FOTA was negotiating with Bernie Ecclestone and F1 owners CVC Capital Partners in 2011 for all teams to receive a larger share of F1’s prize money. However according to Fernley it was Red Bull who derailed their efforts by agreeing their own deal separately with Ecclestone.
Fernley said Red Bull’s deal with Ecclestone and departure from FOTA was “where I think the problems started” for F1. Since then two teams have disappeared and a third, Manor, came close to dropping out of F1 over the winter.
“I think that a few years ago we had FOTA operating in a very good way,” said Fernley in a press conference today. “It was a consolidated approach, it was well stewarded by (then McLaren team principal) Martin Whitmarsh, we were in joint negotiations with CVC at the time to obviously renegotiate those contracts and everything else”.
“Unfortunately, and I say that because obviously Christian is here, Red Bull felt the need to take the forty pieces of silver. And that was the downside, I think, for Formula One, and I don’t think we’ve recovered from that particular action.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner denied Fernlet’s claim, saying it was “a little harsh of Bob to suggest that the plight of the smaller teams is all Red Bull’s fault”.
Horner said FOTA was “pretty dysfunctional” at the time and “focusing on the wrong aspect” – and that it was Ferrari who undermined its dealings with Ecclestone.
“Ferrari went and cut their own deal,” he said. “Red Bull weren’t the first team to sign an agreement with Bernie.”
“At the same time McLaren were also in dual discussions and cut their own deal. So that’s the way of the world. We all represent out own entities and guarantees had to be given by the companies in order to be eligible for that funding.
“That’s the situation I can understand the other teams’ frustration but it’s not down to Red Bull to decide what the revenue distribution is, or Ferrari, or McLaren. That’s down to Bernie and the board members at CVC and they distribute the money how they see fit.”
Fernley added he is hopeful Ecclestone understands the severity of the financial problems faced by some of the teams at the moment.
“Bernie at the end of the day when things are tough he understands that they’re tough,” he said. “He’s actually shepherded the sport for many, many years, he’s done a great job.”
“And whilst we may have arguments along the way at the end of the day he’s kept it all together and I think when he genuinely sees there’s something that’s not quite right he will address that.”
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