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Ecclestone 'surprised' by Renault F1 quit threat over money

Renault has said that there is nothing guaranteeing the company's continued participation in Formula 1 should costs not dramatically come down and the teams not be granted an increased share of the top flight's revenue – to the 'surprise' of the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone.

Ahead of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) press conference in Geneva tomorrow (Thursday) – at which F1's competitors are expected to push for more money from broadcast rights, circuit fees and trackside sponsorship, currently the preserve of Ecclestone's Formula One Management company – Renault chief operating officer Patrick Pelata has suggested that if the French concern cannot significantly reduce its expenditure beyond the 30 per cent that has already been agreed, then the Régie may become the next car maker to follow Honda out of the exit door in the wake of falling global car sales precipitated by the wide-reaching credit crunch.

“We're seeking to bring down contract costs and receive more of the revenues,” the manufacturer's number two is quoted as having said by international news agency Bloomberg. “We want to remain part of the emotion and the spectacle of Formula 1, but there are really no taboos [if talks fail].”

Renault has recently made a number of redundancies from its Enstone factory in Britain [see separate story – click here] and, according to accounts filed with Companies House in London, in 2007 paid its 539 UK employees a total of £33.9 million. It has become increasingly difficult of late – especially in the light of Honda's shock withdrawal from competition late last year – for manufacturers to justify such a huge investment in F1 in the midst of the most significant slump in car sales in decades.

Renault finished fourth in the 2008 constructors' world championship, with two victories courtesy of former double title-winner Fernando Alonso. The team was expected to re-emerge as a contender for glory this year, but those hopes have since faded somewhat following the troubled birth of the new R29 challenger.

Ecclestone, however, dismissed Pelata's comments and request for a greater share of the sport's income.

“I'm surprised he would come out and say something like that,” the 78-year-old admitted. “We've got an agreement with the teams until 2013 and we'll stick with that.”

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Renault is considering keeping some of its 40,000 employees in its home country on temporary lay-off for up to three years in a bid to return to economic security. France's second-largest manufacturer is presently in around €8 billion of debt, despite having benefited, alongside rival PSA Peugeot-Citroën, from a €6 billion government hand-out.

“We hope the temporary lay-offs won't last this long,” Pelata told French radio station BFM, “but my job is to be prepared for the worst.

“If we manage to no longer burn cash, we'll end 2009 with more than €4 billion in liquidity and credit lines and this would mean a financially stable Renault.”

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Brian Clark

March 04, 2009 3:29 PM

BE is so greedy he cannot grasp that it is HIS demands that are helping to cripple F1. In the short term the teams need more money. There is only so much available & the people shelling out up front SHOULD get more than someone who is really screwing it for the paying public. The FIA should now be looking at ways to either get him to pay more to the teams, and this should NOT be at the expense of demanding more from the individual race organisers, or replace his company, though no doubt his contract will be as tight as the one Sir Freddy G has / had with RBS :p :p Maybe Renault SHOULD walk away.

edward - Unregistered

March 04, 2009 2:49 PM

Berni and Max have got to be worried their cash cow is starting to run dry. The global depression may be the best thing to happen to the F-1 biz since disk brakes. :rolleyes:

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