Ecclestone signs deal with GPMA
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has now put his signature on a deal that ends the threat of a breakaway series, we can reveal, after the manufacturers pledged their commitment to the sport last weekend.
The five members of the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association (GPMA) - BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Toyota - all signed a Memorandum of Understanding over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend that committed their future to the sport until the end of 2012.
The teams had hoped that their acceptance of the deal, which will see them take 50 percent of the sport's earning, would be immediately ratified by Ecclestone at the Circuit de Catalunya.
But with Ecclestone leaving the track without signing the document and a few days of uncertainty about whether he had put pen to paper, prompting suggestions that there could even be a last minute hitch in proceedings, the sport's commercial boss confirmed on Friday that he had now approved the deal.
"The manufacturers all signed it in the end," Ecclestone told autosport.com. "There were a lot of negotiations and things came to a head in the end thanks to Alain Dassas (Renault F1 president). He, along with Professor Goeschel (BMW board member), was the driving force behind getting the deal.
"They effectively made it happen and saw in the end that the deal made sense. We've now signed our part and it is now just a question of sending it to the lawyers."
Ecclestone's comments about Renault are believed to relate to the pressure that Dassas and Renault team boss Flavio Briatore were putting on other GPMA members to commit to the 50 percent offer.
Briatore said last weekend: "We have been talking about this for six years and in the end you have to decide what you are going to do. I was happy with the offer and I said to Alain we should go for it."
Ecclestone expressed a sense of relief at the conclusion of the talks, which ends six years of talks with the manufacturers against the backdrop of a threatened breakaway.
"The negotiations have taken a while and we spent a lot of time discussing issues which were not real, honest issues," he said. "But now at least we have the MOU and that will form the basis of the Concorde Agreement, once we get the FIA technical issues sorted."
In fact, the discussions over the technical regulations are now likely to form the key battleground between the manufacturers and the sport's bosses over the future.
The manufacturers have made it clear that they are not in favour of plans to impose an engine freeze in F1, while the FIA insisted earlier this week that it will not back down in plans for engine homologation in F1. Ecclestone hoped that a compromise solution would eventually be found.
"The FIA have been clear for a little while now that we have got to save some money in the sport. When we reduced engine capacity to 2.4-litre V8s it was to save costs, and if they didn't do something then we would never have cut costs.
"I think these people (the manufacturers) have to be saved a little bit from themselves. But, then again, I think we also have to keep the technical side of F1. It's something that needs to be discussed."