F1 TEAMS COLLAPSE: If F1 does not resolve its financial crisis teams could be forced to exit the sport.Image: AP
AUSTIN, Texas - Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said he wanted to tear up all team contracts and rewrite the rules as talk of race boycotts and financial failure swept the 2014 US Grand Prix paddock.
Inviting a select group of international reporters into his office for a 50-minute discussion about the latest of many crises to hit the sport, Ecclestone canvassed opinion while making suggestions of his own.
Ecclestone said: "We have to decide the best way to sort this whole thing out. Frankly, I know what's wrong but don't know how to fix it.
"(We) should tear all of the current contracts up...start again."
HELP STRUGGLING TEAMS
Ecclestone said he would be prepared to give up money if the teams were willing to do so to create a more level playing field and help the struggling smaller outfits survive.
However he indicated that vested interests, and the regulations that require unanimous agreement to make any changes for 2015, had tied his hands. He recognised he might be partly to blame for that.
Ecclestone said: "I've never felt helpless about anything. I'm not happy and we'll have to do something about it.
"I think the situation is such that if enough people want it resolved we can resolve it. It's a case of the people that are involved in the sport will have to want to look after the sport and be prepared to make some sacrifices.
"The problem is there is too much money probably being distributed badly - probably my fault."
TEAMS IN ADMINISTRATION
Two teams have plunged into administration since the 2014 Russian Grand Prix, with Marussia and Caterham now seeking buyers willing and wealthy enough to pay off their considerable debts and bankroll their survival.
F1 is no stranger to crisis, and more than 100 teams have gone bust or departed through the ages, but the latest difficulty is proving more intractable than most.
Force India, Sauber and Lotus may also be staring into the financial abyss and speculation swirled in Austin that they could take the drastic decision of boycotting Sunday's race to force the bigger teams into action.
They want all teams to have a basic budget to survive and compete in a billion-dollar sport where even the smallest outfits need around R882-million a year and the biggest spend more than R2-billion.
Ecclestone, who represents commercial rights holders CVC, assured reporters there would be no race boycott in Austin but expressed sympathy with the teams' plight and said he would not want to have the sport's collapse on his conscience.
'RUN AWAY WITH THE MONEY'
Ecclestone said: "We have to open the eyes of those people in a position to turn the lights on and off as to what they need to do because I wouldn't want to be in a position where I was too strong and F1 disappears and someone says it is because of you it disappeared.
"I said to people (who are) getting a chunk of money that I would like to take a percentage of their performance-related payment, put that money together to divide among three or four (teams) we know are in trouble but are not going to run away with the money and then I will put in the same amount of money."
Ecclestone said it made no difference to him how the money was ultimately divided up but the big teams could not agree even on the principle.
"If they sat down here with me now and said they want to share out all of the money we get in a different way, I would say, 'Good, give me the bit of paper'...It is getting the people who have invested in these engines to agree."
Mercedes' non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, a triple champion, joined the meeting towards the close along with Ferrari principal Marco Mattiacci and both showed little desire to budge from their positions.
Mattiacci said: "The shift has to be how to increase revenues...the goal is not how to share in a different way the cake but how to make the cake bigger."
Lauda said Mercedes had spent R1-billion on developing the new hybrid V6 turbo engines introduced this season and were losing money even charging the three non-works customer teams roughly 18 million each.
Ecclestone said ultimately he might have to go above their heads at the teams' parent companies: "I think it's probably what will have to happen.
"If I was them I'd come to us or the (governing) FIA and say 'We're a bit worried about things the way they are at the moment, what would you like us to do to help you?.'
"Because I honestly believe that (FIA president Jean) Todt would do anything that we suggested."