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McLaren and Renault threatened boycott

March 24th, 2009

Bernie EcclestoneThe Times is reporting that in a meeting between Renault team principal Flavio Briatore, McLaren chairman and CEO Ron Dennis, Toyota team principal and FOTA vice-president John Howett and Bernie Ecclestone, Dennis and Briatore threatened to boycott the Australian Grand Prix.

They allegedly told Ecclestone that unless he wrote them a check they wouldn’t put their cars on the specially chartered flights to Australia last Sunday and neither would the rest of FOTA.  The money in question is in payment for signing a new Concorde Agreement, something the teams are yet to do.

According to Ecclestone:

Flavio said, ‘we’re not going to put our cars on the plane, we’re not going to Melbourne.’  He – Flavio – started it, aided and abetted by Ron Dennis.

Unfazed, Bernie decided to called their bluff:

I picked up the phone to our people that handle all the freight to ask them to cancel the aeroplanes.  They were saying, ‘all the Fota-schmota are not going – nobody’s going to go.’ So I said what I’d better do is cancel the aircraft obviously. It costs a fortune to charter those things and almost as much to cancel them.

All the cars are now in Melbourne so the threat obviously wasn’t carried out.  The first race hasn’t even been run but we may already have the Bernie quote of the season:

If they come in here with a gun and hold it to my head, they had better be sure they can fucking pull the trigger.  And they should make sure it’s got bullets in it because, if they miss, they better look out.

The tensions between FOTA and the FIA/Ecclestone has undertones of the FISA-FOCA war of the 80’s.  Back then, Bernie Ecclestone as Brabham team owner and Max Mosley as his legal advisor were on the other side of the conflict that culiminated in a boycott of the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix.  Among the complaints of the FOCA teams were FISA’s handling of regulations and financial compensation.

Sounds familiar…

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