Interview: Carmakers Say No Turning Back

Formula One carmakers planning their own series from 2008 say they are fast approaching decision day

Interview: Carmakers Say No Turning Back

"We have nearly reached the point of no return," BMW executive board member Burkhard Goeschel told Reuters in a telephone interview from Munich.

"The contracts with circuits and sponsors is a two-year approach. The decision should happen within this year."

Goeschel, who leads the five member Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association, said the plans were 'totally serious'.

"The series is on track, going forward and the five manufacturers are united," he said.

The five - BMW, DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes, Renault, Honda and Toyota - signed a binding agreement last week emphasising their unity and determination to race only in a series that satisfied their guiding principles.

They also instructed consultants International Sports and Entertainment AG (iSe) to advance negotiations with broadcasters, circuit owners and sponsors.

Goeschel said the carmakers were adamant on the need for greater transparency, corporate governance, equal treatment for all and long-term stability on rules. They also want far more money to go to the teams.

FIA Role

The carmakers have told the governing FIA that it can act only as a 'refereeing body' for their series and not as rule makers.

"On this point we are saying that we are not flexible," declared Goeschel.

He said that the 100-year deal between the FIA, who are planning sweeping rule changes for 2008, and Formula One's holding company SLEC for the commercial rights was "another reason to take our own route.

"We don't want to be connected with those parties that have an agreement that no-one knows what is in the contract," he said.

Any talks with the three banks that own 75 percent of SLEC, with the family trust of commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone holding the remainder, would have to be on the manufacturers' terms.

The sport is divided between the five carmakers on one side and Ferrari, Red Bull, Jordan and Minardi siding with Ecclestone on the other. Williams are uncommitted.

The current commercial agreement governing Formula One expires at the end of 2007.

'No Split'

Goeschel was optimistic that the threat of two rival championships would be avoided, however, with the manufacturers prevailing.

"I don't think that there will be a split in the future. The five manufacturers standing together is the most important factor in GP racing today and in the future," he said.

"Honda have bought BAR and now own the team. We are five manufacturers and each one owns a team. We also own the technology.

"The most important sponsors in the future will be committed to brand values linked to manufacturers. Those companies want to be connected with the big car manufacturers and this is also our strength," added the German.

"I think we will also have the best drivers."

BMW, Renault and the Japanese carmakers will own teams next year while Mercedes have a 40 percent stake in McLaren.

Goeschel said the carmakers would allow no special treatment for Ferrari, the only team to have been in the Championship since the outset in 1950, or agree to them having any form of veto in decision making.

He said that the Italian team were welcome to join the manufacturers, on terms that could still be 'very attractive', as were the remaining 'independents'.

"We will have conditions also for the independent teams which are really attractive and much better than the existing series," said Goeschel. "We are strongly interested in having the independent teams with us."

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Series Formula 1
Author Alan Baldwin
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