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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 April, 2003, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Mercedes dismisses control fears

By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor at Imola

Mercedes has rejected concerns that Formula One would suffer if the car manufacturers succeeded in their desire to become involved in the running of the sport.

Five of F1's car manufacturers, including Mercedes, have threatened to set up a rival championship in 2008 if they are not given a bigger involvement.

Mercedes sports boss Norbert Haug
The manufacturers have stepped up their bid for greater influence
That has led to fears that F1 could go the way of other motor racing championships which have collapsed after becoming dependent upon or being run by manufacturers.

This happened to both the Sportscar World Championship and the International Touring Car Championship in the 1990s.

But Mercedes sports boss Norbert Haug said: "I understand those concerns, but we should not compare the SWC to F1.

I don't understand people in the paddock saying that the manufacturers are bad for the sport
Mercedes boss Norbert Haug

"The manufacturers don't want to run the show and we do not simply want more money, because the money goes to the teams.

"We want to know what's going to happen in the next five, seven and 10 years."

Haug was referring to the uncertainty that hangs over the future of the sport at the moment.

The contracts binding the teams to F1 run out in 2007 and the sport is owned by a group of German banks after the collapse of the Kirch media group in 2001.

The teams and manufacturers want more control, more money and a shareholding in the sport.

And on Thursday motorsport boss Max Mosley said for the first time that the rival championship could well happen.

The banks currently own 75% of the holding company that controls F1, with commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone owning the other 25%.

Mercedes, which is part of DaimlerChrysler, is one of several car manufacturers that own either part or all of an F1 team - the others being Toyota, Renault, Fiat (Ferrari) and Ford (Jaguar).

The five manufacturers threatening to set up the rival series, called the Grand Prix World Championship, are DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Fiat, Renault and BMW, who supply the Williams team.

Backbone

Haug said: "I don't understand people in the paddock saying that the manufacturers are bad for the sport.

"The manufacturers have been part of bringing an improvement to F1 in the last 10 years. They are good for F1.

"But the backbone of F1 is very, very strong teams - one of which we are part of. In the SWC, you didn't have that.

"The ITC died because Opel and Alfa Romeo pulled out. But part of the GPWC will be contracts guaranteeing long-term commitment."

Haug reiterated his pledge to supply customer engines to a team next season for $10m - considerably less than the $25m Ferrari currently charge Sauber.

He said no team had shown an interest in buying the engines as yet.




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