Motor racing: Ecclestone rejects Caterham 'begging bowl'

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone slammed Caterham's plan to raise funds from fans as a disaster for the sport on Saturday and ruled out putting any money of his own in the "begging bowl". -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone slammed Caterham's plan to raise funds from fans as a disaster for the sport on Saturday and ruled out putting any money of his own in the "begging bowl". -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SAO PAULO (REUTERS) - Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone slammed Caterham's plan to raise funds from fans as a disaster for the sport on Saturday and ruled out putting any money of his own in the "begging bowl".

British-based Caterham, who have not scored a point since their debut in 2010, went into administration last month and are absent from this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix after missing the previous race in Texas.

The administrator and interim principal announced a crowd-funding scheme on Friday to raise 2.35 million pounds (S$4.8 million) from fans and companies to get the team to Abu Dhabi for the final race on Nov 23.

The website (www.crowdcube.com/caterham) showed 512,263 pounds had been contributed by Saturday afternoon.

"I think it's a disaster," Ecclestone told reporters. "We don't want begging bowls. If people can't afford to be in Formula One, they have to find something else to do."

Asked whether he was ready to help the team if they were slightly short of the target when the deadline expired, he offered a one word reply: "No. "If I sit in a poker game and I can't afford to be there with the other people, I get killed and have to leave," the 84-year-old added when pressed.

Ecclestone gave both Caterham and tail-end rivals Marussia, who have now folded and made all their 200 staff redundant, a special dispensation to miss the US and Brazil races but he made clear that did not apply to Abu Dhabi.

Asked whether the usual "rules of the game" applied, he replied: "Yes, absolutely.

"The trouble is they haven't really understood," continued the British billionaire.

"People want to win, all the teams here want to win. Some teams have got more money and they spend it.

"When I had a race team a few years ago, in fact a few hundred years ago, I used to run the team according to how much money we could spend and we won the world championship. "That's what they don't do. They don't seem to understand that somebody is going to be last."

The absence of Caterham and Marussia has left just nine teams competing in Brazil, with the smaller independent outfits calling for the sport to change the way the revenues are distributed to help them survive.

Sauber, Force India and Lotus all have big financial challenges and are looking for a base payment that would ensure they too did not have to close their doors.

Ecclestone ducked questions about the progress of talks between them and the commercial rights holder and said the teams as a whole received nearly US$900 million (S$1.16 billion) a year.

"They have a contract until 2020. They know exactly what the terms are. So they have to run their business according to their income. If they spend more than they get, it's not a good way to run a business," he added.

Former team owner Eddie Jordan, now a pundit for BBC television, said at the last race that the treatment of smaller teams was a "disgrace" and pointed the finger of blame at Ecclestone and others.

Asked whether he agreed with Jordan, Ecclestone cut the questioner short: "I never agree with Eddie Jordan," he said.