The topic of secret ballot voting was widely discussed during F1 Portuguese GP after Zak Brown wrote a long letter with several proposals.
Brown wants F1 to have secret ballot voting, with the view to stop manufacturer influence over their customer outfits. An open voting makes it clear, who voted against or who did for, but a secret may help in voting with greater anonymity.
Although, it will be hard anyhow to keep it anonymous as, F1 being a small world, teams will come to know if anyone went against their influence (if any). But for Brown, he feels, even a change of one or two votes through this will help in a better decision process.
Heads of several F1 teams shared their views on the topic, while Brown later on elaborated on his ideas when speaking to media including FormulaRapida.net – here’s what the bosses had to say on the idea, followed by the explanation from the American:
Christian Horner: “I heard about that and I can only assume it’s because of pressure applied from the supplier. If that is the case, it is a shame. McLaren are one of the most historic teams in Formula 1, they’ve always had a big voice. Certainly when I came into F1, Ron Dennis was extremely passionate on every topic and had something to say everything that obviously involved the sport. So, it would be a shame to need to go behind a secret ballot – but a team has a right to request that. But it that’s what it needs to take independent votes, then we don’t have a major issue with it.”
Toto Wolff: “I read the letter this morning. I didn’t know that Zak could write as presidential as he did – but it was a good letter overall. I think he addressed all of the important points. I really find it very positive that McLaren and Zak have expressed their opinions. Also, on controversial topics. I think it needs more outspoken-ness like Zak has done in this letter. I found it overall very good. In terms of the secret ballot, it’s very easy. You have seen in the past that Toro Rosso has voted like Red Bull, probably without any exceptions, and Haas has gone the Ferrari way.
“In our case, we have never tried to influence a F1 team. Obviously things have been discussed when it was a common topic, like on the power unit. It’s clear that teams vote with each other and none of the teams would vote against their own interest in terms of chassis regulations. So, the idea of the secret ballot is good. I doubt that Franz is not going to take instructions, and neither will Guenther not take instructions but the attempt is obviously good: no team should be really being influenced by any affiliate or any supplier.”
Marcin Budkowski: “We are an independent team and therefore we actually don’t have an issue with other people seeing what we are voting for because our positions are clear and well known to the FIA, F1 and the other teams. But not everybody is in this comfortable position of being able to vote in a completely independent way and this is exactly what Zak raised, so we’re in favour, not because it’s going to change anything for us but because we believe that every team should be voting for their best interests, what’s best for them and we’ve seen certain situations in the past, ones that Zak referred to, where some teams seem to be voting against their own interests and that’s not good for Formula 1. We need to keep the balance right if you want and you can’t have teams voting against their interests because of affiliations, as they call them. I think you should ask the question to my colleagues as well.”
Laurent Mekies: “The secret ballot option is in the governance, has been in the governance for a long while. It’s just a fact that perhaps we didn’t use it very often or certainly in the last few years we haven’t done so. It’s good to be able to use it. If we do or not, we’ll do it systematically or not, it’s up to any teams to request a secret ballot on any question or on the questions. It’s already a mechanism that is in the governance with the FIA and F1 so we are in favour of it. You know whoever is not comfortable with an item that needs to be voted, it should raise a hand and make sure we get a secret ballot. If it’s like that all the time, we are always happy so for us it’s a good thing for the sport and we’re fully supportive.”
Guenther Steiner: “You always speak with people. It is one of these processes where you speak with people about how you should vote and what is the direction to go which is normal when you run a business. I wouldn’t say [there is] pressure. As I said, it’s one of these processes where we speak with people: ‘What should we vote? What do you think is the direction to go?’ which is normal when you run a business. Don’t take it that somebody puts a gun to my head and says ‘You need to vote that way.’ No, nobody does that. You discuss it, you see what is the best. I don’t vote against my own will.
“I know that this secret voting was always there — it’s not asking for something new, it’s in the regulations, they can just apply it. I don’t know what it will achieve because we just vote what’s good for us. One way or another, that’s what we will continue to do, secret or not secret. I’m not afraid to let other people know what I voted. So for me it doesn’t make any difference except it will get more complex than it is already and maybe it will also cost more money because we need now to have an outside company to manage our voting. So if Zak thinks that will make a difference I hope that he’s paying the bill for the outside company as well.”
Response from Zak Brown: “I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to kind of comment on specific F1 teams at specific times. One example I’ll give you is when we were going for the reduction in the budget cap. You had some teams that are close to the budget cap supporting a larger budget cap, which makes absolutely no sense. I can tell you, it happens frequently, that teams vote against what’s in their best interests. I’ve had more than one team on more than one occasion, as we talk during these meetings, [I’ll ask] how are you going to vote? And I’ll get a response, ‘But I’ve got no choice, I have to vote this way.’
“I don’t think secret votes are going to solve all the issues. But I think we need to start really working on these affiliations. And I think this is just an area that would be pretty easy to implement. We can do secret votes as it is, but no one tends to call them. But I think like many votes around the world they’re always intended to be secret. And if we can get one or two rules to swing the way of what’s in the best interest of the sport, and therefore the fans, then it’s just an area I think we can make improvements on.
“Certainly we will applaud that moving forward. I think a team has a right to ask for a secret vote. So we can either go down the path of every single time we have a vote, we can ask for a secret vote. Or we can just go to secret voting and be done with it. I think if you’re going to have conflicts of interest in the sport, which we’ve always had, then you have to set up governance to protect and counter the ability to exercise that conflict of interest. I’d also like to see the [majority] voting go from eight to seven, because some people have alignment of three teams.
“So I’d also like to see the threshold dropped a little bit, so you couldn’t have a single entity influence a vote. The voting isn’t really driven by Aston Martin. I think obviously Aston Martin took affiliations to a whole other level, but that really wasn’t a voting situation. The voting kind of goes across the board of people voting for various topics, but that wasn’t an Aston Martin situation. I think Aston Martin demonstrated though that if you copy someone else’s car, that’s not what a true constructor does in the history of F1.”
Here’s what Zak Brown had proposed