F1: strong rumours of split from FIA and manufacturer pullout

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSaturday, June 7th, 2008

 
 

Rumours of seismic splits within motorsport have gathered pace today. They include the possibility of a manufacturers’ pull-out and a breakaway F1 series – provisionally entitled ‘GP1’, a trademark owned by none other than Bernie Ecclestone.

Perhaps this is inevitable at the first Grand Prix meeting since Max Mosley won his FIA vote of confidence. And there’s a range of opinion on offer that has a pre-arranged conflab between team bosses and Bernie Ecclestone down as everything from routine discussions to outright mutiny.

Whether this meeting, and its subsequent wide press coverage, is a bid to pressure Max Mosley into standing down in November, or whether it is deadly serious, only time will tell.

Autosport.com readers, for example, might feel that the mainstream press is panicking a bit. Its version of the story has this meeting as long-scheduled and primarily to discuss the future of the Concorde Agreement.

However The Telegraph says explicitly that teams feel the effects of continuing under the auspices of the FIA with Mosley in charge are believed to be so detrimental to the sport that it would be better off with a new regulatory authority.

And The Times isn’t far behind it, with a tale of paddock intrigue, attempts to win over individualist teams such as Ferrari and Williams and what it describes as Ecclestone “exploring the possibility” of a new championship.

But best of all is Pitpass, which does a superb bit of dot-joining. It reminds us of an earlier story in The Mirror in December 2007 – Briatore’s and Ecclestone’s purchase of Queens Park Rangers (QPR) football club, situated in south west London.

“The author of the Mirror article described in detail a meeting he had in a Knightsbridge pub with Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore. The topic of conversation was… the acquisition of QPR.

“Ecclestone used a motor racing analogy in order to explain how he wanted to accelerate the team’s standing, saying: ‘At QPR we’re at Formula Renault at the moment. Next, we want to move up to GP2, and then GP1.'”

Yes, you read that right. Following Pitpass’ logic, either Ecclestone forgot the name of a series that he has been involved with for more than 30 years and then accidentally referred to it by a term that just happens to be trademarked by his company. Or something else is going on…

Pop down the bookies and investigate odds on the series starting the 2009 season under that name, is our advice.

Here’s a summary of the coverage:

  • The Telegraph: Bernie Ecclestone threatens breakaway series – “The manufacturers supply the cars and the drivers and the sponsors. Bernie has the contracts with the circuits and the TV companies. Max is just the referee. The FIA blows the whistle.”
  • The Telegraph: Allan McNish fears manufacturers pull-out – “Manufacturers in Formula One have contracts, but nothing is set in stone forever and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of them were considering their future involvement and maybe looking at sportscars as an alternative… Max and Bernie have given Formula One that stability and created this position where people knew what they were getting into. But if that’s not the case, then you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
  • The Times: Bernie Ecclestone plans new championship – “Ecclestone, the commercial rights-holder and the most powerful man in Formula One, has repeatedly asked Mosley to stand aside, but, after the FIA’s endorsement of its president at an extraordinary general meeting in Paris on Tuesday, he is thought to have come to the conclusion that nothing is going to shift Mosley and so Formula One itself must move… Sources close to Ecclestone were saying that Williams are now likely to cooperate and Ferrari, who have always been close to Mosley and have so far been playing a cautious hand, are now regarded as being ‘on board’ with him.”
  • Autosport.com: Howett: FIA vital for new Concorde “The FIA’s involvement in a new Concorde Agreement is vital to the framing of a new document between the teams and the sport’s chiefs, claims Toyota racing president John Howett. Discussions to try and put together a binding contract for Formula One are continuing in the Montreal paddock on Saturday morning, with Howett making it clear that the biggest challenge to the direction of the discussions is not getting the teams to agree on a way forward, but where the FIA fits into those plans.”
  • Pitpass: Fresh fears of F1 breakaway – “In mid-2005 GP1 was rumoured to be the name of the breakaway racing series which Bernie could have set up had the manufacturers started their own series or if he had been ousted by the banks.”

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