The Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) was founded in Paris on 20 June 1904, as an association of national motor clubs. The association was designed to represent the interests of motor car users, as well as to oversee the burgeoning international motor sport scene. In 1922, the AIACR delegated the organisation of automobile racing to the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI), which would set the regulations for international Grand Prix motor racing. The European Drivers' Championship was introduced in 1931, a title awarded to the driver with the best results in the selected Grands Prix. Upon the resumption of motor racing after the Second World War, the AIACR was renamed the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. The FIA established a number of new racing categories, among them Formulas One and Two, and created the first World Championship, the Formula One World Drivers' Championship, in 1950.
The CSI determined the regulations for holding Grands Prix and selected the races that formed part of the World Championships – a World Sportscar Championship was established in 1953 – but the organisers of the individual races were responsible for accepting entries, paying prize money, and the general running of each event. In Formula One, this led to tension between the teams, which formed themselves into the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) founded in 1974, event organisers and the CSI. The FIA and CSI were largely amateur organisations, and FOCA under the control of Bernie Ecclestone began to take charge of various aspects of organising the events, as well as setting terms with race organisers for the arrival of teams and the amount of prize money. This led to the FIA President Prince Metternich attempting to reassert its authority by appointing Jean-Marie Balestre as the head of the CSI, who promptly reformed the committee into the autonomous Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA).
Under Balestre's leadership FISA and the manufacturer-backed teams became involved in a dispute with FOCA (named the "FISA–FOCA war"). The conflict saw several races being cancelled or boycotted, and large-scale disagreement over the technical regulations and their enforcement. The dispute and the Concorde Agreement that was written to end it, would have significant ramifications for the FIA. The agreement led to FOCA acquiring commercial rights over Formula One, while FISA and the FIA would have control over sport's regulations. FOCA chief Bernie Ecclestone became an FIA Vice-President with control over promoting the FIA's World Championships, while FOCA legal advisor and former March Engineering manager Max Mosley would end up becoming FISA President in 1991. Mosley succeeded Balestre as President of the FIA in 1993 and restructured the organisation, dissolving FISA and placing motor racing under the direct management of the FIA.
Following the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, which saw the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, the FIA formed an Expert Advisory Safety Committee to research and improve safety in motor racing. Chaired by Formula One medical chief Professor Sid Watkins, the committee worked with the Motor Industry Research Association to strengthen the crash resistance of cars and the restraint systems and to improve the drivers personal safety. The recommendations of the committee led to significantly more stringent crash tests for racing vehicles, new safety standards for helmets and race suits, and the eventual introduction of the HANS device as compulsory in all international racing series. The committee also worked on improving circuit safety. This led to a number of changes at motor racing circuits around the world, and the improvement of crash barriers and trackside medical procedures.
The FIA was a founder member of the European New Car Assessment Programme, a car safety programme that crash-tests new models and publishes safety reports on vehicles. Mosley was the first chairman of the organisation. The FIA later helped establish the Latin NCAP and Global NCAP.
European Commission investigation
The Competition Directorate of the European Commission and the FIA were involved in a dispute over the commercial administration of motorsport during the 1990s. The Competition Commissioner, Karel Van Miert had received a number of complaints from television companies and motorsport promoters in 1997 that the FIA had been abusing its position as motorsport's governing body. Van Miert's initial inquiry had not concluded by 1999, which resulted in the FIA suing the European Commission, alleging that the delay was causing damaging uncertainty, and successfully receiving an apology from the Commission over the leaking of documents relating to the case. Mario Monti took over as Commissioner in 1999, and the European Commission opened a formal investigation into the FIA. The Commission alleged a number of breaches of European competition law, centred around the FIA's administration of licences required to participate in motorsport and the control of television rights of the motorsport events it authorised. In order to compete in events the FIA authorised, the competitor had to apply for a licence, which prohibited licensees from entering a series not controlled by the FIA. This provision, which also applied to racing circuits and promoters, prevented rival championships competing against the FIA championships, by restricting their access to facilities, drivers, and vehicle manufacturers. In addition, the FIA also claimed the television rights to all international motorsport events, which were then transferred to International Sportsworld Communicators, a company controlled by Ecclestone. This meant organisers were forced into having their championships promoted by the same company that managed the affairs of other motorsport events, a potential conflict of interest. The combination of these requirements meant Ecclestone's Formula One Administration, which now controlled Formula One's commercial rights, was protected from competition from any rival championships.
The investigation was closed in 2001 after the FIA and FOA agreed to a number of conditions. In order to fairly regulate all international motorsport, the FIA agreed to limit its role to that of a sporting regulator, and would sell the commercial rights to its championships, including Formula One. This was to prevent a conflict of interest between the FIA's regulatory role, and any commercial advantages it may gain from the success of certain championships. The FIA could no longer prevent non-FIA administered events from being established, neither could it use its powers to prevent competition to Formula One. Ecclestone and FOA would no longer handle the commercial rights to other motorsport events outside of Formula One. Ecclestone had sold the ISC company, which now only controlled the rights to rallying, and would stand down from his role as an FIA Vice-President. As a result of this ruling, the FIA sold the commercial rights to Formula One to the Formula One Group for 100 years for $360 million.
Later Mosley years
Mosley was elected unopposed to his third term as President in 2001, the first election which reduced the term from five to four years. The FIA also moved back to Paris, having been based in Geneva (outside the EU) for the previous two years during the European Commission's investigation.
The FIA Foundation was established in 2001 as the FIA's charitable arm. The Foundation received a US$300 million grant from the sale of Formula One's rights, to fund research into road safety, the environmental impact of motoring, and to support sustainable motoring. In 2004 the FIA and the Foundation established the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety, which brought together the various safety research groups into one organisation. The Make Roads Safe campaign was set up in 2006 by the FIA Foundation, targeting the creation of safe roads across the world.
During the 2000s the FIA and its president became increasingly embroiled in controversy over Formula One, while facing threats from teams to establish a breakaway series. A grouping of the car manufacturers involved in F1, the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association, proposed a new world championship, which would allow them greater control over the regulations and revenue distribution. A new Concorde Agreement eventually ended the threat, but the breakaway series would resurface during each dispute between the FIA, teams and the Formula One Group. The FIA's handling of the tyre situation at the 2005 United States Grand Prix was criticised. Mosley had refused any modification to the circuit or the holding of a non-championship event in place of the Grand Prix, having stated that running on an untested circuit was unsafe. The FIA also threatened to punish the teams who withdrew from the event, but later exonerated the teams of any wrongdoing.
Having again been re-elected unopposed in 2005, Mosley faced his first leadership challenge in a vote of confidence called in June 2008. The vote was in response to allegations concerning Mosley's sex life published by the British media. Mosley won the vote by 103 votes in support to 55 against, though he continued to face criticism from several motoring clubs and motorsport figures. In mid-2009, the FIA and the newly formed Formula One Teams Association disagreed over the pending implementation of a budget cap for the 2010 season. The teams again threatened a breakaway championship, with the FIA in response opening an entry process for new teams. The dispute also focused on a lack of confidence in Mosley's control over the sport, and there was a stand-off until Ecclestone negotiated a settlement to establish a new Concorde Agreement. In return for the teams joining the championship and ending the dispute, the budget cap would be replaced by a series of cost cutting measures, and Mosley agreed to stand down at the end of his term in 2009.
Former Scuderia Ferrari boss Jean Todt was elected the new President of the FIA in 2009, beating former World Rally champion Ari Vatanen.