News and views on motorsports

Friday, April 01, 2005

That Sly Greedy Old Man

Pitpass is running a story today that brings more light to the Bernie/Bankers/Formula 1 issue.

That the Banks via Speed Investments have majority control on the commercial rights to Formula 1 there is no doubt. But in a startling turn of events, it would seem that a "procedural error" could seal the fate of the sport.

Allow me to explain. You see many, many years ago Bernie was the owner of the now defunct Brabham team. Bernie then sold this team to concentrate on the running of Formula 1 circus (presumably). In any case, the Brabham team having lost Nelson Piquet to Williams in 1986 and made a complete hash of the 1987 season with its then-groundbreaking "skateboard" design concept, never fully recovered. The team sadly was slipping into the doldrums.

Anyhow, the terms of the Concorde agreement are such that teams receive a percentage of the television revenues of the sport. Naturally, the Brabham team received a percentage of it as well. So once Bernie sold the team he gives up the right to this share. Yes of course you correct in pointing out that as the controller of Formula 1 he earns more than being a team owner.

So far so good. But now it has emerged that the sale of Brabham to some bloke named Joachim Luhti was handled improperly. Therefore, according to the courts, Bernie may still be eligible for the share of the teams' television revenue. Back dated to 1988. Calculated thus so, that share amounts to something like 250 million pounds sterling.

Who's going to have to pay him? Why, the teams of course since they have received a larger share than they were entitled to. Startling revelation. A problem for the top teams. Disaster for teams like Minardi. Having to foot a bill of this nature at a time when everyone is strapped for cash would be devastating.

So you can guess what the Bernie will do next. Sign up to the new Concorde, hand their souls to Bernie or pay this bill. Yes, the new Concorde agreement, complete with unjust Ferrari veto.

I should think that even if teams like McLaren were to think of exiting the sport, they'd still have to cough up the cash. But given statements from Ron Dennis in recent months, he just might do that. And what of Renault, now in the hands of Carlos Ghosn who doesn't agree on Formula 1 participation anyway? He too might want to wash his hands clean of this messy affair and the sport.

I dread to think what would happen to this sport if these reports are true. Could this spell the end of things as we know it? What of the GPWC then? And don't the fans get any say at all? At end of the day, its our viewership and money that ultimately pays for the sport.

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