• Teams explore possibility of running the show themselves
• End of contract with contract with CVC in 2012 opens the way
The four biggest names in Formula One – Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes – will discuss the future of the sport in Stuttgart in a meeting which has the other competing teams looking on anxiously.
The heads of the four most powerful teams will discuss the recent interest in Formula One shown by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Exor, the Italian investment company, with Luca di Montezemolo, the chairman of Ferrari, leaving open the possibility of the teams forming a breakaway series of their own.
However, the threat of the big four running the show themselves has got many of the smaller teams worried. One team principal – who did not want to be named – said: “The most important thing we do now is to stick together. We had a Fota [Formula One Teams’ Association] meeting in Istanbul on Sunday and there was unprecedented unity among all 11 teams.” Hispania Racing Team is not a member of Fota.
“This has not always been the case in the past 20 years. In fact we have often lost out by not showing a united front. What we talked about on Sunday was the idea of breaking away and running the sport ourselves. We feel the sport is being under-promoted. For example, in this day and age we should be making far greater use of new technology, such as the internet and iPad.”
Today’s meeting has frightened the other teams, who fear that the big four may be cutting up the cake among themselves. But, in essence, it is not their cake to cut since the sport is owned by CVC Capital Partners, who say they are not selling. That statement should be looked at carefully. CVC – represented by Bernie Ecclestone – is a private equity company. And private equity companies are defined by their buying and selling.
The current agreement with CVC ends in 2013 and Di Montezemolo says the teams are in a position to run things themselves. “I think we have to be very pragmatic. At the end of 2012 the contracts of every single team with CVC will expire. So we have three alternatives,” Di Montezemolo said in an interview broadcast on CNN.
“We renew with CVC or we theoretically – as the basketball teams did in the US with great success – create our own company, like the NBA. Just to run the races, the TV rights and so on.
“And third, to find a different partner. 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.”
Meanwhile Di Montezemolo says he is not happy with some of Formula One’s latest gimmicks.
“We have gone too far with artificial elements,” he said. “It’s like, if I push footballers to wear tennis shoes in the rain. 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,” he explained.
“In the last race 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.
“I think we have gone too far with the machines, too many buttons. The driver is focusing on the buttons, when you have the authorisation to overtake. We have gone too far.”