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Alonso provides distraction from F1 row

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Andrew Benson | 18:51 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

Fernando Alonso spoke for many on Thursday when he was asked to sum up his reaction to the latest twist in the seemingly endless political row that is still in danger of splitting Formula 1 down the middle.

"We have spent too much time talking about this," Renault's double world champion said, "and it doesn't help Formula 1.

"Hopefully, we can talk about the sport instead."

There's not much chance of that at the Nurburgring this weekend, Fernando.

The paddock here can quite often be a dull place, but that is certainly not the case as the F1 circus descends on this corner of Germany's Eifel mountains for the latest chapter in what is proving to be a tumultuous season.

The ongoing dispute between eight of the biggest F1 teams and Max Mosley, which has taken a fresh twist following a meeting on Wednesday, was certainly at the top of the agenda. But Alonso himself also featured heavily - most specifically where he might be driving next year.

Cyclist Alberto Contador and Fernando Alonso

It is widely regarded as a matter of when, rather than if, the Spaniard finds himself in a Ferrari.

The subject came up again in Germany because two respected Spanish newspapers, Marca and As, reported on Thursday that Alonso was in the final stages of agreeing to move to the Italian team in 2010 - when both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are still notionally under contract.

The Spanish newspaper stories followed a piece in the Italian magazine Autosprint, which had run the same story, and mocked up a cover picture featuring Alonso in Ferrari overalls and carrying Raikkonen's helmet.

As always, Alonso dismissed the stories as "rumours". And for what it's worth, I asked him directly whether a) he had had talks with Ferrari and b) whether he already had a Ferrari contract, and he looked me in the eye and said, with a smile, "No and no." Make of that what you will.

To most people outside F1, the subject of whether the most complete racing driver on the planet will be driving for the sport's most famous team is of far greater importance than discussions about rule changes, entry lists and contracts.

But, for those inside the paddock fences at the Nurburgring, Alonso's future is merely an interesting diversion from the bigger issue.

If you are confused by the latest development, you are not alone. Most people in F1 cannot understand how governing body the FIA can release an entry list on 24 June listing all the existing teams and then say on Wednesday this week that they could not discuss finalising next year's rules because they were not entered in the championship.

That release on 24 June announced a peace deal in the months-long row between the Formula 1 Teams' Association (Fota) - which represents McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Brawn, Red Bull and Toro Rosso - and Mosley, the president of governing body the FIA.

The agreement was reported as a victory for Fota and a defeat for Mosley (which, fundamentally, it was, as Fota got its way on all its demands, and Mosley didn't).

But Mosley was offended by the way Fota presented the deal as a victory
and within 48 hours was hinting that he might stand again for the presidency, despite his commitment not to do so being part of the 24 June agreement.

Publicly, Fota is playing down the latest instalment in the endless row even as it insists it is still pressing ahead with plans to set up a breakaway championship while continuing to resolve the latest dispute.

"We have to keep our options open," said BMW F1 boss Mario Theissen.
"We are working in both directions."

Negotiations continue over establishing a new Concorde Agreement, the document that enshrines the teams' rights and binds them to the sport, but a number of sticking points remain.

The teams are not prepared to commit to F1 without sorting out the problems - including being certain Mosley will depart - but a Concorde Agreement cannot be signed without agreement on issues such as technical regulations and the detail of how costs will be brought down, a subject on which Mosley is demanding a binding legal contract.


And Mosley's behaviour is a constant sticking point - the Fota teams simply do not trust him - so it remains to be seen how the sport's bosses will extricate themselves from this stand-off.

Caught in the middle of all this is CVC, the venture capital group that owns F1's commercial rights.

A breakaway - and therefore an F1 without Ferrari and the top drivers
- is a nightmare prospect for a company that has invested billions in the sport and is lumbered with a huge debt.

So CVC is, to say the least, keen for a compromise to be reached.

Its headache has been intensified by the furore surrounding an interview given by Mosley's colleague Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's commercial boss, to the Times last weekend, in which he said Adolf Hitler was a man who "was able to get things done".

The remarks have made a number of major stakeholders in and sponsors of F1 extremely uncomfortable. Ecclestone, who is CVC's employee, apologised - "I'm just sorry I was an idiot" - and CVC released a statement expressing "shock".

BMW F1 team boss Mario Theissen said of Ecclestone's comments here on
Thursday: "He's wrong and it's disgusting. I believe he's going to make another apology and I think that's entirely necessary."

It all adds up to a sense that time is running out for the men who have ruled F1 for the past few decades.

All in all, then, Alonso's hope that people might concentrate on the racing looks like being unfulfilled for a while yet.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think James Allen on ITV's F1 site explains it beter.

  • Comment number 2.

    Absolutely essential that both Mosley and Ecclestone are removed as soon as possible. They are both too old, senile, and dictatorial to do anything but massive harm to F1. Tnie for the men in white coats....

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm surprised at Fernando's reaction, particularly considering that, at the height of this dispute, he said that Formula 1 is "finished".

  • Comment number 4.

    Mosley is increasingly appearing unbalanced. I don't like the man but I don't say that as an insult, just an observation. The sex scandal, and the subsequent death of his son, have left their mark and maybe in the back of his mind is the thought the two are not entirely unrelated incidents.

    Bernie just looks increasingly old and tired. His split with his wife seems to have taken its toll on him. He has made a lot of money, but also helped F1 grow from an also-ran to a major televised sport, and in so doing made a lot of money for a lot of other people too, while helping create F1 as it is today. But, in the wake of the Max saga, to even mention Hitler is beyond comrehension.

    It's time for them both to go, and if they have any sense with (in Bernie's case) at least a bit of dignity. For Max, that option has long gone. My one reservation is the thought of the even madder Flavio taking over the commercial reins...

  • Comment number 5.

    I've seen Mosley a a problem for a few years already, before the sex scandal and the recent problems. For me, it started when Max reneged on his dicision to not run for another term as FIA president. He has since pushed F1 around like it was his personal fiefdom and done what he liked.

    One of the worst things is that he took away the teams' security by refusing to agree on a new Concorde Agreement. The old one was way behind the times and (financially) not fair to the teams, but from what I have read and heard, the teams were looking for a fair deal and were stonewalled by Mosley. He finally gave the teams a relatively fair shake on the money side (with threats of a breakaway series looming large, seem familiar?), but at no time it seems were other aspects of the CA up for extension or renewal. Time for forced retirement and leaving Max to figure out why his reputation will always be a shambles.

    As for Bernie, he has said many stupid things in the past, and been forgiven. He has also put F1 on the map as a global financial juggernaut and kudos to him for that. Should he step down? Maybe. Should he let Flavio Briatore become the new Bernie? Most certainly not! I (along with many other people) can't imagine anybody other than Bernie in control of the commercial side of F1, and that might be part of the problem. But we need to find a way for the future, and soon; Bernie isn't getting any younger. It's called succesion planning.

    So, rant over. Looking forward to the race, hoping for excitement!

  • Comment number 6.

    1. Has the transformation of F1 to a "global financial juggernaut" actually improved things for real motor racing enthusiasts - constructors, drivers or fans?
    2. I do agree that it's long past time that the reign of two deeply unsavoury characters was ended.
    3. Alonso the "most complete racing driver on the planet" ... ? Discuss further!

  • Comment number 7.

    To Czar-Orac, this blog is meant to be a complement the news story I also wrote yesterday, which is the first hyperlink in the blog -

  • Comment number 8.

    That is a 404 page, try putting the url in without the full stop at the end :)

    Mosley and Ecclestone are both finished, time for them to be replaced completely, Fota needs a bigger say but in a strictly regulated framework hand in hand with the FIA.

    As for Ecclestone, it says a lot that his position does not even need filling, his role is a complete anachronism.

  • Comment number 9.

    Here's the correct link Andrew:

    But one example is that you fail to mention in any of the articles, that FOTA want to deny the new teams any input on rules and regulations, yet demand that the FIA give FOTA this power, which is very hypocritical of them ... Buy hey what's new.

  • Comment number 10.

    Even if you take out all the stuff they have caused recently and look at them themselves. Mosley is almost 70, Ecclestone is almost 80 and have control of a sport that is expensive to run especially in the current climate and is worth billions. Now personally from experience, people of that age struggle to work remote controls for the TV, so how can they be expected to run this colossus of a sport perfectly.

    New blood is needed.

  • Comment number 11.

    Posting advance of the race this time. Applies to FREEVIEW:

    Let's hope BBC get these things right this weekend.
    1. Red button coverage of post quali interviews if regular TV time doesn't allow - ie before you start showing the quali loop.
    2. Commentary ON as default on the in car feed. You got this right in Turkey and Monaco but had default as OFF for Silverstone.
    3. Improved live updates on BBCi. (SkyText on Freeview is a good example of what's possible)

    Overall though the coverage is still way beyond what we've had before.

    F1 Doppelganger

  • Comment number 12.

    CVC have not 'invested' billions. They paid Bernie billions to buy FOM, and they need to extract ever more money to keep paying the interest on those loans. Absolutely *none* of that money has gone into the sport - it didn't go to the teams, who raise money from sponsorship and a share of the TV rights revenue, and it doesn't go to the venues, who *pay* FOM to host the race.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Manor technical director Nick Wirth, who has a close relationship with Mosley, told BBC Sport: "The five teams left, all agreed it unanimously. I can see, despite hubris, that there is commonality on the technical side. "

    It seems to me that this is a poor choice of words.

  • Comment number 14.

    Now personally from experience, people of that age struggle to work remote controls for the TV, so how can they be expected to run this colossus of a sport perfectly.


    I assume you don't know too many old people and just believe the media?


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