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Fernandes backs F1 share sale

Sepang, Malaysia, March 26, 2012 (AFP) - Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has thrown his support behind a sale of shares in Formula One and called for tighter cost controls to make the sport more affordable.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2012 18:57 IST
Tony Fernandes,Caterham,Queen's Park Rangers

Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has thrown his support behind a sale of shares in Formula One and called for tighter cost controls to make the sport more affordable.

The Malaysian AirAsia entrepreneur, who also owns English Premier League club Queen's Park Rangers, told AFP that although there were few details about the rumoured share float, it could improve the sport.

"As a businessman I think if public money can improve the sport, and accountability and transparency, then we should go for it," Fernandes said in an interview at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

"I saw some comments where the team bosses said they were against it. I think until we know more about it, it's silly to be against it. Let's hear about it in the open."

Speculation over a share sale has been intense since a detailed report emerged last weekend that the sport's supremo Bernie Ecclestone was planning to float a stake in Formula One Management (FOM).

Some team principals appear cool on the idea of buying shares. The story is circulating as Ecclestone negotiates a new "Concorde Agreement", a secret deal dividing profits, with Formula One's 12 racing outfits.

"I think it's good for the stakeholders to own part of (Formula One), without a doubt," Fernandes said.

"What is good for FOM is good for the teams. What is good for the teams is good for FOM. So I don't have a problem with it going public.

"I don't know enough about it, (but) I think it would be good for the teams to be allowed to participate in the float. And I think it's the way of the world."

Fernandes also expressed his admiration for the "remarkable job" building Formula One performed by Ecclestone, including this year's switch from public TV to paid broadcaster Sky in the sport's heartland, Britain.

"I've only known Bernie for two or three years. The fact is he's done a remarkable job for Formula One and I think in terms of Sky, that was good," he said.

"A lot of people don't like it, but it's a fact of life. What Sky has done for football in England was remarkable. So it's important for the sport, if you ask me.

"And I'm all in favour of the way things are moving. It's a good time. Revenues are going to go up, I believe costs will go down. It's important. This sport is too complicated."

Fernandes hit out at the "silly" and complicated technical innovations that beset Formula One and can cost millions of dollars to develop.

This year, attention has focused on the air-channelling 'F-duct' rear wing introduced by Mercedes boss Ross Brawn, much to the consternation of rival Red Bull principal Christian Horner.

Teams have also splashed out on introducing Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), which provide a speed boost, and the Drag Reduction System (DRS) to help overtaking.

And Red Bull's title defence has been dented by a ban on "blown diffusers", another ingenious innovation that channels exhaust fumes to raise downforce.

"Today you're asking about F-duct, Christian's (Horner) got one view, Ross Brawn wants to look at engine mapping. Out there, who cares? They just want to see good racing," Fernandes said.

"I don't understand the F-duct, I've got no idea, and I own a team. I think racing should be competitive, it should be fun, it should be glamorous, it should make people excited about it.

"I don't think anyone's interested about F-duct. I think regulations need to be black and white."

He added: "I don't believe in KERS, I think it's a waste of money and we need to stop doing these silly things. What was supposed to cost $1 million is costing $6 million.

"And it doesn't help the car industry. I can't put a KERS into my (Caterham) road car. Neither can Ferrari. So what's the benefit?"

But Fernandes also said he had plans to build businesses for aviation using technology developed in Formula One with the help of his technical chief, Mike Gascoyne.

He said Caterham, now in its third season, had a five-year plan to become competitive. And he said Malaysia should keep its grand prix after its current contract runs out in 2015.

"I think it's important," he said. "It gives Malaysia a lot of publicity and I think it's important for the development of the road car industry, the technology industry and also drivers. So I think it's important to keep it."

Fernandes added: "I'm a very lucky man. At 13, if I said I wanted to own a Formula One team, and a football team, and an airline, most people would have said, 'You're on drugs'. And I would have said, 'Yeah!'"

First Published: Mar 26, 2012 18:51 IST