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F1 manufacturers insist on more say over rules

PLANS for the major motor manufacturers to take a stake in Bernie Ecclestone's SLEC Formula 1 group could be derailed unless the car makers are given a bigger say in the rule making process.

That was the firm message from inside sources at two major corporations, DaimlerChrysler and Ford, during a week in which Ecclestone acknowledged that the teams had formally written to him expressing their interests in taking such a stake.

According to a spokesman for EM.TV, the German media company who purchased a 50 per cent stake in SLEC earlier this year, this means that formal negotiations can now take place. "It is a dramatic step in that it means that there is a formal basis for discussion," said EM.TV's Martin Birnbaum.

However, while the car makers are certainly interested on talks over a deal which could be worth as much as 4 billion (pounds), but there is no question of it being finalized unless the they are given more or a say in which the sport is run.

DaimlerChrysler is known to be deeply concerned about the manner in which technical regulations in F1 are evolved and applied. At the present time its partner McLaren is waiting for the FIA to give a final decision over the eligibility of a radical new transmission system which it has spent two years and around $3 million (dollars) developing.

It is understood that all through the development program there were regular discussions with the FIA which seemed to be positive. Now there is some doubt over whether the governing body will give the green light.

"The car makers will not accept decisions which jeopardize huge investments," said a source close to DaimlerChrysler. "This will have to be sorted out before there is any deal done to buy a share of Bernie's company."

Added a Ford insider; "There will have to be more clarity and consistency over the way in which both the technical and commercial side of F1 is operated. We cannot invest in Bernie's company and then find that we have no influence in the way it is run."

This could prove a sticking point, because the likelihood of the FIA taking any account of what outsiders have to say on this matter is problematic, to say the least.

Recently FIA president Max Mosley reacted robustly when confronted by the F1 teams telling him that the governing body had too much influence when it came to framing the regulations.

"The underlying gripe from the teams seems to be that they feel the FIA in general, and me in particular, has too much say in the interpreting of rules and running F1 as a whole," said Mosley.

"But that's what we at the FIA regard as our job. Writing precise and clear laws has preoccupied people in all walks of life since time immemorial."

Unless this thorny issue can be resolved to the satisfaction of the car makers, their planned investment in Ecclestone's business may remain stalled in the pits.

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