Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has warned the sport's manufacturers that he will be ready to take legal action against them if they adopt an aggressive approach in any plans to launch a rival breakaway series.
Ahead of the countdown to Friday's publication of the 2010 F1 entry list that could be the catalyst for breakaway plans getting the go-ahead, Ecclestone says he will jump straight into action if car makers try and lure away any of F1's current television broadcasters, personnel or sponsors.
"If they do try to set up their own series – and I don't think they will be able to – there are big problems ahead for them," Ecclestone told Britain's Daily Express
newspaper. "Apart from my contracts with teams, if somebody went to any of our contracted people, companies, television contractors, we would view it very seriously. That would be inducement to breach contracts and I don't do that myself, so I won't stand back and let it happen. Any action could run to hundreds of millions of pounds – who knows how much?"
Although FOTA sees a breakaway as a last resort, leading figures believe it is not impossible that the manufacturers could launch their own series for next year. Ecclestone, however, thinks that it would be far too difficult for the teams to set up a championship at such short notice.
"I'm not sure that the boards of teams such as Toyota and BMW, who are already looking to cut costs in F1, would sympathize and bankroll their teams going off to a series which would not be the FIA F1 championship," he said. "It costs a lot of money to set up a series.
"Right now, we supply the venues at no cost to the teams, they roll up with all their sponsors' names and money and race in front of a huge television audience, which I supply through the contracts we win. That money flows back to the teams and they spend it. It would be different when they have to provide all the venues, hire their own race people, find their own television companies – and we have the best – and promote it."
He added: "As for the drivers, they want to win the FIA F1 World Championship or some of them would be elsewhere getting more money to win a title that means less. I don't think they will get a series going.
"The teams had a chance to sign the 1998 Concorde Agreement which would have protected them from Max's technical changes, but they said no."