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Formula 1 contracts then and now

Formula 1 contracts have changed a lot over the years. Stirling Moss’s agreement with Rob Walker famously amounted to a handshake. These days, though, deals are drawn up by legal departments and cover the many machinations of the modern racing world.

f1  Formula 1 contracts then and now

In this month’s Motor Sport, Nigel Roebuck – having procured Gilles Villeneuve’s McLaren contract from 1977 – discusses these changes with team principal Martin Whitmarsh. In a frank interview, Whitmarsh talks Nigel through the standard driver contract and how each one can be different: “This is our base contract, but depending on who the driver is – and what negotiating power he has – there will be variances, which might run to another 10 pages if it were a difficult person. To put it another way – being blunt about it – if I were signing Heikki Kovalainen it would be 50 pages; if it were Jenson Button it would be 52, if it were Nigel Mansell it would be 57, if it were Lewis Hamilton it would be about 60…”

On the thorny issue of team orders and a perceived sense of equality, things seem relatively simple at McLaren, although it may not be as clear-cut at other teams. Their standard contract stipulates that ‘from the first race of the World Championship, [the] team will in each race take all decisions and actions in connection with the World Championship to achieve, so far as is reasonably possible, an equal treatment of each driver, in taking into account the different situations that arise in the course of such race.’

f1  Formula 1 contracts then and now

Villeneuve’s contract from 1977, along with being a scant six pages long, marks an interesting era in racing history, when drivers started to pay more attention to how they were being represented. “The current contracts are signed by ‘Driveco’ [Driver Company], they’re not signed by the drivers. At one time there would just have been the driver’s name at the bottom, and Gilles has in fact signed this – but underneath ‘Entreprises Gilles Villeneuve Inc’. This was the start of people positioning themselves as companies.”

It’s refreshing to see a team principal, especially one representing a team with such a squeaky clean image as McLaren, being so open about their dealings… and indeed their current and former drivers.

Add your comments

6 comments on Formula 1 contracts then and now

  1. Nigel (not that one), 29 August 2012 12:18

    Interesting little dig at Hamilton there, I wonder if that’s a reference to Lewis’s recent insistence on keeping his future trophies?

  2. Tom, 29 August 2012 13:09

    Yes…more demanding than Nigel Mansell, to the tune of 3 pages?! I wonder if this is more of the public face of McLaren’s negotiations with Lewis Hamilton’s entourage, if indeed they’re still going on?

  3. Stewart H, 29 August 2012 15:22

    Yes but he didnt say 100 extra pages. So just a “little bit” more difficult.
    What would Alonso have been?

  4. Tony Geran, 29 August 2012 23:08

    It’s just a sign of the times. When I started work in my current industry the average contract was about 5 pages long. Now they’re closer to 60. All due to legal necessities to define every major word and to comply with governmental regulation. Also I suspect because in the old days typists had to type the contracts, they were kept as succiinct as possible. Nowadays with the use of word processing software, additional clauses are thrown in left, right and centre. It’s all Bill Gates’s fault, don’t blame Lewis !!!!

  5. John Read, 30 August 2012 00:45

    Blame the lawyers!

    The more complex, the more they can charge.

  6. Michael Kavanagh, 30 August 2012 16:44

    Messrs Moss and Walker were old school gentleman (and Stirling still is) and that was good enough. The racing was better too.

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