Bernie Ecclestone has warned F1's 'rebels' that they need the top flight more than the top flight needs them – arguing that if they were to press ahead with their threat to organise their own rival 'breakaway' series, 'it would be a disaster and they'd destroy the sport'.
With time running out, there is still no resolution to the damaging FIA/FOTA dispute over FIA President Max Mosley's controversial budget cap initiative and autocratic manner of governance, and the Formula One Teams' Association is adamant that whilst it remains open to further discussions aimed at averting a split, in the absence of a satisfactory compromise it is at the same time full steam ahead in terms of preparations for the new championship.
To that end, a 17-race 2010 calendar has been leaked to the media [see separate story – click here
], but Ecclestone suggested that without the infrastructure that F1 provides, the FOTA dissenters – composed of Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, BMW-Sauber, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso and current world championship leaders Brawn GP – would never be able to cope in going it alone.
Moreover, having previously expressed his 'sympathy' for the teams' plight in suggesting that they should be allowed to 'spend what they like' provided they commit their future to F1 [see separate story – click here
], in characteristically contradictory nature, the Formula One Management (FOM) commercial rights chief executive has now contended that if they maintain the present level of extravagant expenditure, there will be no future left at all and it 'could be the curse of our sport'.
“It could ruin it,” the 78-year-old told British newspaper the Daily Star
. “It would be a disaster and they'd destroy the sport. I would hate to see any kind of takeover happen, because it would be badly-managed. They can't even run their own teams; they can't agree on anything. If the teams owned it they would destroy it.
“We organise the venues, which don't cost the teams a penny. All they have to do is pitch up at a track with their sponsors' names all over their cars in exchange for millions of quid and race in front of a worldwide television audience – which I have set up and keep going. The bottom line is they can't afford to set up a rival championship. I reckon Ferrari and McLaren need us more than we need them.”
Meanwhile, as he perhaps senses a coup at Wednesday's FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) reunion in Paris – with FOTA and Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo, in attendance for the first time, expected to lead a call for the Englishman to step down from the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing – Mosley has sought to play down his description of certain members of FOTA as 'immoderate loonies'.
“It's more of a jokey reference than anything else,” the 69-year-old stressed. “I don't think they are literally loonies, but I think they are a little bit immoderate in their approach. Montezemolo and I have known each other nearly 40 years, and I get along with him fine on a personal level.
“Flavio [Briatore – Renault F1 managing director] is great on a personal level. Obviously sometimes when you have got something as complex as Formula 1, you can have disagreements about how things operate within the sport, but on a personal basis we've always got along fine.”
FOTA are due to meet the following day to discuss the happenings of the WMSC, but Briatore has insisted that the time for compromise is now over [see separate story – click here
]. Despite having hinted at legal action to prevent the teams from leaving, Mosley has since dropped his menace in favour of a more conciliatory tone, and Ecclestone has agreed that dragging the matter through the courts is not the preferred course of action.