Formula One at risk from new EU insurance rules?

Motorsport governing body FIA is concerned that crashes at race events would fall under the scope of new EU rules, pushing up insurance premiums and making grand prix in Europe unviable. [EPA/DAVID EBENER]

Motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, is concerned that a European Commission update to rules on motor insurance could be “highly detrimental” to sports like Formula One, as it could leave race events dependent on the whims of insurance companies.

Last week (24 May), the Commission unveiled its proposed changes to motor insurance rules, dating back to 2009.

Under the proposal, motorists are set to enjoy better protection in case insurers become insolvent, member states will be able to penalise uninsured drivers more heavily and harmonised rules on minimum cover will apply.

Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis explained that “when people move across borders and purchase a motor insurance policy in another EU member state, their claims history will be treated in the same way as those of domestic consumers”.

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But world motorsport governing body, the FIA, is not entirely happy with the Commission’s efforts. Although the French organisation welcomed the “long-awaited” publication, which follows on from a consultation period last year, it fears the update could reach too far.

The FIA is concerned that if the scope of EU rules is extended to include motorsport and races that are carried out on private land, sporting events like the Monaco Grand Prix or the Acropolis Rally could be put at risk.

In a statement released on Thursday (31 May), the FIA warned that the Commission’s amendments “do not meet the FIA’s expectations” and do not take into account “the unique characteristics of motorsport”.

If adopted as is, the Commission’s proposal would force all drivers to take out unlimited third party liability insurance, including on private land. That means crashes at race circuits could be treated as road traffic accidents, making police involvement necessary.

Costs of those new insurance requirements could make motorsport unviable in EU member states, especially in Formula One, where circuit operators already struggle to pay high race fees and compete against wealthier East Asian and Gulf State rivals, like Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

The FIA added in its statement that although it shared “the Commission’s objective to better protect the victims of motor vehicle accidents, this proposal could lead to motorsport events being dependent on the will of the insurance companies to cover them.”

The proposal will now be scrutinised by the two other European institutions, the Parliament and Council, before it can become law. The FIA said it “very much looks forward to continuing the exchange with the European Institutions, in order to reach a solution”.

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