Letter from Il Commendatore

Autumn 1980, Formula One is slap bang in the middle of civil war. FISA v FOCA got so complicated and bitter that some unlikely people attempted to act as intermediaries or even peacemakers.

Of course Enzo Ferrari, imbued with Machiavellian politics and agendas for half a century and more, penned this letter to Bernie Ecclestone, then chairman of FOCA (Formula One Constructors Association).


The letter, a copy of which came in to Sniffer Media’s hands earlier this summer, was circulated to delegates of the FISA Plenary Conference in October 1980.

The Ferrari/Ecclestone dynamic was always a fraught one. They were a generation apart and as opposite in personalities to a severe degree.

However, there was also some mutual respect. As Enzo entered his last decade, even he could see that the future of the sport rested with the son of a Suffolk fisherman rather than any of his own minions, such as the fiercely ambitious Marco Piccinini.

One can only imagine Bernie’s reaction to it; such was the loaded and skewed logic, which smacked of anything but a conciliatory agenda but more of thinly veiled threats. It probably fed one of Bernie’s office bins fairly quickly.

Dear Mr Ecclestone,

I would like to confirm my availability to cooperate in order to achieve a stable administrative organisation for the FIA F1 Championship founded on an agreement the points of which are resumed hereinafter.

I will make every possible effort in relation to FISA, Alfa-Romeo, and Renault to bring about this agreement, thus ensuring continuity in financial relationships in the interest of all those taking part in the FIA World Championship.

I would however remind you that this availability on my part is conditional on an immediate undertaking by FOCA to drop all legal actions already undertaken or envisaged against FISA, thus accepting definitively its role as the sole technical and sporting power as well as all the regulations already published or to be published.

This agreement should be put into concrete form in a ‘Protocol’ deposited by your organisation with FISA, which will then intervene as a guarantor representing the ASNs to which all Grand Prix organisers and competitors belong.

This ‘Protocol’ will be made available to all those who enter the FIA World Championship, competitors as well as organisers, at the same time as the technical and sporting regulations. This ‘Protocol’ should contain the following points:

  • For a period of three years, your organisation will assure the financial management of F1 Grand Prix within the framework of the FISA technical and sporting regulations and in accordance with its decisions.
  • Your organisation will conclude a standard type contract with all the organisers. These contracts will take into account the financial conditions of current contracts harbouring the best ones already obtained.
  • For the different geographical zones (Europe, North America, South America etc,) financial ceilings will be fixed valid for the contracts of all the 1981 Grand Prix. These ceilings will be indexed for the following years on the basis of the inflation in the country the currency of which is used to fix these ceilings.
  • At the end of each Grand Prix, all the money received will be immediately shared out between all the participants according to a scale similar to the one used by FGCA at present. These sums will include the amounts of prize money, the refunding of travelling expenses (if foreseen), radio, TV and advertising rights. Possible extra sums, available over successive periods, will be shared out globally, on the basis of the final classification points of each championship.
  • Your organisation will have the right to a quota percentage to be agreed drawn from all the sums received. Compensation will also be fixed for refunding the expenses which will allow FISA to ensure the management of the F1 World Championships, with a single starter, safety delegate, scrutineering delegate etc.
  • All the participants in the F1 World championship will undertake to associate themselves with your organisation in order to obtain the contracts mentioned above and to have them respected by the various parties.Should you think my intervention worthwhile, please confirm by telex your willingness to adhere to this plan.

Best Regards


September 18, 1980


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