The fall-out from Bernie Ecclestone's controversial interview that seemingly praised Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein as model leaders could be further-reaching than anybody had imagined, it has been mused – as F1's commercial rights-holder perhaps prepares to join the FOTA breakaway teams in taking flight.
A meeting was reportedly held last week by Ecclestone's employer CVC Capital Partners – where he is chief executive – to discuss the remarks made, with one of the subjects for consideration being whether the European private equity firm has reached the end of the road with the British billionaire and would now be better off without him, according to the Sunday Telegraph
Leading CVC members Sir Martin Sorrell and Peter Brabeck are both Jewish, and little appreciated Ecclestone's misguided comments – and it is suggested that current Renault F1 managing director and Formula One Teams' Association commercial vice-chairman Flavio Briatore is the preferred choice to succeed his fellow QPR director. FIA President Max Mosley – another man apparently little to CVC's taste – recently claimed that 'I think Flavio Briatore fancies himself as the Bernie'.
With or without CVC, though, it appears Ecclestone is increasingly siding himself with the eight FOTA rebels as F1's civil war rumbles on, and the Sunday Express
revealed that through his company Epsilon Ltd, the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive applied for trademark ownership of the terms 'Formula Grand Prix' and 'Formula GP' and lodged bids to protect 'GP1' and 'GP1 Series' logos on 19 June – the same day that FOTA officially announced its intention to launch a rival series.
Epsilon has also trademarked logos for a new junior formula called GP3 – meaning that should the teams indeed cut and run, there will be a ready-made ladder of promotion from GP3 up through the already established GP2 Series all the way to the heights of GP1. FOTA has dropped hints that should there still be cause for dispute with the FIA on Wednesday – when another reunion is due to take place to finalise cost-cutting details for 2010 and beyond and sign a new Concorde Agreement – then it really will have reached the point of no return.
Ecclestone, however, sought to play down the speculation, telling German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
: “Next week we will have peace in Formula 1. We will all agree and there will only be one series.”