Thursday, June 11, 2009

F1: Damon Hill Warns Against Breakaway Series


FORMER WORLD CHAMPION Damon Hill has pleaded for Formula 1 powerbrokers to reach a solution to the current crisis and avoid the prospect of a breakaway series.

Hill believes any moves to form a rival elite category could ultimately prove damaging, citing the fate of open wheel racing in North America following 1996’s CART/Indy Car split.

After Indianapolis Motor Speedway boss Tony George launched the Indy Racing League to compete with Champ Car, interest in open wheel racing plummeted as confusion arose over which series could lay claim to be the premier category in the country.

While the decade long battle for supremacy has finally reached an end following the merger of the IRL and Champ Car, the situation allowed NASCAR to capitalise on the disarray and cement its status as the most popular form of motorsport in the continent.

“You only have to look over the pond to see what happens when you split a championship. It’s difficult enough to draw people into one particular sport, so what will they make of two separate championships? It would just dilute it,” Hill said to Autosport.

Hill said he is also concerned by the trend of waging political battles in the public domain, claiming it could detract from the ultimate spectacle.

“The last few years have been really appalling and lots of people have asked questions about the administration of the sport,” he said.

“That’s what the issue is all about. It’s entertaining in the same way that the Jerry Springer Show is - not for the right reasons - so it’s a turn-off as well.”

Formula One head Bernie Ecclestone

Meanwhile, Formula One Management boss Bernie Ecclestone said he is prepared to take legal action to protect his brand if a breakaway series eventually come to fruition.

Ecclestone warned any attempts to entice existing F1 broadcasters and sponsors across to a FOTA sponsored championship will prompt the start of legal action.

He told Britain’s Daily Express: “If they do try to set up their own series - and I don’t think they will be able to – there are big problems ahead for them.

“Apart from my contracts with teams, if somebody went to any of our contracted people, companies, television contractors, we would view it very seriously.

“That would be inducement to breach contracts and I don’t do that myself, so I won’t stand back and let it happen. Any action could run to hundreds of millions of pounds, who knows how much?”