Much has been made of the possibility of the ownership of F1 changing hands following the reported interest of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in relieving current owner CVC of its prize asset, but just how viable is the threat?
News that the venture capital company, which holds the sport's 100-year commercial rights agreement, has not even bothered to reply to former Ferrari investor Mubadala's enquiry about bidding for ownership suggests that the posturing from Maranello which has accompanied news of News Corp's interest could be little more than an empty threat, designed to illicit more money from the sport's owners or even have the proposed 2013 engine regulations overturned.
Ferrari has a solid track record of using threats of withdrawal or a breakaway to get what it wants from the sport's powerbrokers - having successfully achieved its aims of more money and an end to the budget cap proposal in 2005 and 2009 respectively - but may be running out of ideas this time despite the apparent strength of its claims.
According to pitpass.com
, the involvement of the Agnelli family-owned Exor investment house in News Corp's bid, along with Mubadala's apparent interest, would suggest that the troops are massing behind the Prancing Horse in order to help extract a greater share of the sport's income, but all appear to have overlooked one simple fact - they have little leverage if CVC continues to insist that F1 is not
The report confirms that, for as long as CVC and Bernie Ecclestone, who acts as the venture capital company's representative in the paddock, continues to insist that it is not looking to off-load the sport, then no amount of Ferrari-engineered threats have any substance. CVC's statement at the time News Corp was first rumoured to be interested stated that F1 was 'not currently for sale', suggesting that the media giant was not the right bidder, but the line has been maintained as more and more 'backers' of Murdoch's plan come to light, amid the feeling that Scuderia president Luca di Montezemolo is ready to use the uncertainty for his team's own ends.
Even the News Corp-owned Sky News
reporting that F1's current 'big four' - Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes - were to meet, either with representatives of the media giant or not according to which claims are believed, has not shaken CVC's resolve. The current Concorde Agreement forbids teams from either negotiating with a third party until 2012, or publicly threatening to form a breakaway series - if indeed that is what the quartet is considering, and it is unlikely that they are - while FIA president Jean Todt has pointed out that the governing body has the final say on any potential takeover.
laughingly points out, reports of more and more companies coming out of the woodwork - the New York-based Raine Group merchant bank among them [see story here
- is only drawing out what is still a 'non-story' of parties possibly being interested in joining a group which has yet to make a bid for something that the current owners insist is not for sale.