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'F1 teams open to breakaway series'

News18

Updated: May 13, 2011, 6:53 PM IST
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'F1 teams open to breakaway series'
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said F1 teams could consider setting up their own series from 2013.

London: Formula One teams could consider setting up their own series from 2013 when the sport's current 'Concorde Agreement' expires, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said on Friday.

Speaking to CNN television, the Italian said the teams had three options.

"We renew with (commercial rights holders) CVC, or we theoretically - as the basketball teams did in the US with great success - we create our own company, like the NBA. Just to run the races, the TV rights and so (on)," he said.

"And third, to find a different partner."(Formula One supremo) Bernie Ecclestone did a very good job but he has already sold out three times, so he doesn't own the business any more. It is CVC that will sell. It will be the teams' decisions.

"At the end of 2012, the contract will expire, so theoretically CVC doesn't own anything. I think it is important to have alternatives. We will see. We have time to do it," added the Ferrari head.

Montzemolo's comments come amid increasing speculation about the future direction of Formula One, with the Italian also critical of a new and 'greener' 1.6 litre four cylinder turbocharged hybrid engine scheduled for 2013.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and Italian financial holding Exor, which controls glamour team Ferrari through FIAT, have teamed up to explore the possibility of creating a consortium to take over the sport.

They have also been talking to potential minority partners, likely to include the major shareholders and Middle Eastern investment funds who already own stakes in big teams like McLaren and Mercedes.

FAMILIAR PATTERN

Some in the paddock have speculated that, with the involvement of News Corp, the teams could go off and do their own thing.

Others see the rumblings as part of a familiar pattern that precedes negotiations between the commercial rights holder, teams and governing International Automobile Federation (FIA).

Formula One teams last threatened a rival series in 2009, before the departure of manufacturers Toyota and BMW - following Honda out - weakened their position.

Montezemolo, who has regularly called for the sport to be more sustainable and stable with the teams getting a greater share of revenues, revived talk of a breakaway last December.

The Italian told reporters then that "in the end we can always find a different promoter".

Mark Kleinman, city editor of Murdoch's Sky News, reported in a blog this week that boutique investment bank Raine Group was poised to join the News Corp/Exor consortium.

Raine co-founder Joe Ravitch, a former Goldman Sachs media head, was involved in setting up the National Basketball Association's NBA China venture.

Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Investment company, who until last year owned five percent of Ferrari, have a nine percent stake in Raine while former Google Inc chief executive Eric Schmidt and former Facebook president Sean Parker are also backers.

Montezemolo was also highly critical of the new-look Formula One, with rule changes making overtaking far easier.

"We have gone too far with artificial elements. It's like, if I push footballers to wear tennis shoes in the rain," he told CNN.

"To have so many pit-stops. Listen, I want to see competition, I want to see cars on the track. I don't want to see competition in the pits.

"In the last race (in Turkey) there were 80 pit-stops. Come on, it's too much. And the people don't understand any more because when you come out of the pits you don't know what position you're in," he added.

First Published: May 13, 2011, 6:53 PM IST
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