Kirch loss may be F1 gain

The collapse of KirchMedia recently could prevent the possible split of Formula One in the future and help provide stability in the difficult financial climate of the sport. At the San Marino Grand Prix this weekend heads of Europe's major car ...

The collapse of KirchMedia recently could prevent the possible split of Formula One in the future and help provide stability in the difficult financial climate of the sport. At the San Marino Grand Prix this weekend heads of Europe's major car makers in F1, including Fiat (Ferrari), DaimlerChrysler (Mercedes) and Renault, are expected to meet to discuss plans for their rival championship from 2008 when the current Concorde Agreement expires.

The outcome could depend on whether Kirch decides to sell its stake in SLEC, the company that owns the commercial rights to F1. Kirch has been open to offers in the past for the holding but the FIA have the right to block any change of ownership that they feel might be detrimental to the sport. When Kirch bought its stake in SLEC there was concern that it would stop free-to-air television viewing, which prompted the setting up of a rival championship by the carmakers.

There has been much discussion about teams wanting more income from F1's revenue in the future after the demise of Prost Grand Prix earlier this year. Some of the smaller teams have been reported to be struggling financially amid worries that more may go the way of Prost.

The carmakers were in talks with Kirch about buying into SLEC but last month they decided they no longer needed a stake -- possibly in an effort to push Kirch's asking price down as the company's financial difficulties increased. The carmakers want to protect F1 and their own investments and could either start their own series or buy into the existing championship. Many think this is the right opportunity for them and Ecclestone to buy back the stake in SLEC at good price and stabilize the future of F1.

Daimler Chief Executive Juergen Schrempp thinks it is up to Ecclestone or Kirch to find a solution: "We are prepared (to go ahead with the rival championship)," he said. "It is now up to Mr Ecclestone or others who hold the rights to hold talks with the carmakers to see if our legitimate wishes can be satisfied, including that Formula 1 be on free-to-air television. Then we could still come to a solution."

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Series Automotive , Formula 1