BS When did issues of motorsport and more specifically Formula 1 find their way onto your agenda?
AD I was elected in May 2014 to represent the South East of England, which covers a good portion of so-called 'Motorsport Valley', that part of the West Midlands and Oxfordshire where many motorsport jobs are based. I knew that some of the smaller teams were having problems but when both Marussia and Caterham entered into severe financial difficulties it seemed like the right time to act.
BS What prompted your speaking about Formula 1's unequitable distribution of funds to the European Parliament?
One of the roles the European Union performs is to ensure that there is fair competition in the European economy, whether we are talking about dishwashers or formula one teams. I felt that, with many small teams closing and new governance arrangements having been adopted in the sport, it was time for the EU to investigate whether competition was really fair within Formula 1.
BS In your opinion, is two teams pursuing the matter sufficient to raise the issue with the Competition Commissioner?
AD The Competition Commissioner can take up a case on the basis of just one interested party complaining, that is enough. The Commissioner follows a strict process to investigate whether there has been a breach of competition rules, and they apply this process regardless of the nature of the industry being investigated and how much media or public concern there is about the subject. So I think that there certainly are grounds for the Competition Commissioner to look into what is happening to the sport.
BS While nobody is arguing that change needs to come, do you see the case succeeding?
AD I'm not sure it's the case that no-one feels change is necessary. There have been significant alterations in the governance of F1 which mean that some teams are guaranteed substantial support, regardless of where they end up at the end of the race, whereas others do not get this support. There may well be reasons for that arrangement but from the outside it looks peculiar and the Competition Commissioner needs to investigate this as well as other issues.
BS Do you see any other factors potentially helping your case? What are these?
AD We have unfortunately seen viewing figures for F1 go down, as I understand it, over recent months. I think this indicates that the audience for motorsport wants to know they are watching a genuinely competitive sport where skill and technological innovation are still important, as well as size.
BS What do you see as an ideal outcome for the investigation?
AD For the investigation to have been conducted thoroughly and professionally, and to be recognised as such by all parties.
BS Is there a legal basis for the EU to insist that the FIA sells its 1% stake in F1?
AD Certainly the Competition Commissioner can require restructuring of an industry dependent on her investigation, but I wouldn't want to comment on any specifics; the outcome is up to her.
BS Would there be any avenues for EU support of a scholarship program for European women - particularly women of colour, and/or women of LGBTQ+ identities, although all applicants will be treated with fairness and equality - to pursue degree and postgraduate programs in motorsport-relevant fields?
AD There is already the 'Erasmus+' programme which is focused on helping people to study and undertake apprenticeships in different European countries. You can find out details about it here: https://erasmusplus.org.uk/what-can-i-do
As far as I know there is not a specific element of it focused on motorsport, but you can set up your own programme either as an education or training institution or a youth group. So there would be potential there, but it would need to involve some kind of cross-border element; i.e., British apprentices going to work in Germany or similar.