What evil deeds are these?

THE news that five Formula 1 teams are supposed to have joined forces to act as a rival to Bernie Ecclestone's companies is really not a story which should be taken too seriously. The aim is clearly to damage and cause division and, as these are sensitive times in Grand Prix racing, it is not really the moment that most people want to see the boat being rocked.

It is not clear why Neil Johnson, the man in charge of the GPT Ltd. company, felt the need to make what are clearly very inflammatory comments.

Johnson comes from the automobile club world rather than the sport. His major claim to fame is that it was his initiative which resulted in the Royal Automobile Club undergoing a major rebranding after the firm's demutualization. It is clear that someone (other than the journalist from The Times newspaper which broke the story) has been pulling Johnson's strings. There are many people who stand to gain from attacks on Bernie Ecclestone but, when all things are considered, most of them have more to lose than they have to gain. Ecclestone remains a force for stability in the sport and there is currently no-one who has the clout to take over his position.

There is embarrassment amongst the membership of GPT Ltd. about what has been said. It is not a new organization but was set up six months ago as a defensive mechanism between the independent teams rather than a means of attacking the powers-that-be. The GPT (which is made up of McLaren, Williams, Jordan, Arrows and BAR) does not want to be seen as a threat to Ecclestone - because it is not one. The teams do not have the financial clout to be buying shares in the F1 holding companies - despite the obvious talents for borrowing which some of the team bosses have shown in the past. It seems to us that most of those concerned are confused as to why Johnson has suddenly started talking.

Ecclestone stands to gain nothing by abusing himself although splitting the private teams from the manufacturers would make some sense in the long term if Bernie had the desire to beat the teams into submission. However in recent days there have been signs that Ecclestone is looking towards a compromise solution for the future and so throwing all the pieces into the air does not make sense.

The manufacturers in F1 are not involved as the GPT is a gathering of the independent teams (although there is obviously some Mercedes-Benz involvement in McLaren). They have already made it clear that they intend to start their own series and so they have no need of the GPT. They would not be likely to back a story which divides them from the teams which they wish to recruit to their cause...

The FIA is not really a player in any of this except that it is keen for there to be a solution to the problem which keeps everyone happy and avoids the creation of two rival championships. So making a fuss makes no sense.

The only logical conclusion therefore is that someone isn't thinking straight and Johnson is either a messenger who does not see that he is being used or has gone his own way.

Whichever way you look at it, the messenger will probably end up getting shot.

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