Ecclestone’s response to Montezemolo is an attempt to break FOTA’s unity

Ecclestone called the Ferrari president a \"press officer\"

Ecclestone called the Ferrari president a "press officer"

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 ?ǣ 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.

Read more: FOTA wants more money for F1 teams – it should get some for circuits too

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45 comments on Ecclestone’s response to Montezemolo is an attempt to break FOTA’s unity

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  1. Eddie Irvine said on 20th December 2008, 12:02

    …There is nothing more to say. F1 and its president, Max are corrupt. They are not to be trusted .They made F1 buisness destroying its pure racing spirit by favouring one particular team, ferrari.

  2. Alex Cooper said on 20th December 2008, 12:09

    This made me laugh – an entirely predictable response from Bernie.

    When the teams (currently known as FOTA, but previously the GPMA, etc. etc.) start grumbling about the running of the sport Bernie gets out his bazooka of subtlty and aims it in their direction.

    Trouble is, with Max pushing to reduce costs and the current economic outlook it’s a very logical response from the teams to want to alter F1’s outside perception and want to know more about how the F1 money-go-round works.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this one ends. I can see another breakaway threat arising.

  3. Phil B said on 20th December 2008, 12:26

    Well there we have it, all of Ferrari’s recent championships, including Schumacher’s are tainted. Bernie’s motives may be less than honourable but I’m glad someone in power has finally admitted it.

    Ferrari cheat.

    • Nic said on 26th June 2009, 4:18

      Ferrari made the history with F1 and their way to do R&D on automotive engineering. It is unfortunate there are people cannot see that. Ferrari has always honoured the sport, no need to cheat. Ferrari deserves respect for what they do in the automotive engineering and in the motor sport.

  4. beneboy said on 20th December 2008, 12:34

    “They were the only team that broke ranks with the other manufacturers – why did they break ranks?” he said. “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.” – Ecclestone

    Didn’t F1 used to be a sport ?

    “The reason the Canadian Grand Prix is finished has been discussed with all the teams, including him (Monte), and it was agreed that what Canada was paying was nowhere near enough,” Ecclestone said.

    That confirms it guys, the history, integrity & fans of F1 are irrelevant, it’s only money that matters now.

    Do you think these people realise how much they’re damaging F1 with this kind of childish argument going on in the press ?

    Why would any potential sponsor or new team want to join a sport that is so obviously corrupt and where one team is favoured above the others by the organisers & the governing body ?

  5. Robert McKay said on 20th December 2008, 13:07

    Bernie’s just stirring. As Keith said we know large parts of this story already. We know Ferrari get more money than the others, and we know that they were the first to break of the manufacturers previously and sign up with Bernie for another term.

    Bernie is just putting it in slightly more emotive language than that. “Bought” is a very strong word in this context, but we know they were bought.

    In essence the point of the whole GPMA WAS to be bought. The threat to go run their own series was designed to ensure the FIA did the “right thing” and gave the teams more money. Ferrari breaking ranks first and being bought was to an extent just an extension of that. Clearly the other teams in FOTA have either forgiven/forgotten, or agreed that for the moment it is to be treated as irrelevant.

    The comments on “FIA help” are just stirring plain and simple. Bernie feels his back is slightly to the wall and is coming out with his claws. It’s a comment maximally designed to drive a wedge between Ferrari and the rest of FOTA.

    It’s all part of the political game of F1 and I urge people to hang fire on the “cheat” comments for a bit yet.

  6. HounslowBusGarage said on 20th December 2008, 13:29

    This is Bernie at his worst. As Robert Mckay says, he’s “coming out with his claws”. But I wonder how much truth there is behind his rather intemperate words; is this just another stream of Bernie-isms, like his claim that the teams had all discussed and were in favour of the medal system?
    Now Max and the FIA will have to respond with a righteous tirade to distance themselves from this ill-judged assertion about ‘help’ for Ferrari, otherwise there might be a few writs flying about.
    Could be fun in the New Year.

  7. Too Good said on 20th December 2008, 14:02

    Ferrari getting the biggest piece of pie amongst the team was a known fact. The entire GPMA initiative of non Ferrari teams was to get the then Concorde agreement revised and get better share of revenue as compared to Ferrari.

    Infact Bernie/Max didn’t care for GPMA then was they were confident, as long as Ferrari is on their side their interest were safe and GPMA led rival series wouldn’t have got public support without Ferrari in it.

    The internal conflict amongst GPMA member ultimately led to its demise.

    The notion that Ferrari is F1 and F1 is Ferrari has given Ferrari its unique position on negotiation table. I had put in various forums Ferrari’s involvement as Engine & car supplier to A1GP was shrewd move by LDM to get Bernie to cough up bigger piece of pie to Bernie. If Ferrari was able to stick the A1GP move. LDM would have been more agressive and I suspect wouldn’t have joined FOTA in first place. He would have continued his separate negotiations with Bernie/Max. That Ferrari were not able to deliver the A1GP cars in time for this season and season opener had to be scrapped then not all the teams got car to participate in following events.
    Its not coincidence that Ferrari joined FOTA around the same time as their A1GP operations didn’t start as they expected. I had also raised doubts on other teams bosses letting LDM lead the FOTA initiative.

    Anyways, its interesting to see Bernie/Max washing each other dirty linen in public ( of course those who know last concorde agreement knew the above facts). Is this genuine fight or just a eyewash. coz in F1 anything is possible and infact this kind of pot stirring keeps fans involved with sport between the races ;)

  8. Good point Too Good, Bernie and co love all this commotion in the closed season, keeping people interested and discussing F1 is Bernies main concern, however I feel there is some real meat on the bones in this case. Bernie has genuinly been got at with these comments and has responded typically with poorly valed comments about helping Ferrari. Most informed fans will find these remarks comical in that he hasn’t said anything most of us didnt know already, but it does muddy the waters and will give Max a bit of a headache (and for me thats always a good thing)

  9. theRoswellite said on 20th December 2008, 16:42

    Bernie is such a good businessman.

    I hope his business acumen doesn’t ruin F1 in the coming “economic winter of our discontent”.

    Bernie is such a good businessman.

  10. Blimey! Why did the other teams agree to Ferrari getting so much more of the F1 money pie. If Luca wants the teams to get more pie money, does this mean it will be evenly split amongst all the team? I doubt it. Don’t these guys understand that these spats are just undermining theirs and the sports integrity and that they are only successfully showing themselves to be incapable in far to many ways I could not be bothered to mention here.

  11. Too Good said on 20th December 2008, 17:23

    @Colin – If not for the so many wet races and interesting on track races, there are seasons when on track affairs get so boring in F1 that these kind of fake WWE style battle keep Fans busy chewing something.

    As has been said Robert earlier, nothing that has been said before is not known to those who have been following the circus for years now.

  12. Chaz – The other teams didn’t agree to Ferrari getting more money. As others have mentioned above, a few years ago the GPMA threatened a breakaway championship as a negotiating ploy to get more of the income generated by F1. Bernie countered this by saying that the teams who renewed their commitment to F1 first would get a larger share of the pie. Ferrari promptly signed up, as did Williams shortly afterwards. That’s why they get more.

    The rest is just Bernie posturing. Bernie says whatever suits him at the time regardless of whether it’s true or even if it completely contradicts what he said the day before. The trick, as ever, is to take it with a pinch of salt.

  13. Funny thing is that Ecclestone’s comments are completely irrelevant in this case, since he’s pointing them at Ferrari, while Montezemolo was, from my point of view, speaking on behalf of FOTA.

    Keep moving, people. Nothing to see here.

  14. Smitty said on 20th December 2008, 18:44

    Whoa, I never expected Bernie to stoop so low. What he said about Ferrari is common knowledge already!

    Like what Lustigson and many other said before him – nothing to see here folks. Bernie’s just scared of losing more money.

  15. Nothing to see here?????

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha etc. etc…

    Yes, Ecclestone was talking about Ferrari.

    Yes, it’s only confirming what we knew all along, through all the disgusting stewards and appeals court and GPWC rulings and blatant favouritism in every area of the “sport” (let’s stop calling it that now, shall we?). But that doesn’t make the actual disclosure of both the financial deficit and the “other help” by Bernie any less astounding.

    But if I bother to watch the start of the 2009 season, which is far from assured, supposing one or both of the Ferraris simply runs away and hides, even if none of the standard-issue “controversial” penalties are levied on McLaren or the others, then what am I now supposed to conclude about the glorious Ferrari win? An extra $80M well spent? Wow, what an amazing feat that turns out to be. NOT.

    It serves to make Ferrari’s 2008 (and 2007, for that matter) efforts look particularly pathetic. What happened to all those extra millions while the boys were LOSING the 2008 WDC, exactly? So, sponsorship disparities aside, and despite all those points taken off them by Alan Donnelly, this means that McLaren and their inexperienced driver still won the WDC in spite of a $180M deficit, thanks to the sport’s governance? And despite the cumulative effect of an $80M deficit, year on year, prior to that??? Whoa. Incredible. Simply incredible. And there are people who support the Ferrari team? What for? I mean, what for?

    It’s a fantastic cap to McLaren’s ’08 achievement, actually, for us to glimpse the behind-the-scenes tilting of the competition, such that it is. Simply astounding. How did McLaren do that, post $100M fine? Just amazing.

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