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APRIL 6, 2001

Ecclestone warns of collapse

BERNIE ECCLESTONE has said that he fears Formula One could be ruined by the proposed introduction of a rival series.

Five European car manufacturers have proposed to set up a rival series to Formula One after they failed to buy a stake in SLEC, which owns the commercial rights to F1.

Ecclestone, who believes the introduction of a new single-seater series could wreck Formula One as we know it, said: "It has taken me 30 years to build up Formula One into what it is today," he told the Financial Times. "It could take just six months to destroy it."

He revealed that the car manufacturers had taken a gamble in negotiations with SLEC, and said that gamble did not pay off.

"They (the car manufacturers) bargained on Kirch not being able to come up with the money," explained Ecclestone. "And now their noses are out of joint.

"The bottom line is that the manufacturers had the opportunity to come in, through EM.TV, long before Kirch came on the scene. It was a good proposal that they didn't take up."

German media firm Kirch now holds the cards in Formula One after taking a 75 per cent share in SLEC and Ecclestone, who now owns just 25 per cent of the empire he developed, believes the sport is currently in great shape.

"Formula One is a very stable, sound business with huge television and press coverage," he said.

But if the breakaway series is formed, it could devalue both championships and Ecclestone who added it "would be bad for everybody."