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F1 has a problem, admits Ecclestone


Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that Formula One is in crisis, and that he's not quite sure what to do about it.

Whilst Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were thrilling the crowds on track, behind the scenes there was increasing concern that tomorrow the sport would once again do a very good job of shooting itself in the foot.

Though Lotus owner Gerard Lopez dismissed talk of a boycott by his team tomorrow, Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley refused to rule out such action, even though such a move could do irreparable damage to the sport in a country still hurting from the debacle of Indianapolis 2005.

Ecclestone met with team bosses, in some cases twice, before inviting a number of journalists to discuss the situation facing the sport, a situation that, in part, has seen the collapse of two teams in the three weeks since the last round of the championship.

In a move that will confuse, and possibly strike fear into, his critics, Ecclestone admitted that the sport is in trouble and that he must take a share of the blame, before admitting that he's not entirely sure how the situation can be resolved.

"We have to decide the best way to sort this whole thing out," he said, according to Reuters. "Frankly, I know what's wrong but don't know how to fix it.

"No one is prepared to do anything about it because they can’t. The regulations have tied us up. The trouble with lots of regulations and lots of contracts is that we don’t think long-term.

"I've never felt helpless about anything," he admitted. "I'm not happy and we'll have to do something about it. The situation is such that if enough people want it resolved we can resolve it. It's a case of the people that are involved in the sport will have to want to look after the sport and be prepared to make some sacrifices.

"The problem is there is too much money probably being distributed badly," he continued, "and that's probably my fault, but like lots of agreements people make, they seemed a good idea at the time. Why not just bypass team bosses and go to heads of board? I think it’s probably what will have to happen."

Dismissing the threat of a boycott tomorrow, he said: "Forget all that crap. They will be racing, I give you a guarantee." Quickly adding "but I worry if they will be racing next year."

Friday's press conference highlighted the major chasm between the sort's haves and have-nots, not merely in terms of money but their approach to the sport, their philosophies. Ecclestone is aware that if the sport is to survive, let alone flourish, there needs to be a radical shake-up.

"We should tear all of the current contracts up, and start again," he declared. "We have to open the eyes of those people in a position to turn the lights on and off as to what they need to do because I wouldn't want to be in a position where I was too strong and Formula One disappears and someone says it is because of you it disappeared.

"I said to people (who are) getting a chunk of money that I would like to take a percentage of their performance-related payment, put that money together to divide among the three or four we know are in trouble but are not going to run away with the money and then I will put in the same amount of money. But there would not be one team that would think it was a good idea."

Insisting that he doesn't car how the money is divided, he pointed out that it is the big teams who cannot agree.

"It makes no difference to me how the money is shared out," he said. "If they sat down here with me now and said they want to share out all of the money we get in a different way, I would say, 'Good, give me the bit of paper'. It is getting the people who have invested in these engines to agree."

As if to prove his point, Niki Lauda and Marco Mattiacci, who were both present for the closing stages of the meeting, made it clear that their respective teams (Mercedes and Ferrari) are light years away from such an agreement.

"The shift has to be how to increase revenues," said the Italian, "the goal is not how to share in a different way the cake but how to make the cake bigger."

Now, putting everything else aside, just for a moment, when was the last time you heard Bernie admit to making a mistake?


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1. Posted by Kiwikaze, 03/11/2014 23:12

"I don't think a Boycott would deliver results... but a moving block of slow cars right across the track during the race, now that would guarantee coverage and send a message. "

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2. Posted by my tyres are going off, 03/11/2014 14:39

"No two ways about it the sport needs to change both behind the scenes and the event we see. Paying teams to circulate 120% off the pace is not the answer. Not paying Ferrari etc. to take part is also not the answer as with all due respect to Marussia they were not the reason most people paid a sky subscription or paid to get into the track. The answer is somewhere in the middle, and as always Bernie is saying one thing to encourage movement elsewhere. So 22 races next year with the extra cash going to support lesser teams? I honestly have no idea but sometimes F1 is more exciting to watch off track than on."

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3. Posted by nonickname, 03/11/2014 12:32

"Or watch MotoGP!"

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4. Posted by Hondawho?, 03/11/2014 11:38

"nonickname, IMHO, your comment "The FIA needs to call everyone around a table and lay down the law and those who are not happy with it have the right to leave." is the wrong way round.
In this instance the sport needs to agree what it wants and then to tell the FIA. The FIA are the ones who have created this mess it seems? FIA, FIM. UIM FIP, all too many I's and no action, typical mainland European bureaucracy in fact. Now we hear cars being fined for speeding behind a safely car…….. how many more rules do they need to implement? Too many rules not enough sport, blame the F "I"s for it………. Look at the time and lap difference between the cars that finished in the USA. horribly boring, how the TV commentators manage to continually talk it up baffles me. If anything, F1 has become endurance racing not balls out go for the finish, thats the issue and the sound of the cars of course………………22 drivers burping along for nearly two hours (well 18 drivers now) horrible……………."

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5. Posted by nonickname, 03/11/2014 11:11

"I think that Bernie has shown incredible balls in admitting he was wrong and trying to find a way out of the mess,including helping financially himself,however 2 of the worst offenders as per the above article did not,and will never agree. It is time that Todt actually did something....anything in fact to earn his keep. The FIA needs to call everyone around a table and lay down the law and those who are not happy with it have the right to leave."

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6. Posted by Darvi, 03/11/2014 9:59

"@scf1fan - I totally agree. The teams need to have a guaranteed income so that they can get sensible investment and that they know, over time, they will be able to develop their business. It isn't rocket science, however, Bernie needs to find a way out of the blind alley that he has created and start working for the good of the sport rather than just in the best commercial interest of FOM - otherwise they will own 100% of nothing. Be nice to see Jean Todt getting off the fence and rolling his sleeves up as well."

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7. Posted by karel, 03/11/2014 6:35

"The problems with F1 are easy to define. First it's completely money driven, affecting the teams, the drivers etc. Example: British market is important for Mercedes, no problem, we have a British driver and the examples are legio. Secondly F1 is like a surgery room completely desinfected and over regulated.
To be honest when you see the start, you've seen the whole race. Thirdly a F1 car is not driven anymore. It's steered by the pit. And maybe the most important: the passion is gone."

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8. Posted by scf1fan, 02/11/2014 19:03

"@MrShadow . . . Losing teams rewarded? Wow . . . Look, we are talking about a business model for a sport. If you want to argue that the NFL is doing it wrong, so be it. They don't have teams failing to show up or not meeting their bills. The "losing teams" in the NFL are being PAID for their contribution to the show. (Which good or bad, at any given game is +/- 50%.)

Now, no one that I've seen has argued that the leading teams shouldn't get more money, just not SO much more . . . F1 is still supposed to be a sport, not a Darwinian, top of the food chain, survival of the most moneyed. (Even Bernie is recognizing that.)"

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9. Posted by MrShadow, 02/11/2014 17:38

"scf1fan so losing teams are rewarded with extra money and better teams are prohibited in picking who they want. Does sound a bit artificial like DRS don't you think?
And exactly the artificial ways to make competition more equFerrari can not get a championship winner together, Williams made a top car with a modest amount of money, showing it can be done.
Reawring based on performance makes sense in a way that the teams with more TV exposure get more money. That does not necessarily means they drive at the front, a team managing to get TV time while at the back will get a reward while a team cruising off in the lead might get less.
The limiting of teams by a license has proven not to get better results as the free model that used to be in place, stop the protectionism and artifical constructions and let things settle themselves on the track.
Looking 40 years back, in 1974 there were 20 constructors entering 33 cars for 62 different drivers, most of which nobody will remember. There were only 3 engine manufacturers, and one supplied 90%$ of the field. Yhe big teams got the most money, the small ones were not surviving (soem time literally).

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10. Posted by scf1fan, 02/11/2014 17:06

"@MrShadow . . . As I understand it (and as I said, I'm not big on the NFL, but I did grow up in Cincinnati when the Bengals were an "expansion" team) that yes, new teams do get extra benefits. Not the least of which is a pro-rated portion of the TV revenue, more and higher draft picks, first (higher?) choice on free agents, etc. (And of course the knowledge that the "old" teams can't spend 10X more than they can . . . ) These "helps" are there to make the new teams as competitive as possible as quickly as possible; the league acknowledges that having a perennial "loser" is not a money maker, or good for the image of the sport. Does that sound familiar here? I doubt that New York or the other "big" markets really like this, because without those rules, they would have even more leeway to spend more money . . . But they accept it believing that if there were fewer teams, say only in New York, LA, and Chicago, no one else would watch and therefore their value would be less in absolute terms. (I.E. 1/32 of $10 billion is much better than 1/3 of $100 million . . . )

Using your example, Marussia CAN (has to) build a car capable of running within the 107% of MB for (currently, probably) 20% of the money; and that just allows them to enter the race. (As an engineer, I find that quite a feat actually!) Yet they will get $0 in return if they don't get into the top 10 at some time during the season. Now, I don't know the exact $/point in F1 at the moment, but in any case, MB will get the lions share of the money for building a car less that 7% faster that the slowest car in the field. In an individual physical sport (like running) it costs almost nothing to compete and the prize money can't make you go any faster. (Other than in motivation perhaps.) F1 is a sport irrevocably tied to money versus performance at some level.

So, define performance? Winner take all (or most) as it is currently the case, as you seem to advocate (?) or one could argue that Marussia should get 93% of the money that MB gets - because they do perform within the 107%. The small teams would be elated with the second suggestion, not only could they survive but they could then improve. I don't think (or argue) that should be the case, so there has to be something in between. The FIA and Bernie haven't helped the cost side of this with the constant rule changes, but a reasonably well run team should not be forced to run at a deficit if they show up and provide part of the show.

The losing NFL football teams (all 31 of them) still get paid very well! And when there is a "losing" football team up for sale, people with money line up to buy them because they are a profitable property. Wouldn't that be nice in F1?

(With that said - Go Nico! ;-)"

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11. Posted by willjam71, 02/11/2014 17:00

"It seems to me that it should be possible to restructure revenue distribution quite easily as some have said. Bernie just needs to tell them that they agree or go pound sand. Between sanctioning fees, TV rights, and official sponsors, there has to be a substantial amount per race on the table.

It should start with 20 race minimum schedule. From that, each team should get a base share, so $40mil per year to commit to two cars and full 20 races. From there, and there is still plenty left over as that is only $20mil per race to make up that amount per team, have a scale that goes up with the finishing places, all the way down to those who qualify and run the race. Not talking about millions for those near the back, but what about a few hundred thousand? Should still be doable.

Teams can then have a base each year of at least $40 mil on up, plus any sponsors they are able to sign. This ensures their survival as well as still gives incentive for strong finishes and wins. There needs to be allowance of B-teams as well, which with the softened regs Haas is effectively going to do in getting support, equip, and tech from Ferrari.

Don't worry so much about a cap, but make sure there is at least a bottom amount going to all teams. This should allow for basic survival...the rest is up to them. "

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12. Posted by MrShadow, 02/11/2014 15:57

"scf1fan, if I were to start a new NFL team from scratch, how would I be able to enter, and would all other teams give up a part of their revenue just because I entered? In a closed system itr is easy to make such model, but do we want F1 to become a closed system where teams are fixed regardless of how they perform?
A Marussia can build a car outside the 107%$ and cash in their share without performance to build up a budget for the next season.
Making a fair distribution of funds is needed, but let it be based on performance rather than equality. A new team will have to start with a budget they put together, not with a handout from the circus.

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13. Posted by scf1fan, 02/11/2014 15:28

"I'll reiterate a suggestion I've made previously in that the F1 money should take a hint and be handled similarly to how the NFL does it. (And I'm not a big US football fan . . . ) In the NFL, even the worst team is a valuable property and, baring total economic influences or mis-management, is worth more, year on year whether they win or lose. (Look at the bidding for the Buffalo Bills!) I believe the reason for this is in the way they manage the basics of costs versus revenues. The TV and other property rights are distributed more equally between the teams; this is the main part of "the pie" . . . as it get's bigger, they all make more money. The more successful teams will always be able to generate more money outside the sport for their investors, through advertising and marketing, etc., but the one thing they can't do is to utilize those funds to totally "stack" the performance deck against the rest of the league. This would be more difficult to police in F1 (I.E. in some form of a CAP) but the base level distribution of the known funds (TV rights, etc.) can be easily controlled.

To minimize the severity of this funding problem, the distribution curve has to be flattened! Say, 75% of the non administrative/FIA funds (I.E. prize monies) should be distributed between the (team) license holders equally, and then only the remaining funds distributed on a scale based on on-track performance; from first to last place. This would insure that even the last place team (assuming they show up and compete!) will get something for their efforts. Then taking travel and other equal costs out of the equations, teams should not be allowed to run at an operational deficit . . . the teams can then race as fast as their money and their creativity can go.

@MrShadow . . . For discussion . . . Why does their length of participation matter that much? Enzo isn't around, Bruce isn't around, Karl isn't around. Todays engineers, mechanics and support staff all expect to make a reasonable wage or they will go else where. When Ferrari (E.G. M.Mattiaci) is the oldest and only team remaining, (because they've "negotiated" the best deal!) no one will care. It is in Ferrari's interest to have a field of competitive teams to win against, or their "wins" will have no value. (And since they won't be able to fall back on Fiat in the future, (particularly if Marlboro is ever forced to goes away) perhaps they should think more on limiting the cost to some degree.)

I realize that is one way, Ferrari is so explicitly tied to F1 that they will probably always be there . . . and that is worth something. But as has been proven by EVERY other major manufacturing team (Honda, Ford, BMW, Jaguar, etc. (even MB was a bit iffy not that long ago)) they will always make decisions based on bottom lines and come and go. At that point it will be up to the smaller teams to fill in the gaps. (If there are any still around!)"

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14. Posted by Hondawho?, 02/11/2014 15:24

"Anyone up for crowd funding for Caterham? Within five years they would win the F1 championship ( assuming it still exists ) AND WITHOUT MERCEDES, FERRARI OR RENAULT! It's not rocket science but they need leadership not playboys running F1. Teams!"

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15. Posted by Hondawho?, 02/11/2014 15:13

"Possible format for five years.
F1 runs as two Races during the day and a "WSC" race (World Sports Car) in between.

F1 single seater anything goes (TBC) but variable air stabiisor and direction assistance allowed. Engines varable but handicapped depending on power. Tyres, i(f needed :-) will be open formula.

Sports cars. Based on sports road cars (not saloons)modified in anyway but must resemble the original car.

Only a suggestion!!!! "

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