Carmakers call on Formula 1 sponsors to renew talks

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The Independent Online

Carmakers involved in Formula One racing yesterday called on the sport's management to re-open talks with them in order to strike a new deal in the wake of the crisis at Kirch, the German media group which holds the F1 rights.

The racing teams have long been unhappy at Kirch's running of the F1 business and five carmakers involved in the sport, including DaimlerChrysler, have threatened to set up their own rival championship from 2008. They were particularly concerned Kirch may put the sport on pay-TV, thereby cutting out most of the audience.

Kirch's core rights and TV business filed for insolvency on Monday but the division that owns the F1 business has so far remained solvent.

Juergen Schrempp, chief executive of Daimler, used the company's annual general meeting to suggest the car-makers would be interested in buying into the current deal, allowing them to take greater control before 2008.

The sport is run by Bernie Ecclestone, who is F1's chief executive and owner of a 25 per cent stake in the business that runs the sport. Kirch acquired the other 75 per cent in 2000 for $1.3bn (£900m), in one of the deals that over-stretched the German company.

"We are prepared [to go ahead with the rival championship], it is now up to Mr Ecclestone or others who hold the rights to hold talks with the carmakers to see if our legitimate wishes can be satisfied, including that Formula One be on free-to-air television," said Mr Schrempp.

Talks between Kirch and the carmakers broke down last year. It was reported Kirch offered to give a 20 per cent stake to the manufacturers but wanted the current contract, which runs out at the end of the 2007 season, to be extended in return.

The Daimler AGM, attended by 9,500 shareholders, was said to be a tense event and Mr Schrempp came under fire over the poor share price and operating performance since it bought Chrysler in 1998.

Mr Schrempp said the group would make "significantly more than" €2.6bn (£1.6bn) in 2002, but he added that earlier, far higher targets for subsequent years would be reached later than expected, due to weak economic conditions.

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