My goodness, what a busy bee Luca di Montezemolo has been over the past few weeks. The Ferrari president has seldom been as widely or repeatedly quoted as he has since the end of the 2010 F1 season, whether it be on the subject of team orders, Felipe Massa’s driving prowess – or lack of it – and now the imperative need for Bernie Ecclestone to stay in charge of the hands-on running of the commercial side of the sport on an open ended basis.
Di Montezemolo correctly believes that there will be some hard-nosed bargaining over the next couple of years between the competing teams and Mr E, in his role as the sport’s commercial rights holder, as the basis for a new Concorde agreement is thrashed into place for the 2013 season. All this is set against a backdrop of muted rumblings like distant thunder on the horizon to the effect that the teams might consider a breakaway series if they cannot get the deal they want. That basically means a bigger slice of the $1bn annual commercial rights pie.
I know, we’ve all heard rumours like this before and at the end of the day di Montezemolo believes that Ecclestone’s continued position at the pinnacle of the F1 commercial machine is absolutely vital. But, reading closely between the lines, there is the implicit suggestion that, as long as Bernie is in charge, it might not matter precisely who owns the actual commercial rights of the sport.
At the moment CVC Capital Partners - who bought a majority stake in Bernie’s F1 group of companies in 2005 - are the people who own the F1 rights. But di Montezemolo’s observations have had the effect of triggering much speculation about the future structure of the sport. Could CVC – who are ultimately businessmen seeking to turn a decent profit – eventually decide to sell their investment in F1?
To the acquisitive Abu Dhabi government, perhaps? Or even back to Bernie? The great thing about F1 – and the only thing you can be certain of – is that nothing is certain.