F1 future hangs on shares deal
QUO VADIS F1? Big, very big, money is involved in F1 - just look at the Yas Marina track complex here - but the future of the sport is still hanging.
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
MONTE CARLO, Monaco - The future face of Formula 1 should be decided in the next few months with the sport's governing body yet to play what could be a key hand.
That, at least, is the opinion of Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn ahead of the 2012 Monaco F1 GP.
The immediate spotlight has been on plans for the flotation of F1, with an announcement this week that three investment firms had bought a 21% stake in the sport from private equity firm CVC Capital. The deals should be completed in Singapore in June 2012.
The racing operation, run by 81-year-old Briton Bernie Ecclestone, secured the commercial rights to the series in a 100-year deal agreed with the governing International Automobile Federation in 2001 that contained a so-called 'Don King clause', named after the controversial boxing promoter, that allows the Paris-based FIA to bar from taking over the business anybody considered by it to be undesirable.
Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull have been offered places on the future board of F1 but not, according to sources, Mercedes.
The current Concorde Agreement, a confidential document governing the sport and signed by teams, Ecclestone and the FIA, will expire at the end of 2012 with Mercedes the only top team yet to agree an extension.
Brawn told reporters ahead of the Monaco GP, the social highlight of the season where many deals are made: "I think we've got a long way to go before we arrive at the final solutions. I think what's got to be factored in... is the role the FIA plays in the future and how it is involved in the sport.
"The FIA has been quite quiet so far but will have an involvement in the sport and I'm reasonably confident we'll find sensible solutions. I don't think things are closed yet..."
Mercedes was involved in F1 in the 1950's, as well as having a huge presence in pre-Second World War GP racing, but pulled out in 1955 before returning as an engine supplier to McLaren in 1994 and then buying champion team Brawn GP at the end of 2009. Five-times World champion Juan Manuel Fangio raced for Mercedes in 1954 and 1955, partnered by British great Stirling Moss in that final year.
Mercedes GP chief executive Nick Fry said at the 2012 Spanish GP that CVC needed to reach an agreement with Mercedes before any flotation could be successful and this needed to be done "fairly quickly".
Brawn said the sport had to keep its "lifeblood" with an independent governing body to police it and provide an unbiased viewpoint against vested interests.
"We can't do that ourselves, for sure," he said. "The teams have always demonstrated that it's very difficult in a very competitive environment to be self-policing.
"We'll see clearly in the next few months where the FIA stands on all of this... it might go on longer but I think in the next few months the shape of F1 in the future will become clear."