THE MOLE

So exactly who has signed what?

People have been speculating for a long time about the identity that The Mole uses in Formula 1 circles and the guesses have increased ever since The Mole's logo included a blurred picture of the man in question. Poor Ian Phillips, the marketing director at MF1 Racing, has been in the firing line ever since as he looks like the man in the picture, loves as much red wine as he can get and used to be a journalist and so (in theory at least) knows how to write. Then again, others say that The Mole's hair-line belongs to Mark Hughes, a journalist with Autosport magazine who pretends to have no interest in F1 politics and writes about gear ratios, tyre compounds and turn-in points to an enthusiastic, but rather small, audience. The wilder members of the F1 media have concluded that The Mole is Dietrich Mateschitz and that the articles are written by a small bald woman called Helen Paradyce, who works for the Red Bulletin.

"Well, you cannot be a women," said Mrs Mole when she heard that rumour. "I am sure I would noticed on our wedding night."

The latest rumours suggest that The Mole's picture looks remarkably like CVC boss Donald McKenzie, a new face in the paddock but obviously a man in the know.

Appearances can be misleading, The Mole pondered, as Oswald the chauffeur whisked him through the streets of somewhere nasty like Croydon early on Monday morning.

There was work to be done. The political activity in Barcelona meant that The Mole and the Penelopes were going to have a busy week before heading off to Monte Carlo. It is a busy time for F1 people as they try to squeeze money from excited new sponsors. It is a time when the sport wants to have peace and quiet.

It is a time when F1 wants to portray itself a world of peace and harmony and thus the announcements in Barcelona were very important as they create the impression that deals have been done and wars are over. The curious thing, however, is when one sits back and looks at exactly what was signed and by whom, the picture seems a little less joyous.

"There are two basic deals that were agreed in Spain," The Mole told the assembled Penelopes half an hour later. "The first was between Renault and the Formula One group. This means that, in effect, Renault has broken away from the other manufacturers, who have yet to do their deals. However, the second agreement suggests that a proper settlement is not far away. This is a memorandum of understanding that has been signed by the five GPMA members: BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Honda, Renault and Toyota to accept a plan that has been developed in league with CVC Capital Partners, the owners of the Formula One group.

"The odd thing is that at no point does it say that CVC or the Formula One group has actually signed anything.

"Our understanding of the situation is that the basis of a deal has been found between all the parties involved but there will now need to be more meetings before the sport can move to the ultimate solution and create a new Concorde Agreement involving the FOA, FIA and the teams. The deal that appears to be on the table is for the teams to get 50% of all revenues, starting immediately. This will result in most of the teams doubling their income from the Formula One group. This is the deal that Renault was keen to sign because the team is looking at 2007 with a considerably smaller budget than it has enjoyed in recent years. This is why the team has yet to sign a lead driver. The loss of Mild Seven is also a problem and Renault needs to push hard (particularly at Monaco time) to find a suitable replacement.

"The actual income for the teams will become a little more flexible as it will include a share of any new income generated in the years ahead. It is worth noting also that if the Formula One group makes less money for some reason, the teams will also suffer. At the moment there is much positive talk with indications that the Formula One group is finally going to adopt a serious attitude towards merchandising with its own Formula 1-branded clothing and accessories. This will be aimed at the mass market where profits can be substantial if the products are well designed.

"Until there is a Concorde Agreement in place the organisations involved will be unable to get on with their plans for the future. CVC wants to issue a substantial bond to get back its investment in the sport. This will have to be secured on the future revenues of the sport. The value of the teams will remain low until the new Concorde Agreement is signed. Once that is in place then we may see teams being sold and even going to the stock markets."

"So, no deal." said Penelope (Roedean), summing up with her usual rapier-like intellect.

May 15 2007

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