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F1 in turmoil as 8 teams announce breakaway series

EIGHT Formula One teams began preparations for a rival series after failing to resolve their dispute with motor sport's governing body over financial constraints today.

Ferrari, which has participated since the inaugural championship in 1950, and current leader Brawn GP headed the list of Formula One Teams Association members to announce the split ahead of Sunday's British Grand Prix.

FOTA, which also includes McLaren, Renault, Toyota, BMW Sauber, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, would not compromise on the quality of the series by signing up unconditionally for the 2010 F1 season under the FIA's radical plans for cost-cutting. The FIA's deadline for entry was later Friday.

FOTA's statement criticized the FIA's "uncompromising" stance and attempts, along with the commercial rights holder Formula One Management, to divide its member teams.

As it stands, Williams and Force India will be the only current teams on the F1 starting grid next season while three new outfits - Campos Racing, Team US F1 and Manor F1 Team - are also due to enter.

FIA president Max Mosley was insistent on introducing a voluntary US$60 million budget cap for teams to curtail a "financial arms race" in F1. Those that don't agree to the cap would have more technical restrictions, something Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had called "fundamentally unfair."

Now F1 looks set to lose some of its biggest names, including championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn.

"The teams cannot continue to compromise on the fundamental values of the sport and have declined to alter their original conditional entries to the 2010 world championship," FOTA said after a meeting near Silverstone. "These teams, therefore, have no alternative other than to commence the preparation for a new championship which reflects the values of its participants and partners.

"This series will have transparent governance, one set of regulations, encourage more entrants and listen to the wishes of the fans, including offering lower prices for spectators worldwide, partners and other important stakeholders. The major drivers, stars, brands, sponsors, promoters and companies historically associated with the highest level of motorsport will all feature in this new series."

FOTA said its efforts to remain part of Mosley's series had been hampered by the FIA's approach to negotiations.

"The FIA and the commercial rights holder have campaigned to divide FOTA," the group said. "The wishes of the majority of the teams are ignored. Furthermore, tens of millions of dollars have been withheld from many teams by the commercial rights holder, going back as far as 2006.

"Despite this, and the uncompromising environment, FOTA has genuinely sought compromise."

Amid the global economic downturn, FOTA said it has already embarked on substantial cost-cutting.

The independent Brawn GP team only rose from the ashes of Honda after the Japanese automaker pulled out of F1 late last year as it was forced to focus on its core business. Yet now Button and Brawn teammate Rubens Barrichello occupy the top two spots in the drivers' standings going into Sunday's race.

"FOTA is proud that it has achieved the most substantial measures to reduce costs in the history of our sport," the statement said. "In particular, the manufacturer teams have provided assistance to the independent teams, a number of which would probably not be in the sport today without the FOTA initiatives. The FOTA teams have further agreed upon a substantial voluntary cost reduction that provides a sustainable model for the future."

The drivers had already been preparing for radical developments to emerge from yesterday's FOTA talks.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso made it clear in the paddock yesterday that he would leave F1 if his Renault team pulled out of F1.

"For me the new Formula One would be unattractive, with the small teams and no drivers," Alonso said. "We want to compete with the best teams in the world, the maximum technology: We all want to compete with the best drivers.

"If this is not what Formula One is about next year, then it will be another category with that. I won't retire, I will drive for another championship."


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