Ferrari chief hints at F1 breakaway series

Updated: 14 May 2011 17:29 IST

Not for the first time in recent years, Formula One is bracing for a period of unrest that includes the threat of a breakaway series, as Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo outlined clearly on Friday.

Ferrari chief hints at F1 breakaway series

Paris:

Not for the first time in recent years, Formula One is bracing for a period of unrest that includes the threat of a breakaway series, as Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo outlined clearly on Friday.


As rumours of a possible takeover bid from Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation refused to be extinguished, di Montezemolo made clear that the sport's top teams would be open to anything from the end of next year.

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which has owned the rights to F1 since 2006, has been approached by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Ferrari investor Exor.

"I think we have to be very pragmatic," he told CNN during an interview on Friday. "At the end of 2012, the contracts of every single team with CVC will expire. So, we have three alternatives.

"We can renew with CVC, or theoretically - as the basketball teams did in the U.S. with great success - we create our own company, like the NBA. Just to run the races, the TV rights and so on.

"And third, to find a different partner. Bernie Ecclestone did a very good job, but he has already sold out three times, so he doesn't own the business anymore. It is CVC that will sell. It will be the teams' decisions."

Reports of a liaison between News Corp and Italian investment group Exor, which has a close relationship with Ferrari parent company Fiat, has intensified speculation that suggests a breakaway series is likely.

Di Montezemolo explained: "At the end of 2012, the (Concorde Agreement) contract will expire, so theoretically CVC doesn't own anything. I think it is important to have alternatives. We will see. We have time to do it."

In the same interview, Di Montezemolo also criticised the current state of Formula One and the introduction of too many 'overtaking aids' like adjustable rear wings.

"We have gone too far with artificial elements," he said. "It's like, if I push footballers to wear tennis shoes in the rain.

"To have so many pit-stops!.. Listen, I want to see competition. I want to see cars on the track. I don't want to see competition in the pits.

"In the last race there were 80 pit-stops. Come on, it's too much. And the people don't understand anymore because, when you come out of the pits, you don't know what position you're in.

"I think we have gone too far with the machines - (there are) too many buttons. The driver is 'focalising' (focusing on) the buttons, when you have the authorisation to overtake. We have gone too far.

"Ferrari will push a lot with the authority, with the respect that we have to the federation and the other teams, to avoid going too far with F1 because I think it can create problems for the television people and on the racetrack."

The Ferrari president was not the first man to criticise the synthetic nature of modern Formula One created by the 2011 rules, but he was certainly one of the highest profile to do so.

He also supported calls for the sport to improve its promotional activity and to embrace new media.

"We have to invest in the United States," he said. "We have to improve new technologies in F1 for the people watching the television, for iPad, for the Internet.

"So I think we are in front of a very important moment. We will race in Russia and India. F1, thanks also to Bernie Ecclestone, has become a worldwide sport.

"Now we have to find the best solution. It is important to invest for the future and the other teams."



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