Bernie Ecclestone's control over F1 may have been dealt a blow by the London High Court on Monday, but the grand prix ringmaster has responded by offering teams a R2,9-billion deal if they commit to the sport beyond the current Concorde Agreement.

Bernie Ecclestone's control over F1 may have been dealt a blow by the London High Court on Monday, but the grand prix ringmaster has responded by offering teams a R2,9-billion deal if they commit to the sport beyond the current Concorde Agreement.


The court ruled that Bayerische Landesbank, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan had a right to appoint directors to SLEC (the holding company of the sport and parent company to Ecclestone's F1 Holdings), which, in turn, would be required to relinquish two seats on its board.


In reaction, Bayerische Landesbank pledged to act only in the interests of the sport and said it expected to gain "greater influence" but said collaboration with Ecclestone would be sought. The banks would have to launch further legal actions to win control of Formula One, but sources say Ecclestone is thought to have been working behind the scenes to keep control of F1.


Four F1 manufacturers heralded the watering-down of Bernie Ecclestone's supreme power at the pinnacle of motor sport. Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes and Renault - collectively known as a proposed "breakaway" Grand Prix World Championship (GPWC) – issued the following statement: "Today's judgment seems indeed to be a turning point in the future of Formula One. The London High Court ruling will benefit the sport's long-term stability".


However, Ecclestone has responded to the threat of a breakaway championship with a renewed offer to the teams. The Briton wants to change the way F1's earnings are distributed to the teams according to the current Concorde Agreement (which runs out in 2007), and according to sources this is not thought to be the first financial package that they have been offered.


Ecclestone believes that he can ward off the GPWC threat, which is neither in the banks' or Bernie's best interests, with this new R2,9 billion team package. If the GPWC was to succeed in creating a breakaway series it would likely drive down the price of the shareholding and the banks are thus likely to support a move to pacify the teams.


"They can have the money from next year if they want," Ecclestone told the . "It's a lot of cash, and over and above the sums they signed up to in the Concorde Agreement. I think the teams will want to accept it."


The offer would more than double the earnings that the teams generate from competing in the sport, and is believed to be similar to that proposed by Ecclestone a year ago when he signed up to the Memorandum of Understanding with the GPWC - which was supposed to end the dispute.


"The GPWC will at least have to match that sum if the rest of the grid is going to go with them in a breakaway," said Minardi team owner Paul Stoddart. "And that's just the starting bid. I can't see that happening."


Meanwhile, McLaren, Toyota and Ferrari were back to work today at Jerez, under near perfect weather conditions. Juan Pablo Montoya - who was testing at Jerez for the first time in the McLaren Mercedes - set the best time of the day, more than half second faster than Jarno Trulli, second at the wheel of his Toyota.


Ferrari drivers Luca Badoer and Marc Gené worked mostly on the evaluation of Bridgestone tyres and completed 100 and 120 laps respectively, reported on Wednesday.


Jerez timesheets - December 7

1. J.P. Montoya - McLaren Mercedes - 1:16,545 - 73 laps

2. J. Trulli - Toyota - 1:17,190 - 95 laps

3. P. de la Rosa - McLaren Mercedes - 1:17,274 - 89 laps

4. R. Schumacher - Toyota - 1:17,420 - 86 laps

5. L. Badoer - Ferrari - 1:18,762 - 100 laps

6. M. Gené - Ferrari - 1:19,226 - 120 laps