Saturday November 3rd, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Major carmakers need Formula One and their involvement will lead to closer competition in future, says DaimlerChrysler's Juergen Hubbert.
"The situation has changed dramatically," he told reporters at Mercedes headquarters, comparing the current situation to a decade or two ago.
"This has become part of competitiveness in our business. We will see many more teams winning races and it will be closer than what we had this year."
Seven of the world's top 10 carmakers are now involved with all but one of Formula One's 12 teams and Hubbert suggested others such as Volkswagen might enter in future. FIAT own Ferrari, Jaguar belong to Ford, Mercedes parent DaimlerChrysler has 40 percent of McLaren, Renault and Toyota have their own teams, BMW are partners of Williams and Honda provide engines to Jordan and BAR.
Ferrari also supply engines to Sauber and Prost while Ford provide them to Arrows. Only three teams - Ferrari, McLaren and Williams - won races in 2001.
"This is one stage where you can show performance in front of the public every two weeks, in front of 300 or 400 million people," said Hubbert. "So many people seeing your competitiveness, your performance...you should be there.
"Why start discussions about Volkswagen? Because everybody is thinking that they have to go into that (Formula One)...the big ones have to," he said.
Hubbert said a new 'Concorde Agreement' between the teams and commercial rights holders SLEC should cement the manufacturers commitment and recognise their investment. The current agreement runs out in 2007.
Teams and manufacturers are currently negotiating with German television company Kirch, who control SLEC, for a bigger share of the revenues and have also threatened to start up their own series. Hubbert said he felt it would be crazy not to reach an agreement but it needed to be settled within a year.
"Part of what we want to have in the new Concorde Agreement is that we are all committed to staying at least for a longer period," said Hubbert. Some senior Formula One team members have expressed concern about the sport's future if carmakers changed their business priorities and abandoned racing.
"If we now sit together and discuss the time after 2007 it gives you the right feeling that all of those involved feel the same," said Hubbert. "As long as we can really create interesting sport, as long as we have this audience interested in Formula One with the right people involved, the manufacturers will stay.
"This is the difference to what we had years ago."
Published at 13:42:22 GMT