

I spoke to the man behind the team, Zoran Stefanovic, to find out more about his complaint and his attempts to get Stefan Grand Prix on the grid for 2010.

He claims the team, which has racing car production facilities and has enlisted the help of ex-McLaren man Mike Coughlan, would be prepared to submit a fresh entry if the FIA opened up the tendering process again.

Stefanovic explains how he submitted his entry for 2010:

It was an official procedure we entered for Formula 1 for 2010. We put an official entry and submitted it on time. We had a meeting with Bernie Ecclestone with some people from our side. But after that we heard that we were not chosen

Basically what happened was we got information from Cosworth saying they were the only one engine that is allowed, which is not in the rules and not possible to be put in the rules. However, when we started to discuss it with them Cosworth sent us an email stating they were entitled to sign a contract and take money for this.

Apart from Cosworth we had two different opportunities but we were forced to stop because we were told Cosworth was the only one which was allowed for us.

Stefanovic said one of his potential engine suppliers is already supplying power units to at least one other active F1 team.

He does not believe the three teams that have been selected: Manor Motorsport (Britain), USF1 (United States) and Campos Meta 1 (Spain) were stronger candidates than his or some other entrants:

The three teams that have been chosen, all of them do not have the equipment or people and very definitely not one of them is a constructor itself which means that no one team has the facility to design and produce Formula 1 cars.

Our company is in the aerospace industry and we have looked at coming into Formula 1 two times. But both times we haven’t had enough ingredients to finish everything. This time the FIA put unnecessary obstacles, so practically anyone who is outside of England has insurmountable objects to overcome and we couldn’t commit to it.

If you take a close look at who is chosen it is practically people who are, one way or another, already connected with the FIA or FOM.

We practically have a team from Spain which has no facility to build anything and no facility to design a car. They are a good team, they have won other things, but they have someone else who will be doing things for them so they are not a constructor.

Another team, USF1, they also have nothing which is, at the moment, able to design and produce a car, they’re having to do things by outsourcing. And Manor again has nothing except, we presume, a design studio, which is good, but but no facilities to produce a car.

But a team with their own facilities, such as Prodrive or Stefan Grand Prix, who have something which is, on the production side, fully qualified, gets rejected. So we are very interested to see what’s going on.

Stefanovic runs AMCO, a Serbian aircraft manufacturer based in Belgrade. He believes they are well equipped to build F1 cars:

At our factory we are completely ready to assemble everything for Formula 1 from the gearbox to a complete car.

We have the capacity to design a car and people who are able to do that, and we have two windtunnels. We have a production history of nearly 100 years of producing aircraft in Belgrade.

Former McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan is working for the company, but according to Stefanovic is not on their payroll. The restriction on him working in motor racing, which was imposed after his involvement in the McLaren-Ferrari espionage scandal two years ago, was lifted by the FIA in February. But it’s not hard to see why the governing body might take a dim view of him returning.

Asked whether he would try to enter F1 again if his appeal was successful and the FIA was forced to open the tendering process once more, Stefanovic said:

Yes, of course. That’s our intention.

I think it is important people realise Formula 1 is not just for British teams, it’s much wider than that.

When the three teams that were offered places on the 2010 grid were announced there was some surprise that some of the most credible-looking names were missing off the list – especially Prodrive (which was planning to bring the evocative Aston Martin brand back to F1 within a few years), along with Lola and Epsilon Euskadi.

The supply of low-cost engines from Cosworth was part of the FIA’s plan to reduce costs but several manufacturers have been quick to offer engine supplies too. They include Mercedes, who despite supplying three teams instead of one this year have had to reduce staff numbers at Brixworth where their F1 engines are prepared.

They are believed to be looking for another team to supply next year – potentially Red Bull, but rumours claimed they were Prodrive’s choice of engine partner for 2010.

The prospect of another EU investigation could be a worrying one for the FIA. The last such encounter dragged on for years and ended with the sports’ governing body having to make significant concessions, including giving up its claim to F1’s commercial rights.

Here’s AMCO’s statement about the FIA tender in full via the F1 Fanaic drop.io:

F1 2010 Season

76 comments on “Exclusive: Zoran Stefanovic explains his complaint to the EU about the FIA”

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  1. reading this article reminded me of one i’d read about a month ago, no disrespect to you keith as your article is great! The link below shows Moseley’s meddling and what Cosworth actually say.


  2. not sure what i did wrong but click “Enjoy!” for link.

  3. What exactly is the problem with requiring (officially or unofficially) all new teams to use the Cosworth? Have we all forgotten that at the time of the team selection process, the manufacturers were actively threatening to pull out and start their own series? Was the FIA supposed to overlook that?

    Had they chosen teams with ties to the existing manufacturers, there was a real risk that those new teams would have either been left sitting around holding their dicks, or been poached off to the breakaway series. Requiring new entrants to use an independent engine that is free and clear of encumbrances that would threaten the teams’ viability is completely legitimate.

    I suspect this guy is fishing for some free money. He’s employing the likes of Coughlan to design his car, yet he has the temerity to question the credentials of the teams who got in.

    He can’t hire a fluent English speaker to proofread his press releases. Guess what Zohan, at this level, spelling and grammar counts. If your entry was prepared as sloppily as your press release, it’s fair to assume your attention to detail is not high enough to qualify you to enter F1.

    His statement that the chosen teams are all somehow linked to the FIA is libelous in the case of Campos and USF1. And his statement that only English teams were considered is prima facie evidence that he’s an idiot.

    1. On the press release, I was thinking EXACTLY the same thing…I just read the release after I posted my original comment. Good job ;)

    2. The problem is quite simple – competition law requires that all companies are allowed to participate equally, unless modifications to the law are of benefit to the organisations on whom modification is imposed. Forcing new teams to use one supplier while still granting established teams a choice breaches that principle.

      It’s also worth noting that the FIA is forbidden by the EU to interfere in commercial affairs, due to a legal settlement dating from 2000. Telling some teams which company to use for their engine supply and not others would not appear to be compatible with such a settlement.

      The status of the other suppliers is almost completely irrelevant, especially if it turns out that one of the rejected teams was considering another source of engines (e.g. Mechachrome). If they are sufficiently committed to supplying an engine to sign a contract with a new team, then legally that contract has to be considered valid. Otherwise the FIA would be breaking a valid contract without due cause or authority.

      At least I’ve heard of the person who’s designing Stefan GP’s car, and Mike Coughlan is probably better at it than Nick Wirth, who’s doing the honours at Manor. Who’s designing the Campos entry?

      Manor is definitely linked to the FIA through Alan Donnelly and Nick Wirth (both of whom have worked with the FIA and its partner organisations). USF1 features the man who, until recently, was the FIA’s official press conference interviewer. Campos’ connections with the FIA are currently unknown. It is possible that Stefanovic may have a point with regard to the teams being selected all having FIA links.

      Though I will admit that the “only English teams considered” theory is laughable.

  4. You know I would actually find it really ironic if the FiA did have to run the selection process again and Zoran’s team still didn’t get selected!!

    1. Especially in the likely case that it happened after the 2010 season started!

  5. it rearly makes me wonder why other teams would want an engine supplied by onother competitor,how do they know they are getting one of the most powerfull units, surely these go to their own teams?
    as for cosworth thier engines have been in f1 for decades and were only forced out by manufacturers offering cheap if not free units.
    f1 should not dominated by manufacturers but should be open to independants with the will to win.
    i myself will be happy to see cosworth back on the grid again.

  6. What exactly is the problem with requiring (officially or unofficially) all new teams to use the Cosworth?

    It’s against European law, but don’t let the law get in the way of your thinking.

    1. Which law specifically? The law in this case isn’t is as straightforward as people seem to think, especially when you have two groups that have an antagonistic relationship. The manufacturers (via FOTA) were actively setting themselves up to be competitors to the FIA and completely torpedo the FIA’s main source of income. Not even in Europe does the law obligate you to grant favors to your competitors.

      If you own a store selling widgets from Company A, and Company A announces that they are going to open a rival store next to yours, you are completely within your rights to stop selling their stuff.

      If this ever gets as far as a hearing (which is doubtful), the FIA will argue that the breakaway threat obligated them to act in the series’ best interest by favoring non-manufacturer backed entries. And they will win that argument.

      If they pulled the same trick next year, when there is no threat of a breakaway, and a Concorde agreement contractually binding all parties, then, yeah, you could fairly argue they are stifling competition. Anyone trying to argue that today is doing it either because they don’t like the FIA (fair enough, they suck) or because their crappy F1 entry was rejected.

      1. There are two laws involved in this case, possibly three.

        Competitions law requires that all companies are treated equally.

        If the FIA wanted to ensure that Cosworth was the only supplier, it could have demanded a spec series and been completely within its rights. It didn’t.

        It could have demanded that only engines supplied by companies that hadn’t breached Article 151c of the Sporting Regulations provide engines and then found the manufacturers plotting secession guilty of a breach of said Article. It didn’t.

        The way the FIA dealt with the matter enabled established teams to use any engine they wanted provided a valid contract was in place. As a result, new teams should legally have had the same freedom of choice. If this didn’t happen, then the new teams have had a material disadvantage for a variety of reasons and competitions law has therefore been broken.

        Secondly, the FIA is forbidden from being involved in commercial affairs due to a settlement with the EU in 2000. If it has been involved in rejecting entries based on supplier, that is technically a commercial decision and the FIA would have been in contempt of court.

        Finally, the FIA would not have had the authority to break a contract between engine supplier and team anyway due to contract law (the FIA being a third party, and third parties being forbidden from enforcing breaches of contract). Refusing a team entry on the basis of engine supplier would have been tantamount to third-party breach of contract. This would have permitted the engine supplier and team to prosecute the FIA on the basis of contract frustration.

        Oh, and by the way, the Concorde Agreement technically held until replaced, so the FIA was still bound by it even though its actions suggest it didn’t want to be.

        If the FIA tries arguing the breakaway is justification for the above, it will lose the battle, largely because it will have missed the point of the case being brought in the first place.

  7. Anti-trust laws. The EC has already come down on the FIA for this. IF the EC investigates this complaint it will not be a good day for Max.

    This has 0 to do with FOTA and everything to do with the FIA, StefanGP, and it seems Prodrive. But far be it from me to stop your pointless rant.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      4th August 2009, 7:44

      I think Stefanovic is just bringing Dave Ricahrds into it to make his point about the new teams not being constructors; he’s very conveniently left out his assocaition with Mike Coughlan (the man’s ban may have expired, but there’s still a stigma about him) and Prodrive’s inability to make the 2008 grid.

      One could make the argument that without an external engine supplier, the four major suppliers will corner the market. In the future, new teams would have no choice BUT to run with Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault or Toyota. Cosworth represents an external supplier, a moderator who prevents the manufacturers from having too much sway over new teams.

      For example, if I’m a new team – let’s call it Monkeys – and nominate to run with a Renault engine (thus making it Renault-Monkeys; Nelson Piquet and Sebastien Bourdais would be my drivers purely to fit the name), then odds are that the support from FOTA will mostly come from Renault. I already have a relationship with them, so it makes sense. I run a Renault engine, I get Renault advice. What’s to stop Renault proper from taking advantage of that? I start running GP2 drivers that Renault recommend, but once they come good, Renault take them out from under me. I essentially become a Renault B-team, unable to compete on equal terms because of the restrictions I’ve unwillingly taken on.

      And ironically enough, because I’m now the B-team, there’s effectively a two-tier system at work. There’s the manufacturers, and there’s the newcomers who can’t compete with them because we’re the lackeys of the parent teams, and it doesn’t cost them a dime because we are our own teams (unlike Red Bull and Toro Rosso).

      That sounds like a bigger violation to me than anti-trust laws.

      1. That’s still a choice of four engine suppliers for new teams, compared to the one engine supplier the FIA is alleged to have permitted.

  8. “Anti-trust laws.”

    OK, let me be more clear: which anti-trust law specifically. Everybody is so sure this is illegal, but nobody can quote a specific statute.

    But far be from me to stop your pointless rant. (Which amounts to, “It’s ILLEGULZ!!!1!”)

    1. Zoran is quoting Articles 81 & 82 of the European treaty that deal with anti-competiton and cartel laws. They’re not hard to find.
      I still don’t think he has a leg to stand on..
      1) The treaty also states thou shalt not “(b) limit or control production, markets, technical development, or investment”. Which is pretty much what the budget cap was about to do, yet we didn’t see FOTA run to the european parliment. If it was a viable clause they would have, and we’d have known about it.
      2) There has to be an element of self interest by the FIA and not allowing all the new teams to become manufacturer dependants as (Renualt-Monkeys would be :) ) they are obviously limiting the manufacturers stranglehold. If this self interest is legal or not I wouldn’t know, but I’m sure Max Mosely does. Even if it’s a grey area, the FIA would have been prepared to defend it or they wouldn’t have stipulated the requirement to go with Cosworth so openly.

      1. I wish I’d read the whole of that treaty before making the post above..

        Paragraph 3 states pretty much, that you can ignore all the above as long as the consumer is not effected.. The consumer in this case being the F1 viewer and the “product” being the F1 series. Here I think the FIA’s self interest (or interests on behalf of “the product”) are fully justifiable.

        1. How is forcing a team to use one supplier (whose engines blew up pretty frequently when last seen in F1) rather than a wide variety of suppliers beneficial to the F1 viewer, or indeed anyone other than Max Mosley and his chosen engine supplier (I’ve left it that vague because in principle the FIA’s preferred supplier is subject to change)?

          1. i think you need to look at the stats of how many engines blew up for this manufacturer,i think you will find against all other engine manufacturers of that season their failure rate was pretty much one of the lowest and car failure was the main cause(hydraulics etc),without this you get a so called engine failure which is not related to the engine manufacture itself.
            The engine was one of the most powerful and lightest powerplants available and if it was still used from 2006 would be up there with the best available today.

          2. I analysed it at the time and only Ferrari’s was worse (even that was largely down to Midland and Red Bull also using the same engine). Cosworth had five blow-ups that season against Ferrari’s six and everyone else’s three or fewer.

  9. well, i think he has right to fight for what he believe in… i don’t think that all of you guy’s know how serious this company is… you would be suprised

  10. This story should have come as no surprise to anyone that follows F1. There is a history of the governing body having favorites and doing anything to try and ensure those favored teams success. Stories such as this one will be the downfall of F1. I have no doubt that the major reason for rejection of this team was because they refused to use the Cosworth engines. Does anyone think it is a coincidence that the three teams accepted for next year will be using those engines? In my opinion this is a non-story. This should have been a brief sentence or two and a link to the full statement. What will be worthy of a story is the outcome of these hearings.

  11. Hello Stefan: WELL DONE!!!

    Fred Filho

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