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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
F1 costs row gets dirty
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt
Ferrari's Todt is at the centre of a blazing row in F1
As if the future of the British Grand Prix was not already confusing enough, it has now been dragged into a row between Formula One's teams over the future of the sport.

Nine of the 10 teams put out a statement at the weekend proposing a series of cost-cutting measures, and saying they would agree to do 19 Grands Prix in 2005 - and therefore the threatened British and French races - if the measures were agreed.

Ferrari, the odd ones out, were angry at being painted as the bad boys who could be responsible for preventing two of F1's historic races going ahead.

Ferrari say the two issues have nothing to do with each other - and on paper they are right, up to a point.

But the other teams have chosen to link them to force super-rich Ferrari's hand on the wider issue of cost-cutting.

Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya leads McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen on the way to victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix
Even top teams like Williams and McLaren are feeling the pinch
Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt complained he was not invited to the crucial meeting on Saturday at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

But that was because his fellow team bosses lost patience with his behaviour at another meeting on the same issue earlier in the weekend.

The statement on cost-cutting - and the meetings that led to it - was effectively a cry for help from the F1 teams, despite one package of changes for reducing expenditure already being forced through this year.

Yet Todt is said to have sat in a meeting in Brazil on Friday rejecting virtually every idea that was put forward.

In one sense, this was business as usual - Ferrari always oppose cuts in testing, because they have two private test tracks and do more of it than anyone else.

All F1 teams act in their own best interests, but Ferrari take this further than anyone else - Todt and his colleagues have learned well from Machiavelli.

Limit on tyre testing to 10 days
Use of a control tyre
Friday practice at races to be two two-hour sessions
They say this would save enough money to allow their to be 19 races, including the French and British GPs
The difference this time was the nine other teams decided enough was enough, and that if Ferrari were going to play dirty, so could they.

The other teams needed a way of forcing the agenda, and Ferrari found their own tactics used against them.

It is unusual for so many F1 teams to agree on one issue. But this is not a normal situation.

There is a genuine - and very serious - financial crisis in F1. And it does not just revolve around Ford's decision to sell Jaguar and pull out of F1, and the knock-on effects on Jordan and Minardi, who use Ford customer engines.

There are question marks over the future of Renault's team as the company prepares to appoint a new president, Carlos Ghosn, whose nickname is "Le Costcutter".

Despite appearances, even major outfits like McLaren and Williams are struggling.

Renault drivers Fernando Alonso and Jacques Villeneuve at the Brazilian Grand Prix
Renault's F1 future is said to be in doubt because of costs fears
Even Ferrari are not immune.

Their parent company Fiat reported operating losses of 282m euros (196m) on its car business in the second quarter of this year.

And Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo talked in September about the pressing need for cost-cutting in F1, despite his team having the biggest budget in the sport.

Despite this - and the angry entreaties of other senior figures that the very future of the sport was under threat - Ferrari were behaving in Brazil as if there was no problem.

If they carry on like that, the world champions may find they are racing only themselves before very long.

And unless another proposal is put forward to save the British Grand Prix, they probably won't be doing it at Silverstone, either.

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