F1 shares? No thanks, say team chiefs

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IOL mot pic mar23 F1 Bernie Ecclestone REUTERS Would you buy shares in Formula One from this man?

Team bosses have balked at the prospect of buying shares in Formula One - and urged swift cost-cutting reforms to stop cash-strapped competitors going to the wall.

Leaders of six Formula One outfits painted a bleak picture of team finances in the outwardly glitzy sport, whose supremo Bernie Ecclestone is reported to be considering a $10 billion (R77 billion) share flotation.

Five of the group said they wouldn't buy Formula One shares, despite high profits reportedly enjoyed by the governing body, while the sixth, Lotus team owner and businessman Gerard Lopez, reserved judgement.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said some teams among the 12 racing this season were battling to stave off extinction, making it crucial that rival outfits quickly decide how to keep costs down.

“Formula One is not so stable”

Whitmarsh told a press conference after practice for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix: “The fact is at the moment, we all know that there are a lot of Formula One teams that are struggling to survive - which tells us we're not doing enough and that's why we've got to keep pushing it.”

Ferrari chief Stefano Domenicali called it a “critical” time for many of the Europe-based teams.

“Thank God Ferrari's situation is very good in terms of our financial position for the future. But we know that the situation of Formula One is not so stable,” Domenicali said.

“We know that there's a lot of struggle around so we need to put aside our self-interest a little bit to make sure that we can look ahead. Because this is a very critical period where we know that it's very tough.”

Reports broke last weekend that billionaire Ecclestone was considering a share flotation, possibly in Singapore, as part of talks for a new agreement on how profits are divided between teams and other stakeholders.

Team operators and race organisers alike are warning of financial problems.

Meanwhile, the Korean Grand Prix is lobbying hard for a cheaper contract and Australia is also reported to suffer multi-million dollars losses each year.

Red Bull's Christian Horner, whose team hold the Drivers’ and Constructors' titles, defended his opposition to new spending restrictions supported by most other teams which would be policed by the sport's governing body.

“Hopefully with some productive discussion going forward a solution can be found to make Formula One cost-control for the top teams, but also make it affordable for the teams in the middle of the grid and at the back of the grid,” he said.

“The cost of being competitive in Formula One at present is too high. I don't think anyone will dispute that. The debate is how we achieve it.”

Automakers Honda, Toyota and BMW all withdrew from Formula One during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. - AFP

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