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Bernie hits back as things begin to turn ugly

NEWS STORY
20/12/2008

Following comments made by Luca di Montezemolo earlier this week, when the Ferrari President, and FOTA Chairman, suggested that it might be time for Bernie Ecclestone to consider stepping down, the F1 supremo has hit back. And how.

The formation of FOTA, the Formula One Teams Association, has seen the teams united in a way never witnessed before, with all ten (nine?) teams seemingly agreeing on everything, whereas in the past it is claimed that they couldn't even agree on the type of bottled water supplied at meetings.

While this new alliance is proving useful when it comes to the battle to cut costs, it is likely to be thorn in the side of Ecclestone as he has never really had to face a united front before.

Di Montezemolo pulled no punches this week, signalling that the teams are not only looking for a bigger slice of the 'F1 cake', but a greater say in other issues, such as circuits, television and even the timing of races.

Referring specifically to Ecclestone, di Montezemolo said: "I think sooner or later he has to stop", a clear reference to the F1 supremo's age.

Now Ecclestone has hit back, singling out di Montezemolo and Ferrari in what can only be seen as a divide and conquer tactic, revealing that the Italian team enjoys special privileges.

"The only thing he has not mentioned is the extra money Ferrari get above all the other teams and all the extra things Ferrari have had for years, the 'general help' they are considered to have had in Formula One," Ecclestone told The Times.

"Ferrari get so much more money than everyone else," he continued. "They know exactly what they get, they are not that stupid, although they are not that bright, either. They get about $80 million (54m) more. When they win the constructors' championship, which they did this year, they got $80 million more than if McLaren had won it."

In case the other manufacturers had forgotten it, which is doubtful, Ecclestone reminded them that it was the Italian team that changed sides in 2003 when the manufacturers threatened to start their own championship, thereby totally undermining what was seen as a highly serious threat to Ecclestone's empire.

"They were the only team that broke ranks with the other manufacturers," said Ecclestone. "Why did they break ranks?" That's where the $80 million comes in. We 'bought' Ferrari. We 'bought' Ferrari's loyalty. Our deal with Ferrari was that we 'bought' them so they would not go to the others."

In response to di Montezemolo's call for more transparency in the business side of the sport, Ecclestone pulled no punches: "They have the right to send people into the company and search for everything," he said. "Ferrari in particular, more than anybody, from day one, have had the right and they've never done it. We have bankers here and we've got CVC checking every single solitary thing. So anybody that starts saying that we've done anything wrong, I'll sue the a*** off them."

And in response to di Montezemolo's call for more money...

"What he should do, rather than asking for money, with all the extra money Ferrari gets, he should share all that amongst the teams," said the Englishman.

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