RINGING THE CHANGES: Reports are doing the rounds that F1's new owner is ready to make some serious changes to the sport. Image: AP / /Antonio Calanni
London - Bernie Ecclestone's future might not be as secure as it was earlier thought, according to reports.
US media tycoon John Malone, whose 'Darth Vader' nickname was coined by Al Gore, was understood to have signed the Formula 1 supremo to a new three-year deal as he moved to take over the sport's commercial rights from CVC.
But Germany's Auto Bild claims that Ecclestone, 85, and 75-year-old Malone may already have clashed, with the current F1 chief executive now set to vacate his role after November's season finale in Abu Dhabi.
The same report said Malone and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne are also clashing, with the former wanting to end the fabled Italian team's special annual bonus payments.
Malone is quoted as having told Marchionne during recent negotiations: "Sue me! I have the time and the money."
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But not everyone is unhappy with the deal.
Auto Bild said Mercedes chairman Dieter Zetsche is interested in Malone's offer that teams be able to buy into the commercial rights.
Mercedes is said to want 10%, ahead of a forthcoming meeting between Zetsche and his Renault and Ferrari counterparts Carlos Ghosn and Marchionne.
But another top team, Red Bull, is reportedly hesitating.
A Red Bull official is quoted as saying: "We have to think about the price-performance ratio. If it is too expensive and with little influence, an engagement would not make sense."
Meanwhile, Bild newspaper reports that Malone's Libtery Media wants race ticket prices to drop dramatically to about EUR150 (R2453, estimate) for a weekend pass, whilst adding more European races to the calendar.