F1, FIA Agree New Concorde Deal; F1 Teams Want Calendar To Have 20-Race Limit
F1 moved closer to a new seven-year commercial agreement, seen as key to any future flotation, on Saturday after rights holders and FIA said that "they had signed a preliminary document setting out the final steps," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. The confidential "Concorde Agreement," which expired at the end of last year, "sets out the commercial side of the highly lucrative sport including the distribution of revenues." It must be agreed by the rights holder, governing body and teams -- 11 of them at present -- "and negotiations have encountered numerous stumbling blocks over the past year." F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said, "There have obviously been lots of things we've had to sort out. This forms most of the Concorde Agreement for the teams as well, so we can get the whole lot put to bed now" (REUTERS, 7/27). AUTOSPORT's Jonathan Noble wrote "although Ecclestone was able to secure teams' agreement to a Concorde with relative ease," it was much harder for him and FIA President Jean Todt to settle their differences. Todt "has been eager to secure a greater financial contribution for the governing body from F1's profits." While some of that revenue has come from the teams, through increased entry fees and superlicense costs, "there is also understood to be a contribution from the commercial rights holder too." One of the final sticking points in the talks was the control of the media in F1, with Ecclestone "eager for written press and journalists to fall under Formula One Group's control, just as it controls television rights." This could have led to all media being charged for access to cover F1 -- "something that Todt is understood to have been against" (AUTOSPORT, 7/27).
TWENTY RACE LIMIT: REUTERS' Baldwin also wrote that Ecclestone could have 22 races jostling for a slot next season, "but teams have made clear they want the calendar limited to 20." The current championship has 19 rounds, but Austria is returning in '14 after an 11-year absence "while new races in New Jersey and Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi have also been penciled in." Ecclestone said that 20 races would be "a good amount." Ecclestone added that "everything is possible" and the calendar could go above 20 "if we have to." F1 "has never had more than 20 rounds" (REUTERS, 7/28). In a separate article, Baldwin wrote "the Hungarian Grand Prix has signed a contract extension to stay on the calendar" until '21. The race at the Hungaroring has been a fixture since its debut in '86 as F1's first in Eastern Europe and behind what was then the "Iron Curtain" (REUTERS, 7/28).