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Montezemolo: Ecclestone is vital for F1's future

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo believes Bernie Ecclestone's continued control over Formula 1 is crucial if the sport is to secure its long-term future. Di Montezemolo, who was speaking at a pre-Christmas press lunch, likened Formula One to a "prison" making it very clear that unless the teams receive a greater share of the spoils and a better say in how F1 is run post the 2012 season, then the teams will set up their own series. This story is a familiar one. In 2009 Ferrari led a splinter group of seven teams who all threatened to quit the sport unless the governing body backed down over the planned introduction of a budget cap. Which the FIA did with then president Max Mosley leaving the sport instead of Ferrari. "We have Formula 1 in the heart and the mind, but we don't want to be in the prison of Formula 1," said the 63 year old Italian. "At the end of 2012 our contracts - all the teams – will expire with [F1 shareholders] CVC, and we will think about what to do." The next two years are expected to see many long, tough decision to build a new Concorde Agreement. As well as renewed talk about teams considering a breakaway if they cannot get the extra finances they want to earn from the commercial rights holder. However, even though the Ferrari president did say the future path for the teams is far from certain. He was adamant that Bernie Ecclestone must stay at the helm. "For me, and I want to make this very clear, the presence and the rule of Bernie is a priority. Formula 1 cannot be run by the stock exchange or good – or not-so-good – financial people. We need people with experience, credibility, personality to talk together about the future of Formula 1." Di Montezemolo said he could envisage three scenarios, for the teams in the long term. One agreeing a deal with CVC. Two finding an alternative commercial partner. Or three, the team looking after the commercial aspects themselves. "Theoretically speaking, we can have one of three alternatives. One is that we renew with CVC. For how many years, we have to discuss. But I am in favour of many years because I don't want to be back every three or four years. So assume five-to-eight years. Second, we want to ensure that Bernie will remain in a strong position. How long? I hope for a long time. It is not a new choice; it is to continue as it is. "The next option, theoretically, is that we can find a different company [promoter] and start discussions." Thirdly, the Italian added: "Of course, the name Formula 1 is very important, but I don't think it needs this name to exist. There are theoretically – and I emphasis theoretically – options to do our own company, like the very successful business model that is the NBA in the United States." "Theoretically, we can establish our own company. At this point of time we would theoretically offer to Bernie to be chairman. More than honorary chairman – a chairman. "At the end of the day, this business is not so sophisticated. You have to do deals with TV, with the tracks, and you have to be prepared to look at new technologies, because if you look at the next 10 years of Formula 1, the internet and things like that will be very important." Montezemolo did also warn that the sport must not alienate its core fans, saying: “My son can go around the world with his girlfriend for less than the price of two tickets to Monza. It’s nice to have new tracks but we need to be careful. "We must keep the historic circuits, like Suzuka, Sao Paulo, Silverstone and Spa. It’s important to have heritage, credibility and history in Formula One.” The Ferrari president also added that personally he is not a fan of the new four cylinder 1.6 litre turbo engines agreed for 2013. Although, Ferrari have agreed to them. “I’m all for improving sustainability but and with the four cylinder 1.6 litre turbo engine I have to accept because we don’t want Ferrari always to be polemic but personally I don’t like it. It is too far. “I agree on the need to cut costs but this “pauperistic” approach to Formula One is not good. Cheap is different from inexpensive. We want Formula One to be associated with innovation, with pushing technology.” Whilst on the subject of teams orders, he assured fans that Ferrari would allow their two drivers to race until one of them was out of championship contention.

Image ©Andrew Hone

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