F1 and leading teams have an agenda - Force India

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Hamilton 0.003s faster than Rosberg

The owners of Formula 1 and its leading teams have an "agenda" that is causing smaller teams to go out of business, a team boss has said.

Bob Fernley, Force India's deputy team principal, said F1 was not sustainable and would have a "different format" in 2015.

"F1 is at a crossroads. There is clearly an agenda," Fernley said.

"Two teams have been forced out. How many need to be forced out before they achieve the goal they are looking for?"

Fernley said he believed main shareholder CVC, a venture capital group, and the leading teams that make up the strategy group that defines rules were trying to force the sport down a specific route.

"We have missed an opportunity in F1 to be able to get it sustainable,' Fernley said. "That is passed us and there is no point looking back.

"I think F1 will be in a different format in 2015 and I don't know what that is.

Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn
Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn has said she is "beyond the stage of frustration" about the sport's financial issues

"CVC and the teams they have empowered have got some form of programme in place because nobody (otherwise) would have teams going out of business. There is a (financial) split that is inequitable."

Fernley and other team bosses in his position, such as Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn, have been arguing for some time that the income generated by F1 should be split more equitably.

The issue is vying for centre of attention at this weekend's US Grand Prix with the title battle between Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton, who was fastest in second practice on Friday from Rosberg by just 0.003secs, leads the German by 17 points heading into the race in Austin, Texas, with 100 points still available in the remaining three races.

F1 has revenues of $1.8bn and 63% is passed to the teams, but it is the way that money is shared out that causes concern - and problems for the less successful outfits.

The money is split according to a complicated formula related to a team's recent results and historic success, and which is heavily skewed in favour of the big teams.

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are fighting for the title
Hamilton leads Rosberg by 17 points in the drivers' title

Adding to the smaller teams' problems is that sponsorship money has been hard to generate since the global financial crash at the end of the last decade, and the increased costs caused by the new turbo hybrid engines this season, which have at least doubled in price compared to last year.

Fernley did not expand on what he thought the "agenda" was, but the strong implication is that he was referring to F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone's desire for the bigger teams to supply cars to smaller ones.

BBC 5 live F1 correspondent James Allen said: "The anger and frustration of the smaller teams in F1 began to boil over on a tense afternoon on Friday, as the Sauber, Force India and Lotus team laid out their concerns that the distribution of F1′s commercial revenues, which favours the top teams, combined with the lack of effective cost control, threatens the livelihood of their teams.

"After two teams went into administration last week, the time has come to act, they said.

"There are even suggestions tonight that the three teams have threatened a boycott of the US Grand Prix as a protest against the inequality.

"My understanding is that the three teams had discussions prior to leaving Europe, but the prospect of being blamed for a repeat of the 2005 Indianapolis fiasco, where only six cars raced and which cast F1 in a bad light in the USA, is too much to contemplate."

Hamilton 0.003s faster than Rosberg

Force India team principal Vijay Mallya said: "I have not had any conversation with any team about any boycott but I have discussed with Lotus and Sauber our extreme disappointment at the loss of both Marussia and Caterham.

"I was more than distressed to hear the attitudes of the big teams, expressed by Mercedes, that they would spend what they want to spend and if other teams can afford to be in F1 they are welcome otherwise they need to get out.

"I don't think these big teams write the rules nor is it their championship and the FIA should provide the platform for the participating teams and write the rules and guidelines for participation.

"So the arrogance of these big teams needs to be tempered down. There are many fans out there who support the smaller teams and they need to be respected. The small teams cannot be taken for granted."

The contracts signed by the teams mean that Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren may have to run third cars in 2015 if the grid is below 20 cars - as it now is following the demise of the Caterham and Marussia teams in the last week.

Ecclestone told BBC Sport: "The third car business, my original idea, which is what I stick to, is the manufacturer can do a deal with a team.

"Red Bull, if you like, could say to Caterham, you can have a car, you've got to run a driver of our choice in the car. You run the car.

"You still call it Caterham or whatever, and the idea was if that team scores points then half of the points should go to the team that was supplying the car.

Bernie Ecclestone talks to Graeme Lowdon in Sochi
Bernie Ecclestone speaks with Graeme Lowdon, Sporting Director of Marussia

"I don't think it's probably the way to go, three Ferraris run by the Ferrari team, I think that would be wrong.

"I did suggest if that was to ever happen maybe the third car should have a different sponsor and different colours, so it's all up in the air how we're going to operate if we lose the teams. I'd rather not lose the teams."

The drivers of the Caterham team, which went into administration last week, are both at the US Grand Prix trying to secure drives in the future.

Japanese Kamui Kobayashi said he had discovered the team's plight by reading the news on the internet.

Kobayashi said: "We have some chance [to be at the final race] in Abu Dhabi maybe but I don't want to think about that.

"We finished like this which is not really nice but I am happy I was racing this year. Nobody called me. I think they were working hard to save the team. I saw on the internet to understand the situation. I had some chat with the mechanics. They give me the detail."

Full second practice results

US Grand Prix coverage details

Top Stories