Friday November 2nd, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Formula One carmakers want to sort out the sport's future within the next year and are close to forming a company to run their own series.
"The manufacturers will in a few days found a company that is capable of starting and running a series of races," DaimlerChrysler board member Juergen Hubbert said at Mercedes headquarters. He 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 One holding company SLEC.
"That would at least mean that Formula One would go until 2007 and starting in 2008 there will be something new," he said. "Maybe you cannot call it Formula One 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 One 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 One's future stability. He also said the carmakers had no interest in acquiring a majority of SLEC.
"Maybe there will be a quiet period for some weeks, some months and then we will see what the outcome is of these discussions," he 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 One. The teams, who want a far greater share of Formula One'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 One teams.
Dennis confirmed that initial concerns about television coverage -- Kirch are big in pay per view while carmakers insist that Formula One must remain free to air -- were now secondary.
"The primary goal of the teams is stability," he insisted. "If we don't have stability we can't provide the consistency that's required to maintain the television growth and the reach that we have. I don't think it's a question of pay per view or not pay per view. We live in a commercial world and it is a business."
But he said he personally had "a problem in a third party having the commercial benefits that Bernie has enjoyed. I have no problem with someone who has created something, who has made it happen.
"I have a significant problem with a third party that has contributed zero to the future of Grand Prix racing taking that commercial benefit. The teams feel completely justified in asking for a greater share of the revenue stream. And the debate has always been 'What value a theatre with no actors?'"
Published at 15:17:57 GMT