Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has again raised the specter of a breakaway “F1” type series if the teams do not get a bigger share of the money.
What’s it been? Nearly 16 months since this was a major issue?
This time around, Luca used a little “pre-Christmas” lunch with reporters to toss what the Telegraph’s Tom Carey calls an “opening salvo in a power struggle that is set to dominate Formula One for the next two years.”
It all has to do with the Concorde Agreement, of course, which is set to expire in 2012. But already the push and pull is happening. Here’s Carey’s coverage of what Luca had to say:
“We are at a crossroads,” Montezemolo admitted. “We have Formula One in our hearts and minds but we don’t want to be in a Formula One prison.”
Montezemolo said he could envisage three scenarios.
Firstly, that teams stick with Formula One’s current rights holders, private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for whom Bernie Ecclestone runs the commercial side of the sport.
Secondly, that they find new owners but stick with “the same business model”. And finally, that the teams break away and promote their own series “like they do in the NBA”.
Montezemolo was careful to say that if they stuck with the first option, CVC Capital Partners, the teams would make it a prerequisite that 80-year-old Ecclestone remains in charge.
“For me the presence of Bernie is a priority because Formula One can’t be ruled by the Stock Exchange,” he said. “We need people with credibility, personality and experience.
“But in the end we can always find a different promoter. At the end of the day this business is not so complicated.”
Luca did say a few things that I’m sure will be welcomed by us all:
“My son can go around the world with his girlfriend for less than the price of two tickets to Monza,” he said. “And it’s nice to have new tracks but we need to be careful.
“We must keep the historic circuits, like Suzuka, Sao Paulo, Silverstone and Spa. It’s important to have heritage, credibility and history in Formula One.”
(Wait, does that mean we don’t need Monza?)
One final point: Ferrari is just going along with the change to a four-cylinder engine to play nice, but that doesn’t mean the team likes it or some of the moves to cut costs:
“I’m all for improving sustainability but and with the four cylinder 1.6 litre turbo engine I have to accept because we don’t want Ferrari always to be polemic but personally I don’t like it. It is too far.
“I agree on the need to cut costs but this “pauperistic” approach to Formula One is not good. Cheap is different from inexpensive. We want Formula One to be associated with innovation, with pushing technology.”
And there you have it.
A few quick points:
I don’t think Formula 1 can continue to count on Bernie Ecclestone. Despite the distinct possibility he’s a vampire or somehow otherwise found a way to extend his life, I’m still betting he won’t be around for too many more years.
I feel like Luca really wants to take shots at the FIA but can’t because Jean Todt’s there now. That strikes me as a potentially fascinating dynamic.
The internal dynamic of FOTA seems far less united to me — or at least potentially so. The new teams and the Ferraris on the grid would seem to have extremely different priorities, budgets and potential longevity. I can see that playing out in a way that makes a breakaway series more likely than back in 2009.
Other thoughts? Does this work you up at all or does it feel like both more of the same and way to early to be thinking about it?