Nationality Loophole to Close

When the A1 Grand Prix series was unveiled, its organisers stated that each nation's driver must come from their nation's country. But there are naturally grey areas

Nationality Loophole to Close

As in any form of motorsport, teams will always do all they can to find an extra edge out on the track, which includes finding the fastest possible driver eligible for their team, even if they have previously been of a different nationality in other categories of motorsport.

A1 GP's rules on driver nationality are quite open and to qualify for a territory a driver need not be born there. He is still eligible if he has a bloodline by parents or grandparents, has a valid passport from the territory or has completed 18 consecutive month's residency immediately prior to signing with the team. Speaking the nation's official language is recommended, but not mandatory.

These rules have led to drivers, who have previously represented themselves from one country, legitimately finding themselves racing seats with other nations.

Former Jordan Grand Prix driver Ralph Firman, who took part in the four-driver shootout for A1 Team Great Britain, will instead drive the Irish entry because his mother comes from Newbridge in County Kildare.

Adam Kahn has competed in the British Formula Three International Series this season as a British runner, but will race in A1 GP for Team Pakistan. He is also eligible because of his parentage.

A1 GP organisers have no concern over these signings, however they will now tell drivers they must stick by their decision.

The series' general manager Stephen Watson confirmed he is going to recommend to the Championship board a rule amendment, that once a driver has competed for one county in A1 GP, he will never be allowed to compete for any other in the series, regardless of whether he fulfils another territory's criteria by having a dual nationality or what have you.

Watson told Autosport-Atlas: "This has something that has arisen that we didn't put in the Sporting Regulations. But that is likely now to change.

"Our whole concept is based on nationality, and it would be wrong for a driver to appear in another country's car. It doesn't matter if it's five races or one race. We cannot control which country they represent outside of A1 GP, but for us, once they have competed for one country, they have marked their card.

"Ralph never drove an A1 GP car for Great Britain - he only tested an F3000 car, so we are not worried about that. But once you have raced for one country it would be wrong to ever race for another. We will introduce a supplement to the Sporting Regulations."

International football has to continually address this problem, and A1 GP will adopt a similar approach to that of football's governing body FIFA.

FIFA's regulations basically mean that anyone who has taken part in a competitive match for a team, cannot then change nationality, stating: "As a general rule, any Player who has already represented one Association (either in full or in part) in an official competition of any category may not play an international match with another Association team."

FIFA rules do outline exceptions - such as one permitted change for players under 21 with dual nationalities, who have yet to play at full 'A' international level. If a new nationality is imposed on a player by a government authority, he is also entitled to change associations, but there is no going back.

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Author Tim Redmayne
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