AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone dismissed the threat of a U.S. Grand Prix boycott on Saturday after cash-strapped smaller teams suggested they could take drastic action to push their demands for more money.
”Forget all that crap. I promise you they will be racing (tomorrow),“ the 84-year-old told reporters after qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas. ”They will be racing, I give you an absolute guarantee.
“I‘m worried if they are going to be racing next year,” added the Briton.
Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley had told Reuters earlier that all options were open for teams fighting for survival in a paddock that has already seen Marussia and Caterham disappear since the previous race in Russia.
“Nothing is off the table at this point,” Fernley said. “Everything and anything is possible. The team owners need themselves to sit down and decide what actions they want to take and then make sure everybody is informed properly.”
Force India, Sauber and Lotus have all had financial troubles and their bosses have all urged the bigger teams to create a more level playing field by ensuring that all have the means to compete.
Caterham and Marussia collapsed into administration last month with considerable debts.
That has left nine teams in Austin with the risk of more falling by the wayside and revived debate about how a sport that makes more than $1.5 billion in annual revenues cannot ensure 11 teams have enough to stay afloat.
With an engine supply costing around $30 million, the smaller teams argue that there should be a minimum guaranteed budget provided to all.
Talk of a possible boycott came as a chill blast from the past for U.S. fans who recall only too painfully the fiasco of 2005 when only six cars started the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
All the Michelin-equipped cars withdrew from that race for safety reasons, after completing the parade lap, when a compromise solution could not be reached.
That was seen as a classic case of Formula One shooting itself in the foot with both barrels in a prime market that it has long sought to crack and in which it has made some progress thanks to Austin’s purpose-built facility.
Fernley said nobody wanted to alienate the local fans or damage Formula One’s image.
”That’s the last thing that we want to do,“ he emphasized. ”There no question of that.
”The thing is, you’ve got three owners here who are passionate about racing, that have supported Formula One for many, many years in different formats. The last thing they want to do is damage it.
“But at the moment, Formula One is damaging them. Big time. The silence is deafening from people reaching out to help. If someone actually talks to us...there is no discussion with the disenfranchised teams at all,” said Fernley.
Under the new governance of Formula One, the sport is ruled by a strategy group that includes Ecclestone, the governing body and top teams but excludes the likes of Sauber and Force India.
Editing by Steve Keating.