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F1 teams warned to brace for financial storms

Not even the richest teams such as Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren, are safe from a skidpan, Ecclestone warns

Gulf News

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone gave the grand prix hierarchy plenty to ponder as they stretched out in their first and club class seats en route to Australia for the season's opening race this weekend.

Just before they flew, he voiced a stern warning to all 12 teams that financial constraints are looming and that they should not view the world through rose-tinted glasses.

The 82-year-old ringmaster of the multi-million-pound show urged them all to prioritise money matters and rejig their ideas on the spending sprees that are the hallmarks of the front-runners. Not even the richest teams, the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren, are safe from a financial skidpan, was his warning.

And he added: "There are too many people in F1 running around blinkered to the possible problems — and they obviously like to see the world as they want it to be... the sun is shining, life is delightful... not as it really is — threatening.

"Their rose-coloured glasses are blinding them to reality. They should wake up to the fact that the world is in recession and re-think how to spend their money, not just for their own benefit but for the sport in general." Ecclestone's mantra, delivered with typical timeliness as the upcoming season gets underway in the farthest reaches of the globe, is designed to shake the top teams out of their self-satisfied torpor.

Refocus on basics

Whether it will or not is debatable, but he went on emphatically: "The teams have to learn to be competitive without tonnes of money. They have re-focus on the basics — racing, spending on our sport and not on baronial motorhomes and all kinds of expensive entertainment. My message is ‘change your glasses and tighten your belts. Stop spending more than you need to'."

Main players like Red Bull and Ferrari do not appear to have any cash flow issues, but it is a different story down among the also-rans where HRT, Marussia and Caterham have struggled either to get their new cars ready for pre-season testing or have been tempted to sign well-heeled and sponsored drivers, or both.

Typical of some of the annual outlays are Ferrari on $406 million (Dh1.4 billion), McLaren $402 million, Renault $325 million and Red Bull £252 million. Drivers' wages work out like this: Fernando Alonso at Ferrari is on $40 million, Felipe Massa, his number two, earns $13 million, while double-champion Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are paid $14 million

"You could install a mandatory budget for all teams," said Ecclestone controversially. "Looking after the interests of the smaller outfits — but the bigger boys don't like it and would fight it.

"There is little chance that the main and richer teams would slash their spending to match that of the minnows."

Bernie's scheme is, really, a re-run of the suggestion mooted (but disregarded) by Max Mosley, his old friend and former leader of the FIA, the sport's ruling body. "The plan could well be revived and included in the next Concorde Agreement," he said. "I would welcome it and, yes, I believe it could happen. But it's like everyday life — try to get two people to agree on anything is difficult enough. Just try it with 12 team principals."