IT'S ABOUT TIME: F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is ready to tear up old contracts and start fresh after a meeting with smaller teams about income contracts. Image: AFP
ABU DHABI, UAE - Formula 1's smaller teams felt at least a penny had dropped on Saturday after meeting the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and rights holders CVC to discuss demands for more money.
Sauber, Force India and Lotus bosses told reporters at an Abu Dhabi GP briefing that Ecclestone had apologised for calling them 'beggars' and recognised they had a point in seeking a re-distribution of revenues.
PENNY HAS DROPPED
Lotus principal Gerard Lopez said: "It's one of the first times, I wouldn't be arrogant to say it's the only time, where you really feel somehow that with some key people the coin has dropped.
"When CVC took over, the sport was generating the equivalent of R2.68-billion for the teams, it's now generating close to R9.8-billion, but it's almost in a worse state than it has ever been."
The three teams had sent a letter to Ecclestone earlier in the week seeking a meeting at the season-ending race after being frustrated in their calls for cost cuts and a more equitable division of revenues. They argue that a sport that returns the equivalent of R9.8-billion to the teams, albeit in unequal shares, should not be in a position where some have gone into administration and others are in danger of collapse.
Top teams such as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull receive special payments and also sit on the sport's decision-making 'strategy group'.
The teams had spoken in their letter, signed by Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley, of "a questionable cartel" of rights holder and top teams that controlled "both the governance of F1 and, apparently, the distribution of... funds."
One British politician has subsequently brought the matter to the attention of the European Commission's competition authorities.
Force India boss Vijay Mallya sensed a more cooperative spirit on the part of the rights holders, noting that Ecclestone and CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie "had done their homework".
Mallya said: "My take is they are seriously thinking about how to address this issue."
Lopez said the EU was discussed briefly in Saturday's meeting and, while shrugging off a suggestion that it had been the issue that made the penny drop, recognised it was lurking in the background.
"I've dealt with the EU in two of our businesses, I'm not sure whether or not something is going to happen but you do not want the EU to get involved in any business," he said.