Thursday, July 30, 2009
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FIA says budget cap would have saved BMW

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[July 30, 2009]  LONDON (AP) -- Formula One's governing body said BMW Sauber would not have quit the sport if the leading teams had supported its proposed financial restraints for next season.

RestaurantThe FIA used BMW's exit on Wednesday to restate its case for a budget cap despite it being dropped when the Formula One Teams Association -- which includes BMW -- threatened to form a rival series.

FIA presidential candidate Ari Vatanen told The Associated Press that the loss of BMW should provide an "alarm call" for feuding factions to unite and safeguard the future of motor racing's premier competition.

Vatanen, a 57-year-old former world rally champion from Finland, is campaigning to replace Max Mosley, whose 16-year reign ends in October.


After Honda quit F1 due to financial problems last year, Mosley had hoped his plan for a $66 million budget cap would secure the sport's future.

Instead it caused a rift that threatened to tear the sport apart before a compromise was reached with FOTA. However, FIA's frustration at the cap being dropped was clear in its statement to announce Honda's withdrawal at the end of the season.

"Had these regulations (the budget cap) not been so strongly opposed by a number of team principals, the withdrawal of BMW and further such announcements in the future might have been avoided," the FIA said.

The compromise will see teams ordered to reduce costs to 1990s levels, although the exact restrictions have not been determined.

"It is no secret these measures do not go as far as the FIA would have liked, but a compromise was needed in the interests of harmony in the sport," the FIA said. "It has been clear for some time that motor sport cannot ignore the world economic crisis.

"Car manufacturers cannot be expected to continue to pour large sums of money into Formula One when their survival depends on redundancies, plant closures and the support of the taxpayer."

With the motor industry showing little sign of recovery, more F1 teams could quit to focus on their core businesses. Vatanen's fear is that those decisions could be accelerated if the sport doesn't put on a united front.

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"In Europe, if you speak to any of the big teams, the current sponsors or the potential sponsors, they are all hesitant because there is no stability, there is not enough visibility and not a good enough return on their investment," Vatanen told the AP in a telephone interview from Finland. "BMW leaving once again emphasizes the need to work together and not have artificial dividing lines in the family. It's an alarm call.

"We need to sit around the table and make sure that the manufactures, teams and sponsors can commit themselves. It's time to find a serious solution."

Vatanen believes F1 isn't as appealing for investors compared to NASCAR in the United States where "sponsors are queuing up" despite the economic problems being worse there than in Europe.


"We must make Formula One a more attractive place for the manufactures and teams so they won't go away," Vatanen said.

But a major problem for Vatanen is that the new Concorde Agreement -- which sets the sport's rules and financial terms from TV rights and is set to be signed by the teams this week -- will not run for longer than three years.

"You speak to any team, any potential sponsor and they are all holding back because three years is not enough," he said. "They are not sure if the future is going to be stable and attractive."

[Associated Press; By ROB HARRIS]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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