Rebels renew breakaway threat

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NURBURGRING, July 9 – Formula One's rebels repeated their threat to create a breakaway series on Thursday despite assurances from the sport's ruling body that a settlement deal was almost ready for signing.FORMULA_ONETwenty-four hours after walking out of a meeting of the Technical Working Group, organised by the International Motorsports Federation (FIA), because they were told they could not participate, the eight rebel teams reminded everyone of their previous intentions and their potential.

BMW Motorsport boss Mario Theissen said: "It is very simple. There are still some irritating efforts, which have surprised us. We still don’t have an agreement, although I would say we are making progress, slowly but steadily.

"We cannot sit back and wait (to see) if there will be an agreement coming our way or not. So we have to keep all options open and that means we have to look at the other course as well.

"We are in constant negotiation and we might come to a conclusion, as the FIA indicates, in a few days. But it might take a few weeks. Or we might finally find out that there is no agreement — so we have to prepare for all possibilities."

After another day of bizarre conflict between the top teams in motor racing’s most glamorous series and the sport’s ruling body – which saw the FIA issue a statement explaining their side of the new spat – it became clear that the teams are now dealing, almost exclusively, with commercial ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.

"The teams are very close to finding agreement with the commercial rights holder regarding a new Concorde Agreement," said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

"Obviously, there is a bit of turbulence at the moment with the FIA and I am hoping common sense will ultimately prevail and we can find a solution very shortly."

That turbulence is understood to include calls from the rebel teams for a guarantee that FIA president Max Mosley will not stand for re-election in October – a demand that appears to have found sympathy with some of the world’s leading Grand Prix promoters.

Australian Grand Prix chief Ron Walker, a close friend of Ecclestone, said on Thursday that he felt it was time, also, for Mosley to step aside and for F1 to find new leadership for the future.

Walker told Melbourne’s The Age newspaper that "if the disunity continues Melbourne will seriously consider its position on continuing with Formula One. Without Ferrari racing in Melbourne, it will lose much of its glamour and therefore the government investment will come into question."

He added: "In my view Mr Mosley should walk away from the sport with dignity rather than slowly strangle to death the great brand of Formula One.

"The sport needs fresh and dynamic leadership more than ever before to lead F1 into a new era of motor racing."

Toyota boss John Howett summed up the latest delicate twist in the saga.

"I would say that the commercial rights holder understands what is required to get our signatures on the Concorde Agreement — and the agreement with them is very close. We just need to see and wait what happens."

He may not have said so, but the key issue is clearly that Mosley steps down in October – as he said he would at last month’s peace deal meeting in Paris – and does not fight on.

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