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Team boycott threatened in Oz?
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Team boycott threatened in Oz?
Posted By:   |  25 Mar 2009   |  12:34 am GMT  |  0 comments

I’m surprised more hasn’t been made of the stories in the last day or so about the meeting between Flavio Briatore, Ron Dennis and Bernie Ecclestone, where Flavio is supposed to have threatened a FOTA boycott of Melbourne if the teams were not paid some money they claim BE owes them under the terms of the extended Concorde Agreement.

According to Ecclestone in the Times, “Flavio said, ‘We’re not going to put our cars on the plane, we’re not going to Melbourne.’ He started it aided and abetted by Ron Dennis.”

The pair are reported to have backed down after Ecclestone called their bluff and rang the freight company to cancel the planes.

Bernie was left unimpressed that the pair had not followed through on their threats,
“If they come in here with a gun and hold it to my head they had better be sure they can pull the trigger, ” he said. “And they should make sure that it’s got bullets in it because if they miss they better look out.”

I’m in the lounge at Kuala Lumpur airport at the moment, half way to Melbourne and unable to ask the relevant people about this story, but I shall when I get to the paddock on Thursday morning.

It comes on the back of the fall out from the ‘winner takes all’ points fiasco last week, where the teams were being fingered for playing a disruptive role. FOTA boss Luca di Montezemolo keeps saying they want a calm atmosphere to move the sport forward, but instead the message is coming out that the aggro is being ramped up, with the teams portrayed as the agitators.

This is setting the tone for the season. I’ve a nasty feeling the racing is going to be incidental.

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  1. john g says:

    of course FOTA are being made out to be the trouble makers – they have opposed King Bernie! what i don’t understand is if the money that the teams were asking for is owed from 2008 or an advance for 2009 – and whether bernie is the one at fault for not paying money owed.

    and you are right about the racing being incidental, with all the political wranglings going on – this money situation, the points saga, budget caps, difuser questions… still it gives us all something to talk about if half the fields wings fall off on the first corner and everyone elses KERS blows up.

    the latest i heard to point a finger at the teams was Bernie again, claiming that it was the teams fault for the lack of the US GP as they wanted too much money to race there? i never heard of anything like that before, do teams request a certain amount of money for each race? i thought bernie just set a random (or should that be ransom) price… how can this be true when all the teams want to race in america and canada? he then goes on to say that it wouldnt go back to Indy in any case which implies that he has something personal against tony george. could road america be on the cards?

  2. George says:

    Does this strike anyone else as being incredibly childish? First the ‘they started it’ then bragging about how he risked endangering the sport over money which he probably owes them anyway, then this:

    “If they come in here with a gun and hold it to my head they had better be sure they can pull the trigger, and they should make sure that it’s got bullets in it because if they miss they better look out.”

    If I was a psychoanalyst I’d say it sounds like he feels up against the wall, maybe the teams are just waiting for him to dig his own grave.

  3. Jim Gardner says:

    I can’t think of anything more likely to turn me off F1 completely than a scenario where off-track politics becomes the bigger story than driving and drivers, again.

    Well, I say that, going back to a TV channel with incessant adverts and the world’s most annoying theme tune would switch me off too—badda dish!!

    But, seriously. I lived in America last year and the sheer volume of every kind of motor sport over there is mind blowing. They don’t seem to be constantly cracking each other’s heads open and feasting on the goo inside—they just get on with driving as quickly as they can around and around in circles—just the way we like it!

  4. Vaggo says:

    This is just the beginning. I see the teams going for it all and taking over F1 completely eventually. Bernie is 78 yrs old and cannot hold them back much longer. It’s a matter of time.

  5. Ace Best says:

    Wow…I really like the attitude of GRANDPA Bernie…he’s a real street fighter and a very tough negotiator,indeed..

    It’s funny though that businessmen as high classed as Flavio and Ron could easily throw an empty bluff like that…You would think that they would’ve made a plan B,at least..

  6. PaulL says:

    Good luck with the trip James. See if you can find some Channel 10 guys over here to give you an interview on the 09 season.

    Where should the FIA sit with rule changes? It’s obviously no good having three parties (FIA, teams, and fans) vexing each other.

    As a result of the bickering over the scoring system, there’s been no change at all. Though I admit I’m far happier with 10-8-6..etc than the silly 12-9-7.. system. Changes to the points system don’t occur often and to use this opportunity only to increase the victory margain by 1 point is foolish in my view. I like the tradition of a win being 10 points, if it can’t be the wins system.

    I wonder if it’s at all possible that we could revert back to the 1980s system. How about best 12 races count? It gives more incentive to win, it only punishes the constructor if a car fails (because all constructors points count), and it rewards some consistency. Personally though, I think for a driver in a top-2 car, 2nd or below is not an achievement worthy of a championship no matter how many times it’s achieved.

  7. Uppili says:

    We need to hear the other side of the story before making judgments. I am sure Flavio will come out with his side of the story though i don’t expect Ron to talk about it. Even if he does, we will know as much as we already know, courtesy of Ronspeak!

    But, i do struggle to believe the story. Of all people in F1, Ron and Flavio are two men who for sure would know that they cannot compete in this year’s championship if they don’t show up for the first race due to the Concorde agreement.

    Remember the ill fated Phoenix Grand Prix’s attempt to rise from the ashes (wink!) of Prost GP team after missing season opener in Australia?

    Slightly off topic: James, once in OZ, can you confirm if Brawn GP have a new livery or any sponsor launch occasion?

  8. Steve Temple says:

    This one could have been bigger than all the rest of the stories put together. Autosport reported it but it’s not news yet here in Melbourne. Called in at the circuit this morning and I must say the global financial crisis is having an impact.Turn 2 where BMW usually have a massive corporate area is now just an empty space. Great for us poor folk who stand in the outer.
    Looking forward too, James to your analysis over the weekend.

  9. Matthew says:

    I really hope we don’t get a season overshadowed by politics. The whole season is shaping up nicely and I for one have waited months, following various media about it. It would be a real shame if it again comes to be about the fights off the track.

    It’s tiresome. I wish even, if they do have these kinds of goings on, could they keep it quiet? ( unlikely I expect in this day and age ) So that we don’t get distracted from our idillic view of the pinicle of Motorsport.

    The more I hear about these threats, and politics, backstabbings, and complaining, the more they seem to lose their glamour, and it brings them down to a lower level, one that isn’t covered in glory, but ruled by some distasteful attitudes.

  10. rpaco says:

    Yes have cleaned up the quote from Bernie from two other versions I have read elsewhere.

    Unfortunately Bernie won, he upped their threat, they folded, they didn’t get the money and were made to look weak. They should have waited until they got to Oz then tackled Bernie in front of the mass media. ATM they look foolish.

    We shall rely heavily on the BBC and other journalists to get the full and accurate story to the public re the rules changes, FIA breaches of it’s own rules etc so please make sure that they are going to ask the right questions.

  11. Phil W says:

    Not a great way to set the tone for a season. I am very jaundiced in my view on Bernie, and this story says two things to me. One, that Bernie is somehow withholding money from the teams, which can only strengthen the FOTA resolve as the teams seek a greater cut of revenue. And two, that Bernie is impossible to negotiate with, to the extent of being a bully. We all know that he is a shrewd businessman and has played a huge part in building the sport up to its current standing, but everything I hear him say these days makes me question his standing at the top of F1. Saying ‘no’ isn’t negotiating.

    Should we be concerned about the man’s age? The business at the top of F1 is muddled and complex. Bernie should be spending his time restructuring it ready for his imminent retirement.

  12. Moog says:

    Yay more politics!

  13. Peter Freeman says:

    FOM and the FIA are the problem in F1.

    Ecclestone would put every last one of us on a fire and not blink an eyelid. He cares nothing for anyone or anything on this earth besides himself, his money, his power and of the two, he craves the power most of all. Mosley knows this and stays on the end of his finger at his beck and call.

    You are quite right James to say that racing is going to be incidental, it always has been to Ecclestone and Mosley.

    F1 needs to be rid of them, its becoming urgent.

  14. Glen D says:

    And here we go for another season!!!

    Maybe to get this all sorted quicker all those involved should have a Royal Rumble style mash up with the winner deciding the rules.
    Now that would be entertainment!!!

  15. john says:

    Ron Dennis and Briatore? Speaking for the whole of FOTA or just for themselves?

    It’s difficult to believe Ferrari wouldnt attend such an important meeting with a their representative.

    Meanwhile Massa says he’s feeling in form for the start of the season,but he thinks Brawn cars can have some more speed now.

  16. Peter says:

    At the end of the day car makers are OK without F1, teams can race somewhere else, but Bernie?

  17. Chris says:

    Will there be a meet and greet with the fans in Melbourne James ;p ?

  18. Mattw says:

    How were the teams ‘disruptive’ in the points fiasco?

    According to Max, it was Bernie who declared that the teams were behind the ‘winner takes all’ idea – which seems a very strange thing to say when FOTA themselves put forward a very different proposal.

    Did Bernie or the FIA actually ask the teams on this?

  19. What astounds me is that the events of the past couple of weeks have been attributed by the various parties involved to speculation and hearsay – and so publically. Reaks of pure amateurism.

    First off you have the FIA imposing new championship points rules on the strength of them having been told by Bernie that all the teams agreed to it, and against there own regulations.

    Secondly, you have the likes of Max Mosely talking to the privateer teams about budget caps and then using that as the basis for saying that (all?) teams have been consulted!

    I would suggest not the most thorough due diligence either on the part of FOM or FIA.

    Then, there are reports of clandestine meetings between Ron, Flav and Bernie where apparently threats were made by FOTA about a strike, with Bernie apparently calling their bluff.

    There must be more too it, because a) Ron and Flav are more canny than that, and b) they would have known how Bernie would react.

    And another thing!

    Now the teams are going to Australia under the cloud of protests and appeals over the diffusers used by Brawn, Williams and Toyota.

    This issue hase been lingering for nigh on 2 months, possibly longer. Surely there has been ample time for rule clarification from the FIA. They are not unaware of these issues…

    This season is going to be full of fireworks, and spectacluar clashes. And the racing may be pretty good too.

    More worryingly this sport is becoming very trade unionist.

    I’d like to nominate John Prescott be head of FOTA, and Maggie Thatcher to replace Bernie AND Max.

    Now there’s a thought…

  20. John Kilmartin says:

    FOTA have helped Bernie make himself look a fool in recent days. This is just Bernie returning the favour.

    Flav losing his cool and saying something rash in a private meeting is hardly news in itself.

    The reason why Bernie is attempting to publicly humiliate Flav, Ron and the “schmota” is where the story lies.

  21. Ben G says:

    I fear that, yes, the racing will become incidental at times this year. At the moment Fota is up 3 nil against FOM/FIA, and Ecclestone clearly feels the need to hit back.

    I simply cannot believe the boycott story as presented by Ecclestone. Would Briatore, with Renault feeling anxious about their committment to F1, and with Alonso bullish about the prospect of victories, suddenly threaten to not go to the opening race of the year? Similarly, it doesn’t fit with what we know about Ron Dennis that he would have “aided and abetted” Briatore in such a threat.

    It sounds as if Ecclestone was indulging in a bit of ‘spin’, but had actually forgotten to say ‘this is off the record’ during his lunch with The Times. If I was Briatore, and Ecclestone’s account is not true, I’d sue for libel.

  22. Colin S says:

    Bernie has always lived and died by this mantra;

    “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”

    He’s right. During the 2007 spy scandal he said that what F1 needed was a sex scandal. Look what happened in 2008. Whatever happens in Oz, the publicity machine is working overtime and nothing is likely to draw attention more than a full-on boycott threat. Nobody will ever forget USA 2005. Or was it ’06? haha.

  23. Vidge says:

    My understanding is that the reason ferrari were not there is that they (and the priveteer teams) are the only ones to have been paid, all the other manufacturer backed teams havent been paid the money owed to them.

    also i very much agree with what ben and john have said, this smacks of bernie trying to get his own back.

    Also now the FIA have annouced they will discuss with the teams the points system for 2010, hopefully bernie completely rediculous winner takes all system can be killed off for good! (i should think Mr E is less than happy about that!)

  24. Onyx says:

    As Alistair says the FIA have had two months to sort out the Diffuser argument-Funny how when it was just Williams and Toyota it wasnt such a big problem but Brawn coming in and blowing away everybody has made Ferrari and Mclaren in particular look pretty silly-seems to me they dont like being beaten by the new boys.Just like last year you will have to wait a while to find out who really won the race!

  25. Mike Ellison says:

    Flav and Ron might be in the right but I must say that it is pretty silly to make empty threats against Bernie. If you go up against people like him you have to be sure you can bring it off! Bernie isn’t going to back down on anything even if he know’s he’s cornered so you have to plan what you’re going to do when that happens.

  26. john g says:

    rpaco, the BBC ask the right questions? are you serious, the only questions that get asked of bernie and max are who do you want to win the race, or other guff like that. if they were to start asking probing questions, you can fully expect that suddenly their pitlane passes wont work!

    whilst i’d *love* to see a panorama investigation or something into all the dodgy dealings with max, bernie, and the FIA (all the money going here and there, agreements between people behind closed doors, ‘fortuitous’ arangements, threats etc.), it’s never going to happen (until they are gone perhaps).

  27. Benno says:

    > This is setting the tone for the season. I’ve a nasty feeling the racing is going to be incidental.

    Could be on to something here – two streams of fans. The ones into the racing and the ones into the politics.

    Come to think of it I don’t which I would prefer more: Alonso + Hamilton wheel to wheel or Max + Bernie tete to tete.
    :-)

  28. Stephen Kellett says:

    It’s funny though that businessmen as high classed as Flavio and Ron could easily throw an empty bluff like that…

    They should have called his bluff. CVC would be livid to lose two high profile contestants just days before, especially over money that is owed.

    If I was CVC I’d be looking at ways to remove Bernie. Behaviour that he is bragging about is a liability, not an asset.

  29. Stephen Kellett says:

    cares nothing for anyone or anything on this earth besides himself, his money, his power and of the two, he craves the power most of all.

    Sounds just like the Sith Lords in Star Wars. There are only ever two. The Master and the Apprentice.

    As far as I know though, neither of these two has a light saber, although apparently Bernie has a quite effective telephone.

  30. knoxploration says:

    I think Bernie’s being rather disingenuous by suggesting that the teams are responsible for the lack of the US and Canadian Grands Prix. If you look at the full quote, he goes on to state that “for the moment the teams do not want any more than 17 races”.

    In other words, we *could* still be racing in North America – except that Bernie has found 17 other places that were willing to give him more money, had more prestige, or still had a binding contract to hold a race.

    The teams aren’t required to attend more than 17 races in a season, and quite rightly don’t feel like attending an 18th or 19th race without reimbursement for what is an extra expense on their part. Hence, they’ve asked Bernie for more money.

    It could be that they expected more than would have allowed Bernie to make a profit from holding a US or Canadian race, but you know what – I rather doubt that. To be it seems more likely that, after paying off the teams, Bernie just wouldn’t have been making quite the extortionate profits that he’s getting from other Grands Prix – and that in Bernieland, not making an extortionate profit is akin to not making a profit at all.

    I somehow feel the teams are just proving to be a convenient scapegoat for Bernie here, and he’s hoping the quote will help turn public sentiment against them for his own benefit.

  31. Arnet says:

    As a trained psychotherapist, I can agree with your assessment. When people start getting combative or defensive it’s usually because they feel they are coming from a weakened position. Like a dog that bites because it’s scared.

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