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APRIL 15, 2001

Manufacturers missed the boat - Ecclestone

FORMULA ONE ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone has accused Formula One's breakway manufacturers of "missing the boat" in their efforts to take a stake in the series - but backed them to finally agree a deal that will safeguard the future of Grand Prix racing.

Five European car manufacturers - Ford, DaimlerChrylser, BMW, Renault, and Fiat - have threatened to form a rival series to Formula One if they cannot have a say in the future running of the sport.

But Ecclestone said: "They think that they'd (manufacturers) like to be involved and they had a good opportunity to do so. I think they missed the boat a little bit and misjudged what was going to happen, but I think that in the end people will start talking."

Ecclestone suggested that the manufacturers were wary of the involvement of the German-based Kirch Group, who through EM.TV have a shareholding in the SLEC company, which owns the commercial and broadcasting rights to F1.

The car manufacturers are concerned that Formula One would be taken off traditional free-to-air channels by Kirch, but Ecclestone has dismissed that as an option.

He continued: "I think they will broker the deal themselves and sort themselves out. They know what they want and what they want to achieve. I think that as long as they thought that I was totally in control they were happy but they were worried if I suddenly keeled over or wasn't around. They don't want to be in the hands of somebody they don't know. I can also say that Formula One will remain on normal television."

Ecclestone also poured scorn on suggestions that a rival series would become a reality and said that the manufacturers were more likely to concentrate on ensuring a bright future for Formula One.

He added: "They'd be a little bit silly if they thought that would be the best way to go because they can do it in a better way. They're in Formula One to sell products, not to run races or race teams and in the end that's what it will probably come down to and what they ought to do."