OCTOBER 27, 2004

Guess who is Bernie's best friend

The news that the Australian GP is not going to go along with the GPWC is no big surprise because race promoter Ron Walker is Bernie Ecclestone's best pal and advisor. Walker always comes running to Ecclestone's defence with a necessary sound byte at the right moment. But the fact is that as a member of the FIA Formula 1 Commission Walker knows the score and his remarks about the Australian GP not going with the GPWC are slightly misleading in that a split is very unlikely to happen as everyone knows that it would be disastrous to have two competing series. The battle is not so much a question of who gets what when F1 splits but rather a question of how the warring parties organize a merger or takeover in the future. Walker may say that he cannot see the GPWC getting off the ground but the attitude is out of sync with the thinking of many in the F1 paddock. If the GPWC can present a solid case for teams to switch to their camp there is no reason why they should not sign up. The GPWC will have more money available to pay the teams because they will be delivering somewhere in the region of 80% of all the income to the teams. Ecclestone currently delivers something like 30% of the total revenues in F1. In this respect Ecclestone has to be on the back foot and his hope will be that he can divide and conquer the teams.

And remember that the whole business may not be in Ecclestone's hands for ever because the banks are currently trying to take control of the Formula One group. If they do, their intention appears to be to hand over the running of F1 to the GPWC and the problems will be solved.

In that case Ecclestone might try to start his own new series with a different name but by 2008 he will be 78 years old and no matter how much energy he now has, it is likely that he will have less by then.