Montezemolo says no deal with Kirch

FERRARI president Luca di Montezemolo is continuing the campaign being waged by the automobile manufacturers to try to convince the world that there is the potential for a rival series to the Formula 1 World Championship. Most of the car manufacturers which were originally involved in the plan have mellowed somewhat in recent weeks but we hear that Fiat and Renault are maintaining their hard line in an effort to get more money out of the sport.

Montezemolo told the FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE that he does not think there is any deal with the Kirch Group on the horizon. Kirch controls 75% of SLEC, the company which holds the commercial rights of F1 and which, according to Montezemolo, currently takes 53% of the marketing income. In fact SLEC takes considerably more than that as the teams do not receive any of the money raised from promoters wanting to host a race, which is believed to generate as much as $150m a year.

There are expected to be talks soon between the car manufacturers and Kirch, while at the same time Bernie Ecclestone (the minority shareholder in SLEC) continues to negotiate with the teams over how the money should be split up. Ecclestone and Kirch are willing to compromise but they want a long-term deal with certain assurances from manufacturers before they agree to part with their share of the money from now until the end of 2006.

Despite all the noise, no-one in F1 is taking the threat of a rival series very seriously as the launch of a second championship would demolish the current popularity of the sport - and that makes no sense to anyone. So Montezemolo's comments must be seen as another stage in the negotiations towards a compromise.

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