Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he 'sympathises' with the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) over its ongoing political stand-off with the FIA, insisting competitors should be free to 'spend what they like' – provided they commit to F1 for the next five years.
With the battle lines firmly drawn in the sport's civil war and no quarter forthcoming from either of the two entrenched factions, a split looks more likely than ever – with the eight rebel teams forging ahead with their threat to organise a new 'breakaway' series and the governing body resorting to legal action to prevent them from doing so.
The crux of the debate is the controversial budget cap that Max Mosley intends to introduce into the top flight from next year onwards – with the FIA President adamant that without such radical cost-cutting initiatives, F1 will implode and ultimately die as a result of its own dangerously escalating expenditure. Both he and long-time friend, ally and business associate Ecclestone remain confident that a resolution will eventually be found – but the latter suggests it may be found rather more quickly if Mosley concedes some ground to the teams.
“We'll do our best to fix it,” the commercial rights supremo told the BBC
, despite also confessing that he has 'no idea' how long that will take. “I'm sure we'll find a way. We have us, the federation and the teams, and that's the way it should stay.
“I think in the end people will have enough sense not to bust this business up. Everyone should stay in their place and do their job, but as ever when people start to have an argument, they don't know where to stop and all sorts of people have ideas about what should and shouldn't happen. Eventually it will sort itself out.
“It's difficult for people to understand what it all started with, that he (Mosley) wanted to find ways of saving money for the teams so they didn't go out of business. There seems to be some objection to that. I sympathise with them in a lot of ways – nobody wants to be told how they can spend their money.
“They say 'nobody should tell us how to spend our money – we know what to do', and I say providing they commit to the championship for at least five years, they should spend what they like.”
The other major bone of contention in the dispute is what the teams perceive to be Mosley's increasingly autocratic and arbitrary manner of ruling the sport – an example of which is the way in which he pushed through the budget cap without first consulting them for their views on it. The 69-year-old has hinted that he is likely to stand for the presidential role again later this year to help to nurse F1 through its present crisis – a move that has only served to further stir up the ire amongst FOTA members. Ecclestone, though, contends that the sport could do a lot worse.
“People complain and say we should get rid of Max, but they don't understand we can't get rid of Max,” the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told BBC Radio Five Live
. “He is President of the FIA, and there are 122 votes throughout the world (via the FIA General Assembly). They will vote as to whether they think Max should be there or not, but he's done a lot of very, very good things for Formula 1, on safety and everything else.”