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Formula 1 News - March, 2009
Teams threatened to boycott season opener

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Mar.24 (GMM) At least two team bosses threatened to boycott this weekend's Australian grand prix, it has emerged.

London's the Times newspaper reports that Flavio Briatore of Renault, and McLaren's Ron Dennis, recently told Bernie Ecclestone they would not send their cars and equipment to Melbourne due to a dispute over unpaid income.

The Melbourne newspaper Herald Sun, meanwhile, said Ferrari may also have been involved in a boycott threat, so angry was the team and chief rival McLaren about the FIA's latest rule changes.

Ultimately, all the cars did land in Melbourne, but race promoter Ron Walker admitted he is aware of the feuding.

"It's very serious at the moment, but I think good sense will prevail by Sunday," he said.

"A clear understanding will be made between the teams and the FIA. (And) Bernie is the master deal-maker. He's been in it for years."

Australia's FIA representative Garry Connelly also played down the rumours. "That (a boycott) would be suicide for them," he said.

"They have sponsorship agreements in place. What are they going to do -- throw away a large percentage of their television coverage just because they're upset?

"They'd be in breach of contract with their sponsors, I'd suggest," he added.

The boycott ultimatum by Briatore and Dennis - also on behalf of other FOTA teams - was revealed by Ecclestone as the F1 chief executive this week met with a few select British reporters.

The 78-year-old said Toyota's John Howett was also present when the boycott threat was issued, reportedly over money Ecclestone promised to pay the teams if they sign a new Concorde agreement.

The new commercial agreement has not yet been signed.

"Poor John was sitting there a bit confused about life in general. Flavio started it (the threat)," Ecclestone revealed, "aided and abetted by Ron Dennis. They were saying all the FOTA-schmota are not going (to Australia) -- 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," he added.

While all the cars did travel to and land this week in Melbourne, it is believed the teams have not yet been paid by Ecclestone.

The billionaire said he doesn't mind hard business tactics, but detests when the threats are empty.

"If they come in here with a gun and hold it to my head, they had better be sure they can f---ing pull the trigger. And they should make sure it's got bullets in it because, if they miss, they better look out," Ecclestone warned.

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