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Decisive week as future of F1 takes shape

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Decisive week as future of F1 takes shape
Jul 12, 2009, 11:06 PM

If Silverstone weekend was all theatre and drama, regarding the rebel teams battle with the FIA, this weekend has been much calmer and more subdued...

If Silverstone weekend was all theatre and drama, regarding the rebel teams battle with the FIA, this weekend has been much calmer and more subdued. Possibly because of the cold, wet weather. But behind the scenes in the warm and dry motorhomes there has been a great deal of activity.

Yesterday I heard that the eight FOTA teams had aligned themselves with CVC, the money men behind F1 and that the position now is that if they cannot find the agreement needed with the FIA  to get the new Concorde Agreement signed this week, then they will breakaway. FOTA had set a deadline of Friday 10th July, but this was extended into this week. Crunch time is going to be Tuesday/Wednesday this week.

It is interesting that the FIA said on Wednesday that the eight FOTA teams were not entered in the 2010 championship, including Ferrari and the two Red Bull teams, because those three were always entered in the FIA's eyes before.

But where we appear to have got to now is that CVC has realised that they need to be a part of the breakaway so that they can have a chance of recouping their money. If F1 splits, they would thus be involved in both series, but would likely sue the FIA for what happened in F1. The teams have realised that they have to have CVC on board, even though they will take money out, because if they don't CVC could  sue them for amounts of money which could finish a business like Ferrari and even cause major damage to giants like BMW and Mercedes.

Today comes news that CVC and Bernie Ecclestone are using the "GP1 Series"  banner for this and have been registering the trademarks and logos for it, according to an article by Christian Sylt in the Express today.  GP1 could run outside the FIA. Most of the circuit and TV contracts are with FOM and so could be transferred across to the new series. It would be a worse case scenario because it makes more sense for everyone to stick with the well established brand and history of F1, but F1 would wither on the vine very quickly without Ferrari and the other big names and drivers, so the two would probably be forced to merge again in a year or two at most.

CVC would have a foot in both camps and although the product would be diminished in value by the split, CVC would at least have protected its assets. It also conveniently allows CVC to avoid the veto which the FIA has over the sale of F1.

The senior figures I spoke to today are hopeful that the end is in sight and seem happy with the work that has gone on this weekend with CVC. They hope for a positive outcome, but are not counting their chickens.

The next question will be what Bernie Ecclestone's role will be going forward. The Hitler comments have not gone down at all well with teams, sponsors and particularly at CVC, especially with the powerful Jewish non-execs on the F1 management board, including Sir Martin Sorrell. I've heard it suggested that this could be the trigger for change; Ecclestone might continue but retreat slightly from the front line, with a new chief executive taking over the day to day management. But it's hard to imagine Bernie accepting that quietly.

It certainly feels like a pivotal moment for the sport. F1 has had two major shocks recently; the Honda pull out in December and the announcement of the breakaway at Silverstone. Those events have led us to this point and in a couple of days we will know whether F1 is to be stabilised by the new Concorde Agreement or split.
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