Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ferrari's 'general help'

A Captain ought, among all the other actions of his, endeavour with every art to divide the forces of the enemy, either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker. (Macchiavelli, N. 1521. The Art of War, Book VI).

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo suggested this week that Bernie Ecclestone was running F1 as a dictator, that he should step aside sooner rather than later, and that the F1 teams required both a greater slice of the commercial revenues from F1, and a greater 'transparency' about those revenues.

In response, Bernard was moved to publicly specify, for the first time, the extra financial benefit Ferrari receives from the commercial revenues, and to also acknowledge that Ferrari have for many years been the beneficiaries of something he termed 'general help':

"The only thing [Montezemolo] has not mentioned is the extra money Ferrari get above all the other teams and all the extra things Ferrari have had for years – the 'general help' they are considered to have had in Formula One.

"Ferrari get so much more money than everyone else. They know exactly what they get, they are not that stupid, although they are not that bright, either. They get about $80 million (about £54 million) more. When they win the constructors' championship, which they did this year, they got $80 million more than if McLaren had won it."

General help. Now there's an interesting phrase. Of what does this general help consist, one wonders? Perhaps Bernie and the governing body, the FIA, have been giving advice to Ferrari team members on how to ensure that their motions are regular as clockwork each morning. Or perhaps the FIA have provided tips on the best holiday destinations, advice on how to improve one's memory, and methods for getting a good night's sleep.

The Formula 1 teams have recently formed a united front (FOTA, the Formula One Teams Association), to represent their interests against those of the FIA, and the private equity company, CVC, which owns the commerical rights to F1, and whose F1 companies are operated by Bernie Ecclestone. Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has been acting as the spokesman for FOTA, given that Ferrari wield the greatest amount of political clout.

FOTA are seeking a greater proportion of the commercial revenue generated by F1, and Bernie is seeking to prevent this with a divide-and-conquer technique. By implying that Ferrari have indeed received something more than financial assistance from the powers-that-be, Bernie is seeking to fuel the beliefs amongst Ferrari's rivals that F1 is not a level playing field. The phrase 'general help' is sufficiently ambiguous that it can be clarified and neutralised at a later stage, but is, nevertheless, designed to make McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, BMW, Toyota et al wonder if they really can trust Ferrari.

One hopes that FOTA have anticipated this tactic...

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