When Bernie Ecclestone has something to say, he calls the The Times:
Ferrari get so much more money than everyone else. They know exactly what they get, they are not that stupid, although they are not that bright, either. They get about $80 million (about £54 million) more. When they win the constructors’ championship, which they did this year, they got $80 million more than if McLaren had won it.
This is an extract from his response to Luca di Montezemolo’s seating criticism of Ecclestone’s governance of F1 earlier this week. It’s the usual belligerent stuff from Ecclestone, and it suggested Montezemolo and FOTA have got him rattled.
Montezemolo first made clear his unhappiness with Ecclestone’s running of F1 following the Singapore Grand Prix. But he was only ever going to look foolish criticising an event many considered a triumph, at which Ferrari had performed embarrassingly poorly, and Ecclestone slapped him down with a withering comeback.
This time Montezemolo’s punches seem to be hitting their mark. Earlier this week he revealed FOTA’s determination to follow up the cost cuts agreed with Max Mosley with an increase in revenue for the teams. In terms of reducing the financial burden of competing in F1, cutting costs and increasing revenues are two sides of the same coin.
Ecclestone’s reaction following Singapore was to ridicule Ferrari’s performance in the race. This time he is trying to ridicule Ferrari by pointing to the fact that, the last time the teams united to try to extract more favourable terms from Ecclestone, in 2005, Ferrari was the first team to switch and netted themselves an extra $80m by doing so (which was known at the time).
What is particularly astonishing in Ecclestone’s latest remarks are the dark hints about ‘general help’ given to Ferrari:
The only thing [Montezemolo] 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.
If Ecclestone is admitting the FIA bends the rules in favour of Ferrari (like when one of their cars is released from the pits ‘unsafely’, or they get overtaken by a rival) expect a thundering denunciation from Max Mosley, probably in tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph if not sooner.
But that’s probably not what Ecclestone is saying – this is a reaction calculated to try to discredit Montezemolo and weaken his position as president of FOTA. It’s ‘divide and conquer’ once again – precisely the tactics Montezemolo says FOTA is immune to.
Ecclestone is banking on the teams continuing to object to Ferrari getting a greater share of the pot. However if Montezemolo has already persuaded his FOTA cohorts that Ferrari is an essential part of F1 and deserves that extra money, Ecclestone has one fewer weapon to use against him.