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

2009 F1 season

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 – 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

  1. The whole thing can crash and burn, as far as I’m concerned.

    Toby – what you say about fans being fans is exactly right but not every F1 follower is a Ferrari OR McLaren partisan and surely no impartial observer can look at this “we bought Ferrari” story and be anything other than simply disgusted?

    To the concerns expressed above about losing more “casual” fans since this is in the mainstream press – I’m not sure why I should care. I can’t see why it would not be a good thing if this entire corrupt, disgraceful house of cards came tumbling down and something else rose from the ashes, sans Max, Alan, Bernie and their cronies. It would be, simply, great, and there are people who can run a race series in this world. There will always be huge demand for a premier racing series so “F1″ (by some name) will always exist.

    The teams have all been kept feeding at the trough for way too long. For me the only meaning in recent years has been in seeing the giant slayers like Hami in ’08 or Alonso in ’06 beating the uber-favoured team in charge IN SPITE of everything stacked against them. But it hasn’t been a real competition for years. If the global economic downturn has a silver lining for me, this will be it – revelations like today’s and hopefully a major, major shake-up at the top. Bring it on. Let’s see some damage.

  2. Flip & Fill said on 21st December 2008, 0:15

    I understand your position Sean, personally I’d prefer FOTA to get their act together & demand the necessary changes be made to F1.

    I’d quite happily follow any breakaway series or any new series that rose from the ashes of F1 if you were to get your wish and few things would make me happier than to see the end of Bernie & Spankies reign of terror within F1. I’d just be sad to see it all collapse, it’s been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember.

  3. ok so Im lost. really.totally. is it only me who felt that Hamilton (from Macca ;))was favoured in 2007? because I keep hearing about Ferrari all the time. Sean?

  4. theRoswellite said on 21st December 2008, 0:57

    (additional)…

    I think Mr. Ecclestone is showing a bit of discomfort over this issue.

    Why else would he trash, publicly, the most famous team in his own series? Perhaps just trying to keep the troops in formation? And didn’t he, again to the media, disparage Honda for leaving F1.

    Strange behavior from one, so normally in control of the moment.

    Maybe we need to show him more understanding, as the true fans we are, considering his financial problems of late.

  5. Manatcna said on 21st December 2008, 1:27

    Ferrari getting extra help?

    Like we didn’t already know that

  6. As a long time F1 fan (as most of us, since as long as I can remember), I always see the same pattern on F1 management.-

    F1 always favors what sells the most. This year (and 2007 from my point of view) the sensation Lewis Hamilton brought to the sport, made Ecclestone team up on his side, but as said above, Ferrari is still the major team and almost a synonym to “Formula 1″.-

    So F1 will always favor their “Stars”. And this “fight” between LDM and Eccleston is no other thing than their negotiation tactics to retain their star rating.-

  7. Lots of banks are currently getting a shakeup (or a shakedown?).

    I hope this spat sees Bernie and CVC (or is it CCV?) ousted from control. It has been stated on the Pitpass wesbsite that 50% of all F1 revenue goes to the rights holder and most of their earnings is spent on interest on its loans. Get rid of them and teams and circuit owners could earn or save $1 in every $2.

    Millions of people are losing their houses in the global depression. Maybe it’s time that CVC/CCV lost their little house of cards and we got back to some serious, un-manipulated racing.

  8. HounslowBusGarage said on 21st December 2008, 9:15

    This is the last sentence quoted from Montemolla’s (sic) criticism of the current F1 commercial rights holder-
    “Do you think it is normal that we pay unbelievable amounts for hospitality to promote ourselves at the races?”
    Can anyone explain what it means?

  9. Flip & Fill: Your WWE reference (Comment 20) got me to thinking. Doesn’t the public sniping between Bernie and Luca sound like the pre-match hype between two wrestlers?

    This will either go away quickly or drag on through the preseason as the ultimate silly season entertainment.

    And could Bernie’s “favortism” comment have also been a reference of Spanky’s over the top “punishment” of McLaren over Spygate, not to mention Max’s down playing of Renault’s far worse transgressions???

    I don’t mean to re-argue the merits of those points, we all have our opinions, but I have to wonder if Bernie knows the inside story of Spygate and any possible Ferrari complicity. Hence his comments about favoritism.

    When it comes to possible conspiracy I tend to run deep!! Can’t wait to read Luca’s responses.

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st December 2008, 14:33

    Hounslow – the teams get to use the Paddock Club to entertain the sponsors. It’s very expensive, it gives their guests a slap-up meal and a good place to watch the action from. I went to the Ferrari club at Silverstone on the Friday, this post has some pictures:

    Inside the Paddock Club with Ferrari

  11. Seems like some of us has forgotten that Monte spear heads FOTA, he was asking for more money on behalf of them, he’s not a fool…. he probably knew Bernie would retaliate in such a manner.

    In the few days since this has happened the F1 teams haven’t come forward with their own statements like they used to in the old days. i’m guessing that FOTA is readying another meeting to tackle Bernie, they’ve beaten S&Max together.

    also Monte stated the days of “divide and conquer” are over, Kudos to FOTA.

    GeorgeK and Flip and Fill (by the way, cool name flip and fill, fan of trance are you?) WWE, its funny you mention WWE merchandise versus F1, even stranger that while WWE merch is much MUCH cheaper than F1 gear hence more of it for the public, it doesn’t even look half as stupid as F1 gear.

    I’d feel like a douche in an F1 cap, but my triple H tshirt takes pride of place on my chest, oh yeah!.

  12. Well if youre marriage was ending and the ex was reportedly getting half of youre hoard/earnings? and someone was saying that you werent going to be able to make that money back later on then you would start to slag them off a bit wouldnt you?
    Bernie has always thought he was God almighty and the world and the FIA were his toys – the mighty midget(Napoleon complex) – has always divided and conquered – Max would just give the upstarts a good thrashing to keep them in their place – on their collective knees kissing his behind – so hopefully it’s coming to an end and we start to see racing cars and less of dubai,etc where they prefer camels

  13. Haggis said on 21st December 2008, 16:29

    The statement from Bernie was not him being backed into a corner and hitting below the belt in a panic. Its not even about Ferrari.

    Its a political statement made with a cool clear head. Bernie is pointing out that the last time the teams used collective bargaining to hold him to ransom, he ended the rebellion by buying a couple of them off. Its calculated to sow the seeds of distrust behind the united front at FOTA. He stopped just short of putting the offer on the table for him to do it again.

    The teams are in a classic prisoners’ dilema. If they all hold the line, collectively they they will be better off. But the first teams to break the united front will benefit more, at a cost to the collective.

  14. Flip & Fill said on 21st December 2008, 17:35

    Thanks Sush.

    The name is one my friend and I used to DJ under in the mid 90s, early techno was more our thing but I’ll happily dance to a bit of trance :~)

    As for the WWE merchandise, you are spot on about the design. Considering the number of designers within F1 it never ceases to amaze me how ugly a lot of their clothing looks.
    Ferrari normally do a good job but they’re Italian so have no excuse but some of the other teams gear looks like it’s been designed by a blind man with only limited use of his fingers.

    They then have the cheek to slap huge price tags on them and wonder why few people buy it.

    Some of the modern WWE clothing looks very good and they’ve mostly moved away from the obvious & cheesy design with wrestlers in action poses. A lot of it looks good enough that you can wear it going to a club & any non-wrestling fans wouldn’t even know it was merchandise.

    The children’s merchandise is priced well, your kid can have an entire bedroom of WWE gear for little more than what you’d pay for non branded alternatives. The clothing is reasonably priced & there’s a huge variety to chose from no matter who you support while the range of toys puts F1 to shame.

    I bought my nephew a replica Ferrari for Christmas last year & my sister won’t let him touch it because of how much it cost, when you look for other kids toys they’re few & far between and can cost a fortune. Compare this to the price of WWE stuff that is cheap enough that I’ll buy him at least one figure or toy a month. How much money is F1 losing out on because the merchandise just isn’t available ?

    You then look at the way the WWE promotes itself, they produce several weekly in house review shows that keep you up to date with everything that’s happening, their website is stone cold stunning (I love wrestling puns), the amount of information available about the past, present & future of the WWE is unbelievable.
    They have constant fan interaction with votes, blogs & live chats with the people in the “sport”.
    They operate their own YouTube page where you can watch action from the shows as well as promotional videos, interviews & documentaries.
    You can also buy DVD’s of all main events as well as DVD’s about specific wrestlers & periods of the
    “sport”.

    Imagine how good it would be if F1 could do this, the WWE have hired lots of people who do what Keith is doing with this site and have given them the resources to make one of the best fan sites available on the net.

    I mean no disrespect to Keith but think how much better this site (or a licensed official version of it he was running) would be if people like him were given the sort of access to the sport that Vince’s staff get as well as being able to provide high quality video that was provided by the sport.

  15. HounslowBusGarage said on 21st December 2008, 18:16

    @ Keith.
    Thanks for the explanation, but does Montezemelo mean that FOM charge the teams to use the Paddock Club for the guests of the teams? Seems very bizarre.

  16. Arthur954 said on 21st December 2008, 20:40

    Ferrari is the Cosa Nostra of F1 : Now we understand all those rulings from the stewards, and many other things. They feel like they own the sport

  17. Jonatas said on 22nd December 2008, 14:12

    Can anyone say Fisa-Foca war all over again?

  18. usF1fan said on 22nd December 2008, 16:09

    His shot at Ferrari getting more than the other teams was irrelevant. Ferrari brings more fans to the sport than any other team (some of which are just rooting against them). The interesting, and effective, jab was about them (Ferrari) getting preferential treatment. If any part of his statement makes waves it will be that.

  19. I don’t think it’s irrelevant if Ferrari has received $400M more from F1 than any other team since 2003. That’s a full year’s entire budget for a top team, meaning they should surely be a full year ahead in their development by now. Whether they have brought $400M more in “value” to F1 by, er, well, being Ferrari (as has been argued) is highly debatable – personally I think not but it’s open to debate. But how on earth they have managed to lose the WDCs to both McLaren (while an additional $100M down, i.e. half a billion (!!!) dollars short in the period) and Renault (with an even bigger budget shortfall, and twice!) in the same period just beggars belief.

    If the $80M figure was known already, it wasn’t known by me. It melts the mind, frankly. In that sense, Bernie’s comment about preferential treatment is the one that’s telling us all what we knew already, though it’s also breathtaking to hear.

    None of this stops me from siding with FOTA in the FOTA vs. Bernie vs. Max smack-up. I’d like to see 100% team unity and for Bernie and the FIA to crash and burn. But Ferrari’s reputation is certainly a casualty here. Even if you’re not disgusted at these hitherto under-the-table dealings between Bernie and Ferrari, and I am, it’s hard to escape the obvious conclusions about what was achieved on the track. If it weren’t for the sheer, skin-crawling nastiness of events like Monza-06, mass dampers, tyregate ’03, spygate and the $100M fine, Spa ’08, Japan ’08 and the rest, it would just be a vast amount of cash, but to hear they had all that AND $400M and still lost, well it’s just vast. Simply vast.

  20. motion said on 27th December 2008, 23:02

    Forget the cars … this is a sports promoters business. Like prize fighting the top fighters can negotiate based on what money they bring to TV and the box office. If someone else spends the money they can knock them off, show they are in it for the long haul, and then do the same. You could have had Jaguar or even British Leyland if they had their act together.

    My New Years prediction is that the F1 franchise loses the teams and venues in/after season ending 09 and it is bye bye Bernie and CVC (and the bankers that backed them).

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