Brown urges Liberty to press ahead despite threats


It will mean a trip back... back... back in time, to the old-look Pitpass, but it will be worth it.

The Friday press conference at the 2003 Canadian Grand Prix was an absolute classic, as Ron Dennis went head-to-head with Minardi owner Paul Stoddart.

At the heart of it all was the so-called 'fighting fund', a move which saw the big teams, led by Dennis and McLaren, line-up against their smaller rivals, led by Stoddart and Minardi, as the 'minnows inevitably called for more money and the big boys refused to yield.

Merely reading the words gives an idea of the tension between the two team bosses, neither refusing to give an inch, both clearly contemptuous of the other.

And in amongst it all, though pleading poverty and keen to benefit from the fighting fund, but unwilling to upset the big boys, was Eddie Jordan, for once lost for words and who subsequently came in for some harsh - but somewhat delicious - criticism from Stoddart.

Fifteen years later and as Liberty squares up for a fight with the big teams - again over money - that could change the face of the sport - and to a much more serious degree than the banishing of grid girls - it is McLaren, now led by Zak Brown, that identifies with the smaller teams as the sport's new owner prepares for battle with the big guns.

Brown believes that Liberty must stand its ground and if that means losing a couple of said big teams so be it.

"I think Liberty needs to focus on what is best for the sport and what is best for the fans," he told journalists at a media lunch at the MTC today. "If that means a team or a manufacturer doesn't support that, then they need to be prepared to recognise that they are not going to make everyone happy.

"Their centreing needs to be on what is best for the sport," he continued. "I would rather lose one team, replace them and have ten teams, than have one or two teams only in the championship."

Asked if such a tactic could see Ferrari - which has already warned of its intention - and Mercedes quitting F1, the American said: "I think that is highly unlikely, but I think anything is possible. Therefore we need to land on a set of rules that allow those that are looking at the sport to be able to come in. In the unexpected and hopefully highly unlikely situation that they would leave, the sport needs to go on.

"I think Ferrari is a unique case because they are Ferrari," he admitted, "but we have lost BMW, we have lost Toyota, and we have lost Honda before," he insisted, omitting to mention (new) engine supplier Renault which has used F1 like a revolving door in the past. "We've all seen manufacturers come and go in the sport and it has always survived. So we have got to write rules moving forward about what is best for the sport, not what is best for the manufacturers."

Reflecting on that 2003 press conference, it's hard to believe that this is the same team we are talking about, but then again it isn't... the McLaren of 2018 is a shadow of what it once was.

While understanding why certain individuals were conspicuous by their absence from Dennis' leaving bash at the Royal Albert Hall last month, one can't help feel that even Paul Stoddart, now providing the cars for the F1 Experience programme, would be surprised by how things have changed at Woking and the new management's willingness to play shill for the sport's new owners, much like Brown's opposite number at Red Bull.

Kind of ironic really, when McLaren is currently urging everyone to "be brave"

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Published: 08/02/2018
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