War of words adds fuel to F1 game show

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War of words adds fuel to F1 game show

Luca takes a licking while Bernie keeps on ticking. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone claims "we bought Ferrari's loyalty" and calls Ferrari's Luca di Montezemolo a "press officer". Bernie Ecclestone. Photo by xpb.cc. War of words has...

Luca takes a licking while Bernie keeps on ticking.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone claims "we bought Ferrari's loyalty" and calls Ferrari's Luca di Montezemolo a "press officer".

Bernie Ecclestone.
Photo by xpb.cc.

War of words has exploded between two of the most influential men in motor racing. Looks like after "Spygate" and "Hookergate" Formula One continues to expose and shoot itself in the foot. The F1 czar now takes on Tifosis' Tiger: welcome to Bernie's tirade vs. Luca's take on how "our show" is run.

They say money is the root of all evil; this latest eruption of emotions is no exception. More is better, so says Montezemolo who wants the team to receive a bigger share of the sport's revenue and also have a say in decision making.

The Chairman of the recently-created FOTA, Formula One Teams' Association, addressed the media at Maranello last week and said, "We want to know the revenues better so we can decrease the cost of the tickets. Then we have the matter of traditional tracks rather than exotic tracks just because they have a nice skyline."

Montezemolo's mantra has sparked a fury from the F1 kingpin, Ecclestone, who is never at loss for words. He revealed that the Prancing Horse team galloped away with an $80M prize for winning the constructors' championship, as opposed to coming in second to McLaren.

Harnessing his anger in his own special way, Ecclestone had this advice for Montezemolo, "What he should do, rather than asking for money, with all the extra money Ferrari gets, he should share all that amongst the teams."

It turns out GPMA, Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association, which was threatening a Tony George's IRL-type split from Formula 1, was disbanded after Ferrari broke ranks following a sweet $80m deal with FOM. Ecclestone maintains, "We bought Ferrari. We bought Ferrari's loyalty".

Luca di Montezemolo.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.

This special Ferrari deal was agreed in 2003 and apparently had the blessing of other teams, as a concession to Ferrari's historic position and standings in the sport.

The Italian team has always been perceived as the favorite child of both FOM and FIA. Now we have a price tag. The GPMA's grumblings were for more revenue sharing, which was agreed at 50/50 between the teams and FOM, commercial rights holder of Formula One and now controlled by debt-laden CVC Capital Partners.

It must be noted that tracks' only source of income is from tickets sales: whether they be the historic Autodromo where Nuvolari and Fangio raced or have a nice skyline with bright floodlights, they get nothing from TV revenue, advertising or even merchandise sales at their own facility. Hence the move to "promote tourism through F1" rich locales as Bahrain, Singapore and next year Abu Dhabi.

Most racing fans will share Montezemolo's love for traditional tracks. Gone from the schedule is San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, a track located near Rimini in the heart of Italian motor racing country. This is where Jim Clark raced and Ayrton Senna led his last race. Compare this to the Shanghai surprise, empty seats and grandstands covered this year with advertising for yet another expo coming to town soon.

Gone is the Grand Prix from Buenos Aires, no F1 in the land of Fangio and Froilan Gonzalez, the man who gave Enzo Ferrari his first victory in Formula Uno. But you can take a trip to the desert boom at Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain. Sands of time have surely shifted in Formula 1.

Then there is that largest consumer market in the world, from Bic razors to Range Rovers. And its F1-friendly neighbors north of the border, their circuit on a man-made island and named for one of Grand Prix racing greatest lost talents, always a favorite with fans, drivers and team members.

Taking both North American races off the calendar makes only one statement: the powers that run F1 simply don't care.

Grease their palms with petro or tourism dollars and you can have a Grand Prix in Kabinda or Kerala. The chosen ones, who will fly in on private jets and whisked away from the "International" airport via helicopter to yet another Tilke-drome, may not even know the general admission to their show probably represents several months of salary for the masses.

In times that we are in, especially regards to automobile industry, the motorsports community needs all the support it can gather, not just from sponsors and decision makers but also from the fans. Demeaning the sport by insulting and airing dirty laundry in the open pit is not the way to proceed.

Perhaps both Bernie and Luca should work as press officers and issue positive statements. Both men and the sport have come a long way. Fans and F1 racing deserve better.

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Series GENERAL , F1