Manufacturers raise stakes over the control of F1

Formula 1's 'Big Five' group of European manufacturers have raised the stakes in the battle for the commercial control of Grand Prix racing by signing an agreement to work together to get a rival series off the ground "no later than January 1st 2008"

Manufacturers raise stakes over the control of F1

The manufacturers are unhappy about the future commercial exploitation of the sport after German TV giants Kirch and EMTV secured a 75 percent stake in SLEC, the Bernie Ecclestone-formed holding company which owns the commercial and TV rights for F1 until 2110.

SLEC was given the rights in a lease deal by the FIA, the sport's governing body. But despite the manufacturers receiving assurances from the FIA and Ecclestone that the sport would not find its way onto pay-per-view and that the manufacturers could hold certain rights of veto on key decisions, the 'Big Five' are pressing ahead with plans for a breakaway series that were originally made public last month (April).

Under the umbrella of the ACEA, Fiat (Ferrari), Mercedes-Benz, Ford (Jaguar), Renault and BMW signed an agreement to jointly form a company to run an alternative championship they describe as a "premier global series."

The date given is immediately following the completion of the current Concorde Agreement, the document which governs how F1 is run and managed. Although engine manufacturers are not bound by the Concorde Agreement, the existing F1 teams are.

The ACEA statement, issued through FIAT - of which ACEA chairman Paolo Cantarella is boss - said: "The goal of the manufacturers is to promote the interest of the sport, to make sure that the races are made freely available to the broadest possible public worldwide, and (to make sure) that the income greatly benefits mainly those who invest in order to render the competition possible."

What remains unclear is whether the move is an attempt to gain further leverage over Ecclestone, Kirch and EMTV, or whether the project now has sufficient momentum and support to happen regardless.

Cantarella will be the first chairman of the new company, but a one-year rotation system will be used.

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