Horner stands alone with secret ballot concerns

Date published: April 30 2021

Christian Horner, Red Bull

Christian Horner bucked a trend among team bosses’ support for teams to be able to vote in secret in F1 Commission meetings.

The Red Bull team principal says it would be a “shame” if the teams felt the need to have to vote in secret, but understands that anonymity may be an option for the teams to be able to vote truly independently.

This comes after McLaren CEO Zak Brown published a lengthy open letter on Thursday about his hope that teams can vote on wider issues in secret, to avoid factory teams influencing partner or customer teams in deciding the future of the sport moving forward.

“I heard about that, and I can only assume it’s because of pressure applied from the [power unit] supplier, which if that is the case, is a shame,” Horner told reporters in Friday’s team principals’ press conference.

“It would be a shame to need to go behind a secret ballot, but a team has a right to request that, but if that’s what it took to take independent votes, then we don’t have a major issue with it.”

Several team principals voiced their support for the proposal though, with Toto Wolff saying that Mercedes have never tried to change a customer team’s vote in the F1 Commission, while acknowledging that teams with customer engines usually vote with their respective factory team.

“In terms of the secret ballot, it’s very easy,” Wolff said.

“You have seen in the past that Toro Rosso [now AlphaTauri] has voted like Red Bull, probably without any exemptions, and Haas has gone the Ferrari way. In our case, we have never tried to influence a team.

“Obviously things have been discussed when it was a common topic, like on the power unit, it’s clear the teams vote with each other, and none of the teams would vote against their own interests in terms of chassis regulations.

“So the idea of the secret ballot is good. I doubt that Franz [Tost, AlphaTauri boss] is not going to take instructions, and neither will Guenther [Steiner, Haas boss] not take instructions. But the attempt is obviously good.

“No team should be really influenced by any affiliate or any supplier.”

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“The secret ballot option has been in the governance for a long while,” Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies added.

“It’s just the 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.

“Whether or not we’ll do it systematically or not, it’s up to any team to request a secret ballot on any questions, all the questions. It’s already a mechanism that is in the governance with the FIA and F1.

“We are in favour of it. Whenever a team is not comfortable with an item that needs to be voted, they should raise their hands and make sure we get a secret ballot.

“If it’s all the time like that, we are always happy. For us, it’s a good thing for the sport, and fully supportive.”

Alpine do not have any affiliation with other teams on the grid as they are the only constructor running Renault engines, but they too are in favour of secret ballots.

“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 and what’s best for them,” said Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski.

“We’ve seen certain situations in the past, the ones that Zak referred to, where some teams seem to be voting against their own interests. That’s not good for Formula 1.

“You need to keep the balance right if you want, and you can’t have teams voting against their interests because of affiliations.”

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