FOTA avoid public protests in FOM feud
|By Jonathan Noble
||Friday, March 27th 2009, 03:21 GMT
FOTA vice chairman John Howett has played down talks of teams taking 'militant' action over their ongoing money dispute with the sport's commercial chief.
With the teams and Bernie Ecclestone in disagreement about money owed to them for the past three seasons, there was speculation about a possible boycott in the build-up to the Australian Grand Prix.
There has also been talk of teams potentially sitting out a session in demonstration at what is going on. But Howett says that although there is unhappiness at the situation, such a public protest is unlikely to take place.
"I think we have to wait and see if we get to that stage," said Howett about what response the teams would make if no deal is reached with Ecclestone. "I personally don't think it [action] is constructive for the sport for the commercial rights holder and competitors...it is something that should be an absolute last resort.
"I believe we have already reached a very positive outcome in the last week to 10 days, therefore I feel if we continue this momentum it will be a non-issue very soon."
When asked by AUTOSPORT about whether there have been discussions among teams about a boycott of a race or a practice session, Howett said: "I think in the end we have reached a compromise and it will not happen here.
"And I don't think we felt it [taking action] was that constructive, but some people have expressed the fact that we are competing, we are fulfilling in sincerity our part of delivering performance and we shouldn't not be paid for it.
"That is very simply the position. I don't think anybody wants to take any action that is excessively militant, but in the end we are performing I suppose and therefore we should be compensated for what we do."
He added: "We are making constructive and positive progress. So hopefully in the next three to four weeks everything will be completely clear but we have made satisfactory progress for both sides to avoid any conflict this weekend."
Although Ecclestone insists that teams have been paid any monies contractually owed to them, Howett says he believes some teams have not been provided with money they believe is due.
"I think the teams feel that fundamentally we have performed in line with MoU's we have, and that it really is about time it is settled," he said.
"In fairness to Bernie, it looks as if we have moved quite a long way forward but not everything is complete. As far as I am concerned at the moment we feel reasonably comfortable and we are making progress on the agreement and he has released funds to certain teams, but not the entirety."
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh backed calls for a swift resolution to the matter.
"There is a lot of tension about, in this climate, lots of teams being owed lots of money," he said. "That's a business between the teams and Bernie and one that needs to be resolved urgently."
BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said he 'did not expect' the matter to go so far as resulting in a boycott.
"We are making good progress," he explained. "We had really good conversations on the commercial side this week, so I think we are on track. We are just not finished."