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Ecclestone slaps Montezemolo down to size
Bernie Ecclestone exposed Ferrari's little secret and slaps its President down to size
Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One commercial rights-holder, launched a stinging attack on Luca di Montezemolo yesterday, effectively telling the Ferrari president to mind his own business, in the wake of the latter’s criticisms of the way Ecclestone is running the sport.

Speaking at the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy, this week, Di Montezemolo said that Formula One was not being run in what he called a “normal” manner, that the sport did not need a “dictator”, in a remark taken as a reference to Ecclestone, and that teams wanted more of the sport’s vast income and greater transparency from Ecclestone about the extent of that money. “We want to know more about the revenues,” he said.

An angry Ecclestone told The Times that Di Montezemolo should be the last person to be complaining about how much income the teams receive. “The only thing he has not mentioned is the extra money Ferrari get above all the other teams and all the extra things Ferrari have had for years – the ‘general help’ they are considered to have had in Formula One,” Ecclestone said.

It has always been known that Ferrari, whose presence on the grid is regarded as critical to the success and prestige of the championship, are on a special deal with Ecclestone’s company and get more money than their rivals. But Ecclestone put a figure on that for the first time yesterday, something that may be designed to drive a wedge between the Scuderia and the other teams.

“Ferrari get so much more money than everyone else,” he said. “They know exactly what they get, they are not that stupid, although they are not that bright, either. They get about $80 million (about £54 million) more. When they win the constructors’ championship, which they did this year, they got $80 million more than if McLaren had won it.”

Ecclestone added that the special deal with the Italian sports car manufacturer goes back to the attempt by the teams to form a breakaway championship in 2003, when Ferrari were the first to return to the fold. “They were the only team that broke ranks with the other manufacturers – why did they break ranks?” he said. “That’s where the $80 million comes in. We ‘bought’ Ferrari. We ‘bought’ Ferrari’s loyalty. Our deal with Ferrari was that we ‘bought’ them so they would not go to the others.”

Di Montezemolo’s call for more transparency about the huge annual income of Formula One was interpreted by Ecclestone as a thinly veiled attack on his business ethics. He said that since the first formal deal under which the teams race was signed, in 1981, the so-called Concorde Agreement, they have had the right to examine the finances of the business. “They have the right to send people into the company and search for everything,” Ecclestone said. “Ferrari in particular, more than anybody, from day one, have had the right and they’ve never done it. We have bankers here and we’ve got CVC (CVC Capital Partners, the principal owners of Formula One) checking every single solitary thing. So anybody that starts saying that we’ve done anything wrong, I’ll sue the a*** off them.”

As far as Di Montezemolo’s ambition to wrest more money for the teams from Ecclestone, the 78-year-old billionaire cast doubt on the chances of him agreeing to meeting in the new year to discuss this. Previously he had suggested that the teams should get less income, not more, in the light of the recent cost-cutting deal concluded with the FIA. He had a different idea yesterday. “What he should do, rather than asking for money, with all the extra money Ferrari gets, he should share all that amongst the teams,” Ecclestone said of Di Montezemolo.

The Ferrari president leveled a number of specific charges against Ecclestone, among them the decision to cancel the Canadian Grand Prix, which Di Montezemolo said he had found out about in the newspapers.

Once again the pugilistic Formula One official was having none of it. “The reason the Canadian Grand Prix is finished has been discussed with all the teams, including him, and it was agreed that what Canada was paying was nowhere near enough,” Ecclestone said.

In a final thought, he suggested that the Ferrari president knows less about his company than his own employees. “It’s a shame he’s not in touch with people that seem to run the company as opposed to what he does – work as a press officer,” Ecclestone said. London Times

[Editor's Note: As we predicted, this year's off-season concocted controversy in F1 will be a war of words between Montezemolo and Ecclestone to ensure F1 stays in the news daily/weekly.]

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