F1 teams threaten to boycott US GP

F1 teams threaten to boycott US GP

The threat of a boycott of the United States Grand Prix is firmly on the table following a meeting of the owners of Lotus, Force India and Sauber.

Stories emerged on Friday night the trio of teams were considering a withdrawal from the race to send a defiant message to F1’s commercial rulers they are no longer prepared to accept the financial folly they believe exists in the sport.

The demise of Caterham and Marussia, in particular, over the last nine days has brought the financial plight of the smaller teams to light.

Lotus owner Gerard Lopez rejected the idea of such drastic action when put to him by Press Association Sport, insisting he was not aware of it.

But ahead of qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas, Lopez is in discussions with Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya and Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn about staging a dramatic walk out.

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley said: “They are going to have more meetings to determine their actions.

“Nothing is off the table at this point. Everything and anything is possible.

“But the team owners need to sit down themselves, decide what action they want to take and then make sure everybody is informed properly.”

If they did pull out of the race it would be similar to the 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On that occasion just three teams and six cars competed after the remaining seven teams and 14 cars pulled off the circuit at the end of the formation lap.

Following a number of crashes in the build up to the event due to issues with the Michelin tyres, the French manufacturer was unable to reach a compromise solution with the FIA as they had called for modifications to the circuit to aid their tyre wear.

By way of a protest the seven Michelin-shod teams opted not to take part, creating one of the greatest controversies in F1 history.

A repeat of that incident would surely kill F1 in the America forever at a time when it has started to re-establish itself at the Austin track.

Fernley added: “That’s the last thing we want to do.

“There are three owners here who are passionate about racing, who have supported Formula One for 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, with the silence deafening from people reaching out to help.

“It would be good for dialogue to start, for somebody to actually talk to us because there is no discussion with the disenfranchised teams at all.”

Costs in F1 have spiralled out of control, with the FIA unable to impose any kind of cost cap or restrictions upon the teams.

The smaller marques are dismayed, in particular, by the considerable disparity in revenues as the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes overwhelmingly receive the lion’s share of the £900million handed out by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

The smaller teams feel it is time the commercial rights holders in Ecclestone and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners resolve the matter, with a protest to draw attention to their plight.

“The FIA, with all due respect, we went through with them all we did with the cost-control system,” said Fernley.

“But at the end of the day they couldn’t deliver it because they were out-voted by the Strategy Group (that comprises the six leading teams), and they know that.

“It is CVC and the Strategy Group who are the ones who are going to have to resolve it.”

It was suggested to Fernley a protest during the final race in Abu Dhabi, one of the jewels in F1’s crown and where the title will be decided this year, would be more of an appropriate platform to draw attention to their plight.

Fernley said: “Those are the things that obviously the owners are going to look at because there have to be things that bring it to some sort of conclusion and to people’s attention for dialogue to open up.

“Whatever happens in Formula One, even as we stand here today, it is going to change because nobody is coming to us and saying we’re going to protect you.”

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