Williams announced on December 7th that it has agreed to sign the new Concorde Agreement that comes into force in 2008. It is the fifth team to commit to the long-term future of F1, the other signatories so far being Ferrari, MF1 Racing (previously Jordan), Red Bull and Toro Rosso (previously Minardi).
The manufacturers are still making plans for a rival series come 2008 but it seems that Formula One Management (FOM) is making some improved offers to encourage the teams to stay with F1.
Williams said in a statement that it had signed up to the new Agreement after FOM had agreed to an "improved distribution of commercial revenues among participating teams." The team also hopes that its commitment will help prevent any future split in the sport.
"The manufacturers and teams have been a catalyst for a number of far reaching changes to the economics and administration of Formula One," said team principal Frank Williams. "We believe that the time has now come for everybody to remove the damaging uncertainty hanging over our sport and to commit to Formula One after 2008."
"I hope our decision will encourage the remainder of the Formula One community to join us and resolve any final details by working together. We all have a duty to avoid a damaging split in our sport and I believe the undertakings we have from FOM and the FIA provide a fair basis for bringing everyone together in the interests of the sport."
The Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association (GPMA) was introduced in May this year and consists of BMW, Mercedes, Renault, Honda and Toyota. Bernie Ecclestone's recent sale of his shares in SLEC was seen to be a "positive" step for F1 but the manufacturers are yet to be convinced that it's the right way to go.
The GPMA said it was looking forward to entering into "constructive dialogue" with the new holding company Alpha Prema but would continue with its preparations for a new series. However, with Williams signing up to F1 from 2008, the breakaway looks increasingly unlikely as the team is regarded as one of the most important names.
"At their most recent board meeting, on 29th November 2005, the five manufactures reaffirmed their binding agreement to race together only in a series which satisfies the fundamental principles of a clear and equitable World Championship," the GPMA said in a statement of its own, following the news of Williams' signing.
"While the GPMA members and their affiliated teams appreciate that progress has been made in recent negotiations, they remain committed to their objective to further develop the sport for the benefit of all stakeholders and in particular the fans."