Boycott cannot be ruled out, says Force India boss

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2014 2:27 PM

By Alan Baldwin

AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - Formula One's cash-strapped smaller teams could boycott Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix unless their complaints about the division of revenues are heard, Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley said on Saturday.

"Nothing is off the table at this point," he told Reuters at the Circuit of the Americas.

"Everything and anything is possible. The team owners need themselves to sit down and decide what actions they want to take and then make sure everybody is informed properly," added the Briton.

Force India, Sauber and Lotus have all had financial troubles and their bosses have all urged the bigger teams to create a more level playing field by ensuring that all have the means to compete.

The talk, which is becoming increasingly militant, comes after the indebted Caterham and Marussia teams collapsed into administration.

That has left just nine teams in Austin with the risk of more falling by the wayside and revived debate about how a sport that makes more than $1.5 billion in annual revenues cannot ensure 11 teams have enough to stay afloat.

With an engine supply costing around $30 million, the smaller teams argue that there should be a minimum guaranteed budget provided to all.

Talk of a possible boycott will chill the hearts of U.S. fans who recall only too painfully the fiasco of 2005 when only six cars started the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

All the Michelin-equipped cars withdrew from that race for safety reasons, after completing the parade lap, when a compromise solution could not be reached.

That was seen as a classic case of Formula One shooting itself in the foot with both barrels in a prime market that it has long sought to crack and in which it has made some progress thanks to Austin's purpose-built facility.

Fernley said nobody wanted to alienate the local fans or damage Formula One's image.

"That's the last thing that we want to do," he emphasized. "There no question of that.

"The thing is, you've got three owners here who are passionate about racing, that have supported Formula One for many, 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. The silence is deafening from people reaching out to help. If someone actually talks to us...there is no discussion with the disenfranchised teams at all," said Fernley.

The renewed threat of a boycott came after the teams appeared to rule out any such action on Friday, with Lotus owner Gerard Lopez saying he was unaware of any such suggestion.

(Editing by Steve Keating.)