Two midfield teams have carried through their threat to formally complain to the European Union about formula one's governance structure. For months, smaller teams have been bemoaning the inequality in pitlane, describing the income system and rule-making strategy group as an illegal "cartel" and arguing it breaches European competition rules.
London's Times newspaper said the complaint has been lodged in Brussels by Force India and Sauber, who are pointing the finger not only at the sport's authorities and owners but also their powerful team rivals. "It could be weeks before the EU decides whether to investigate," said correspondent Kevin Eason, "but the mood in Brussels is said to be for a clean-up of the sport after the scandals engulfing FIFA, football's world governing body."
It is suggested the complaint could force Ecclestone to hold up the disputed 'special payments' to top teams and also delay Ferrari's plans to float on the stock market. A spokesman for Force India and Sauber said: "It would be inappropriate (to comment) until the EU competition authorities have decided what they would want to do."
It is a particularly volatile time overall in formula one, with Red Bull threatening to quit over engine supply, Lotus close to collapse and the tumultuous McLaren-Honda collaboration appearing on the verge of meltdown.
"This is as big a challenge for individuals in the sport and the sport as a whole that I can remember," former driver David Coulthard wrote in the Telegraph. "We could lose a couple of quality ex-world champions (Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso) and a couple of quality teams if people don't get on top of things." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing