There was a meeting today between FIA president Jean Todt, Formula One Management boss Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo. Three big players in the current and future evolution of the sport. What kind of discussions could have taken place? Doubtful they were discussing this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.
Regardless of the grand prix race at Monza, what is coming out of Italy this week is a concern over the Concorde Agreement. Most notably it was Jean Todt who spoke to Gazetta dello Sport (via the mad translating skills of AUTOSPORT) in which he said:
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"Costs are my main objective, because they must be lowered by a further 30 per cent in the next three years, otherwise we'll lose several teams," Todt was quoted by Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Formula 1 must be a business for everyone with balances in the black for the teams. Nowadays [that is] so for only two or three teams perhaps.
"But we are getting to a conclusion with the Concorde Agreement, after tense discussions and common objectives.
"From 2014, with the new regulations and the turbo engine, we'll take a step forward towards the world we predict we'll live in.
"And maybe I'll manage to convince several engine manufacturers who are now in endurance racing or elsewhere into building engines for F1 too: Audi, Toyota, Porsche, the Koreans..."
The bottom line is Todt is looking a 30% cut in Formula One costs by 2015 and he says it is vital if the series wants to survive and keep the teams they have as well as attract new manufacturers. What a difference a presidency makes huh? Max Mosley's heavy-handed approach to manufacturers saw a mass exodus of BMW, Toyota and Honda from Formula One.
Americans can certainly empathize with the costs of F1 as they were a tad shell shocked this week at the $200 price tag for parking over the weekend at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin and many feel the cost of F1 is really just too high which prevents it from having any real traction in American sporting circles.
If the fans are being impacted by race ticket prices and promoters are being tested with $25M sanctioning fees and the circuit owners are being pressed for state-of-the-art facilities with hundreds of millions in infrastructure investment, some may ask..."who does Formula One think it is?".
Well, it's a massive racing series with massive TV viewer numbers and a relatively low-cost marketing investment to reach 600 million pairs of eyes per year. Team owners have become millionaires in the process of creating teams centered on racing. Men like Ron Dennis of McLaren and Sir Frank Williams of Williams F1. Is that bad? Of course not, they employee thousands of people but the system has to be sustainable and that is where Todt is worried.
In his own French way, and perhaps he's riding a Hollande wave of austerity here, he sees F1's skyrocketing costs as a real threat and is intent on making the Concorde Agreement more inclusive to the running and financial wherewithal of the series. The FIA does have a knife in the fight when it comes to getting their part in the commercial agreement. The Concorde negotiations continue and it looks like Mr. Ecclestone may have avoided a Mercedes pull-out for now. Can the series keep this momentum and pace of spending? Or is Todt right?
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