Toto Wolff, Lawrence Stroll, 2018

Ecclestone reveals ‘breakaway’ talk with two F1 team bosses

2019 F1 season

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Two Formula 1 team bosses recently discussed the possibility of forming a rival breakaway series with Bernie Ecclestone, the former F1 CEO has told RaceFans.

However Ecclestone emphasised that he doubts the idea has any chance of succeeding.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Lawrence Stroll, who took over the Racing Point team last year, met with Ecclestone at his home in Gstaad, Switzerland during Formula 1’s pre-season test period.

Former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was also present, however no current Ferrari staff nor any representatives of the other seven teams, including Red Bull, attended.

Today representatives of F1’s 10 teams will attend a meeting in London with the FIA and commercial rights holder Liberty Media. The latter will present their plans to overhaul the sport after the 2020 F1 season. The new regulations have to be in place by the end of June.

The threat of a rival, breakaway series could give the teams leverage in their negotiations with Liberty Media. However Ecclestone, who saw off several such threats during his time in charge of the sport, told RaceFans “I don’t think it would ever happen”.

“I can’t see they’d get everyone to agree. They’d need to get all the promoters to agree, everyone to agree,” he said.

“The trouble with all these things are people sit around and talk and talk and talk. But when it comes to pulling the trigger there’s a big list of missing people.”

A Racing Point spokesperson said: “There was a meeting of old friends for dinner in Gstaad. These suggestions of a breakaway series are nonsense.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 61 comments on “Ecclestone reveals ‘breakaway’ talk with two F1 team bosses”

    1. Perfect timing. Team bosses can now quote this article as leverage on today negotiation.

      1. @ruliemaulana
        i believe today’s session would just consist of a presentation of the plan and maybe a discussion on an extremely high level. Its easier to say no today. Merc and Ferrari will say so eventually.
        Here’s what i think would happen: Although it might sound silly, Bernie did something on similar lines. You put out a cheesy plan– 7/10 teams agree, then cut back door (and mostly legal) deals with the other 3; call it (say) a partnership of some sort between enterprises.
        The very Formula of Formula 1’s foundation is extremely unfair and weak. It needs a drastic change.

      2. Not so sure it gives any leverage @ruliemaulana, with Ecclestone not playing along but stirring the pot the other way and saying it is impossible, que racing point trotting out the ‘just friendly dinner’ official line (makes me wonder if Liberty had a talk with Bernie after his tracks org. hubbub).

            1. @phylyp
              I know, but I’ve been binge-watching Fawlty Towers, and I couldn’t resist …

            2. LOL, sorry :)

          1. Heh, fawlty towers, you are excused

            1. @bosyber: Except… they didn’t make enough ‘Farty Towels’ episodes for a proper 21st century binge.

            2. @jimmi-cynic
              Well excuse me, I’ve got a job and all, so watching 6 hours of Watery Fowls on just two evenings during the week is as binge-y as it gets these days.
              (sadly)

      3. @webtel @bosyber
        Ok. Let’s see. Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull (Honda) are three biggest loser of the new money distribution regulation while the biggest gainer is Renault. If we look at the teams, it’s five gainer to five loser.

        So, if the issue is only about money, Liberty had a 50/50 chances to succeed. But if they talk about breakaway, it would be much less because only two Renault teams had direct benefit from it.

        1. These teams are only ‘losing’ money they shouldn’t have been getting in the first place but for BE’s last ten years with CVC placating the top teams. Not that this is the case, that they are actually even considering for one second a breakaway, but if they did the costs to them would be massive compared to ‘losing’ BE money that has been helping erode F1 with it’s unfair imbalance that does many things such as prevent the very entity from growing.

    2. Go home, Bernie. It’s over.

      1. met with Ecclestone at his home in Gstaad

        :P

        1. @coldfly
          Haha, oops! I’m fairly sure he did that just to spite me. :-(

        2. His other home then.

    3. “The trouble with all these things are people sit around and talk and talk and talk. But when it comes to pulling the trigger there’s a big list of missing people.”

      Truer words were never spoken.

      Darn, sign of the times that 2000s Bernie’s made such an honest statement. Or maybe that’s also a sly jab at Liberty, I wouldn’t put that past him.

      1. @phylyp
        Its a testament to how effective Bernie was during his reign–he ensured that requisite bridges were built and also broken down if necessary.
        My respect for him as an administrator/manager has never been higher.

        1. @webtel – Very well said. Taking a dump on Bernie has often been a popular pastime, especially during his tenure, but now is when it appears he was the man to tame the Piranha club. Let’s see how today’s meeting with Liberty goes, it is probably going to be one of the acid tests of their stewardship of the sport.

          1. @phylyp

            it is probably going to be one of the acid tests

            I agree. This could well become a make or break moment for the sport. Bernie survived through and passed multiple acid tests to get to where he was at his peak. I don’t think Liberty has the liberty of time to even look forward to such tests.
            Eagerly waiting for the outcome of today’s proposal.

            1. BE’s comment about talk and talk and talk is about the talk of a breakaway series, which is not new, but has only ever included a vast minority of entities that would have to be included in order for such a thing to fly. There is no slight by BE here towards Liberty who, conversely, have included all teams and promoters in the discussions of the future of F1. I disagree that this is some acid test for Liberty. They have only ever talked about a fairer and more balanced entity and an improved show on track. The teams have all had their say and ample opportunities to express their concerns over the last few years, and by all accounts it seems the teams are quite on board and they await for Liberty to emplace the new regs so they can get on with things knowing what exactly 2021 will look like.

    4. Is that the same Stroll who just got treated so favorably by FOM?

      Seems he doesn’t really understand the F1 political game yet, and he must feel abused now that Toto asked him to join this ‘secret’ dinner.

      1. And stroll.. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

      2. Probably the same Stroll who attended to learn more about how the game works and to support his engine supplier. I’m not sure he’s actually going to break away, but looking like one is listening to all parts of the argument, for a newcomer, is often a good start. (This wouldn’t work for experienced operators because it’s expected they already know how the Piranha Club works and have enough information to state their opinion from the beginning).

    5. I know it sounds stupid, but is Bernie still ‘Chairman Emerita’ of F1?

      1. Emerita is for women. Emeritus for men. And I don’t think he has had a gender operation yet.

    6. Wow, so there is no story here apart from some wishful thinking.

      1. @aliced, well, it seems everybody assumes that any sort of interaction between two different figures in F1 must always be for some other hidden motivation, irrespective of whether they did have any such intentions or not.

        1. Bernie = hidden motivation in person

    7. Sounds as if they think F1 is no longer sustainable under today’s circumstances. So to make things better you have to think and talk about other options, and fast. So creating a new formula for racing is on the table but financing is still a discussion. So either way things will change.

    8. Together with Bernie? Didn’t know there is a racing track in hell.

    9. That’s why it’s good. Test the water. Realise there’s no alternative. Re-commit to F1 for the long haul.

      1. Spot on, on both counts.

    10. unshackle the electric power side, bring back the V10 and H pattern box, profit.

      1. It’s a strange thing that, back in the 1990s, the teams that stuck to using H-pattern gearboxes were laughed at for having cars that were hopelessly outdated.

        Just look at how people described the Forti FG01 as a “pile of junk” when it turned up with an H pattern gearbox in 1995 – and that actually took some effort, since a couple of years earlier the entire grid had turned away from the H-pattern gearbox to the semi-automatic transmission.

        Go back 30 years, and people would have wondered why you would want to stick to outdated technology – now, it seems that the people who argued for process back then seem to want the sport to regress now.

      2. Profit from who? The vintage racing series doesn’t generate that much interest, why would taking F1 2 or more decades backwards produce profit?

        The Nostalgia society isn’t as big as you think, and it’s not what it used to be, anyway.

    11. So something as ridiculous as a breakaway series, that even BE says will never happen, is supposed to be leverage for teams in negotiations with Liberty?

      If I was Liberty and someone tried this impotent threat right while they are trying to correct the things that went wrong under BE, with sweeping changes for the good of the sport, I’d go all BE the dictator on them and tell them either get on board or get out of the room.

      In reality land I’m quite sure not one person will utter such nonsense to Liberty.

      1. @robbie This is just Ecclestone pretending.

        Someone (jokingly) suggesting over dinner that they should start their own series, and … presto, Ecclestone had “discussions” about a breakaway series.

    12. Robert J Dixon
      26th March 2019, 13:04

      Use 18,000 rpm V8’s with 950 horsepower and halve 1/2 the current downforce and I’m all for a new series.

    13. Bernie mind: We were talking about breaking away off F1.
      Reality: WE WERE JUST HAVING DINNER!!!!!

      1. And knowing Bernie, they had to pay for it in advance.

    14. I hope Liberty remember who the traitors are when the teams start asking for things …

      As for getting back into anything with Bernie … it’s like shacking up with a black widow. I wish Toto would.

    15. To me, the current agreements in F1 between the commercial rights holders, tracks, teams, sponsors, etc are not sustainable. Unfortunately they also seem to be intractable.

      I’m skeptical changes in administration or racing can help because the market isn’t there. Maybe revenue could grow some, but it won’t offset the profit taking or racing costs.

      I don’t see anyway to make the serious changes except for a catastrophic event like bankruptcy or a switch to another series.

      But Ecclestone is the wrong person to help. The current mess is his legacy.

    16. Naturally Aspirated… 3.0 L V10… 19,000 RPM…

      They say you can’t go home again, but I sure wish someone would at least try.

    17. Wonder why Wolff and Stroll are so LOL!!! in this photo…

      LOL!

      1. @bullmello: Because even then….they were plotting a conspiracy dinner at Bernie’s. ;-)

    18. this is a great idea, it did wonders for Indycar and CART.

    19. Just go then…so fed up of Bernie’s rabbit hole news nuggets. Keep crying wolf old man!

    20. All I read was the kicker for this article and my one thought is

      WHY CAN’T BERNIE JUST BREAKAWAY?

      For gods sake man, go home and live a retired life

    21. BlackJackFan
      27th March 2019, 2:14

      A Racing Point spokesperson said: “There was a meeting of old friends for dinner in Gstaad. These suggestions of a breakaway series are nonsense.”

      I just wonder how long Stroll has even known BE, Toto, Luca… let alone refer to them (himself) as ‘old friends’… ;-)

      1. Stroll is a life long petrolhead who has an iconic vintage Ferrari collection and has been hanging around F1 for years, races some of his vintage cars, and is also good friends with Jean Todt. Stroll has likely known BE and JT longer than Wolff has.

        1. Thanks, Robbie… I was clearly right to wonder…

    22. @robbie quite likely, indeed. Not sure that’s really quite ‘all it was’ with Bernie, but I would believe that was mostly it.

      1. @boysber No that’s true, I’m sure the likes of Stroll and Wolff value BE’s opinion and are truly friends with him. He may well have their backs and gave them some things to think about that were plainly and simply constructive.

        I think we all agree it’s the albeit vague suggestion that BE was in essence rallying them for a breakaway that he himself has also said would never work, that has stirred the pot a little.

    23. Bernie is planning to start Euro Indycar

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