F1 manufacturers closer to new series

Auto manufacturers involved in Formula 1 want to sort out the sport's future within the next year and are reportedly close of forming a company to run their own series. The consortium of auto manufacturers that has tried to buy in to Formula 1 in...

Auto manufacturers involved in Formula 1 want to sort out the sport's future within the next year and are reportedly close of forming a company to run their own series. The consortium of auto manufacturers that has tried to buy in to Formula 1 in the past, is pressing ahead with plans to create a rival championship, with the 2008 horizon in mind. "In the next few days, the manufacturers will form a company that is capable of starting and running a series of races" DaimlerChrysler board member Juergen Hubbert said at Mercedes headquarters.

Hubbert said this would happen if there was "no final solution and final agreement" with the Kirch group, who now control 75 percent of the shares in Formula 1 holding company SLEC. "This means that Formula 1 would go until 2007 and starting in 2008 there will be something new," he said. "Maybe you cannot call it Formula 1 any more, but the manufacturers will race in this premier series and from my perspective there can only be one." The new company will have a board of directors, with Hubbert joined by Jaguar boss Wolfgang Reitzle, Ferrari's Luca di Montezemolo, Renault's Patrick Faure and BMW's Burkhard Goeschel.

SLEC, previously owned wholly by Formula 1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, owns the television and marketing rights to the world championship. Hubbert, whose company is a partner with McLaren, said the carmakers were still talking to Kirch to try and secure Formula 1's future stability. He also said the carmakers had no interest in acquiring a majority of SLEC.

The manufacturers are talking to German media giant Kirch Gruppe, which owns a 75% stake in F1's holding company SLEC. The manufacturers are thought to want a much greater say in the running of the sport than it currently has and a much larger slice of the revenue that Formula One generates. It has also voiced concerns that Kirch will broadcast Formula 1 only on pay-per-view TV, despite constant reassurances that this will not be the case, and have said that it must safeguard the free-to-air status of Formula 1 - even if this means starting a new championship.

It would almost certainly be in Kirch's interests to find a solution with the manufacturers, as if it cannot then its position in 2008 may not be a strong one. It would still own the rights to Formula 1, but if the manufacturers desert the series then that in itself would be meaningless.

"Maybe there will be a quiet period for some weeks, some months and then we will see what the outcome is of these discussions," Hubbert said. "We are not in a hurry but I think we should find a solution within the next year," he added when asked what the deadline was for an agreement. Hubbert emphasised that the manufacturers remained totally committed to staying in Formula 1.

The teams, who want a far greater share of Formula 1's revenues laid out in the so-called Concorde Agreement which runs out at the end of 2007, are also talking separately to Kirch. McLaren boss Ron Dennis said that he, Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw and Jaguar's Niki Lauda were representing the teams in the talks. Dennis said he had been named as effective co-ordinator to document the various meetings. He said the teams were talking separately because "we are very keen to have a satisfactory resolution as soon as possible and to achieve that will require a variation to the Concorde Agreement." The legally-binding agreement is between SLEC, the ruling FIA and the Formula 1 teams.

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Series Automotive , Formula 1
Drivers Luca di Montezemolo , Niki Lauda , Bernie Ecclestone , Tom Walkinshaw