FOTA complaints led to ‘special deal’ report axe

Tue, 20 March 2012, 05:35

Mar.20 (GMM) Rival formula one teams complained when Sky News published a report suggesting Ferrari and Red Bull will receive special deals for the next Concorde Agreement.

There has been speculation the Bernie Ecclestone-headed Formula One Management ordered the article be pulled from the internet because it divulged secret plans about the teams’ deals and a $10 billion stock market floatation.

But the Financial Times (FT) reports that it was parent company BSkyB’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch who intervened because the article “had upset formula one racing teams”.

The producer of Sky’s new dedicated F1 channel reportedly “called his bosses from Melbourne”, where the broadcaster was making its debut as Britain’s new full-time live host.

He said “the article had caused a strong negative reaction from some F1 teams”, people familiar with the situation reportedly told the FT.

“The piece was withdrawn for further review,” a BSkyB spokesman confirmed. “We stand by the story and, following that review, took the decision to re-publish on Monday.”

The teams alliance FOTA, which no longer involves Ferrari and Red Bull, reportedly met in the Melbourne paddock on Sunday “to discuss how to respond to the (Sky) report”, the FT continued.

The fact the Geneva-based body no longer features two of the major top teams apparently gives Bernie Ecclestone the opportunity to agree deals with them, forcing their rivals to follow suit.

“FOTA can’t sign anything with anyone,” Ecclestone scorned, before declining to discuss the reports of Ferrari and Red Bull’s special deals.

Ferrari and CVC also declined to comment, but an unnamed senior team executive dismissed the apparent deals as “a pipe dream”.

Another said the story was a typical example of Ecclestone’s “divide and conquer” tactics.

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