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McLaren chief: F1 teams must unite

updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 24, 2012
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, left, talks with McLaren counterpart Martin Whitmarsh in March 2010.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, left, talks with McLaren counterpart Martin Whitmarsh in March 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh hopes teams will sign new Concorde deal
  • He reveals that nine of the 12 teams have signed individual contracts
  • Whitmarsh says McLaren will not take place on board until all teams sign up
  • He is confident that Lewis Hamilton will agree new deal during upcoming break

(CNN) -- McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has called on Formula One's notoriously argumentative teams to unite and guarantee the future of the sport.

F1's commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone told CNN that the teams had agreed a deal until 2020 to replace the existing Concorde Agreement, which expires at the end of this year, but it has yet to be formally put in place.

"My fear is that at the moment the deal hasn't been done and therefore it adds some volatility to the situation," Whitmarsh said on the official F1 website.

"At times Formula One has lost opportunities because of inner frictions. We create dramas out here between us rather than saying, 'Hey, this is a fantastic sport, a world sport, and we should all work together and point in the same direction.' "

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Whitmarsh revealed that most of the teams had signed individual contracts, but he warned that a new Concorde deal was needed to tie in motorsport's ruling body the FIA and dispel rumors of a breakaway competition.

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"We must to come to the point of saying Formula One is big and important to all of us, so in large areas we should be aligned, and if we just can put aside our individual differences and focus on what we all want -- for example to be successful in America -- then that reflects on all of us," he said.

"I hope that there will be a Concorde Agreement that ties it all together because at the moment there are individual contracts. If we were not happy with our contract we wouldn't have signed it, but the danger is that if we all have individual contracts that is probably not aligning us and bringing us together.

"The Concorde is a tripartite agreement -- teams, commercial rights holder and FIA. It has never been perfect, but it's a model that before we abandon it we should be very cautious. Why reinvent something if it functions? Let's use it."

McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull are expected to be represented on F1's new extended board but Whitmarsh said the English team would not take part until all have signed up.

"I don't think that it is a secret anymore that nine teams have signed the contract -- and I really hope that the silver team next door (UK-based Mercedes) will sign very shortly and it will be then that we will take up our board position," he said.

"We'd like to see that all the teams have signed before we join the board. I think it has to be clear that anyone joining this board isn't there to represent their team interests but try to contribute to Formula One and take a broader view.

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British Formula One team McLaren unveiled their car for the 2012 season on Wednesday -- the MP4-27. British Formula One team McLaren unveiled their car for the 2012 season on Wednesday -- the MP4-27.
McLaren unveil MP4-27
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McLaren\'s 2012 car McLaren's 2012 car

"It is a phenomenally interesting opportunity. We have to come together more effectively -- then we can make it an even better sport in the future."

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Whitmarsh is head of the Formula One Teams Association, which was involved in a bitter row with Ecclestone and the FIA over the future of F1 before finally signing the last Concorde Agreement in 2009.

Ferrari, Red Bull and Sauber pulled out in December 2011, raising the prospect of fresh division among the teams.

McLaren and Ferrari are the two most successful teams in F1 history, but Whitmarsh said he was confident they could overcome their differences for the good of the sport.

"I have a very good relationship with Ferrari. We've known them for 30 years now and have been fighting them on the track, in the pit lane, in the paddock, in FIA meetings, in court -- everywhere," he said.

"I respect that Ferrari is the biggest brand in Formula One. And for McLaren to say that is not something that comes easy. But it's a fact.

"And the second largest brand in Formula One is McLaren. Maybe in 50 years we will be bigger than Ferrari, but at the moment I respect what they represent. Of course we want to beat each other -- that will never change -- but consent should be possible."

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Ferrari, without a world title since 2008, has been dominant this year as Fernando Alonso has overcome the Italian marque's early-season performance problems to lead the championship with three victories from 10 races.

Ferrari unveiled the F2012 Friday, their car for the forthcoming Formula One season. The Italian team had planned to reveal the car Thursday, but heavy snowfall around the team's factory forced a postponement. Ferrari unveiled the F2012 Friday, their car for the forthcoming Formula One season. The Italian team had planned to reveal the car Thursday, but heavy snowfall around the team's factory forced a postponement.
The F2012
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Ferrari unveil F2012 Ferrari unveil F2012
Lewis Hamilton is Formula One's seventh winner in the seven races so far this season following his victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June. Lewis Hamilton is Formula One's seventh winner in the seven races so far this season following his victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June.
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Seven winners from seven F1 races Seven winners from seven F1 races

McLaren made a strong start as Jenson Button won the opening grand prix, but then had to wait until the seventh in Canada for the next success when Lewis Hamilton came home first.

The two former world champions are well off the overall pace. Hamilton trails by 62 points in fifth while last season's runnerup Button is 86 points adrift in seventh ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, after which there will be a month-long break..

McLaren's lack of race pace has led to speculation that Hamilton will not sign a new contract, but Whitmarsh is confident the English driver will continue his career-long association with the team.

"Based on what I've been told and what I've observed, Lewis wants to stay with this team and McLaren very much wants Lewis to stay," he said.

"Maybe we are over-comfortable with each other, but we haven't had the urgency to resolve that contract issue, so we all said, 'Okay, let's sort it out in the break.' And we are only one week away from the break. I suspect that we can resolve it during that period and come back with clarity for the rest of the season."

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McLaren's hopes of a first constructors' crown since 1998 seem slim, trailing Red Bull by 70 points and second-placed Ferrari by 17 at the halfway point

"There is a tough development battle going on. Right now you have to say that Ferrari is the most improved team," Whitmarsh said.

Australian Grand Prix: March 18, Melbourne<br/><br/>2012 champion: Jenson Button, McLaren Australian Grand Prix: March 18, Melbourne

2012 champion: Jenson Button, McLaren
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Formula One 2012: The circuits Formula One 2012: The circuits
The 2012 Formula One season sees the introduction of a four-hour limit for races, following last year's rain-delayed marathon in Canada. Charlie Whiting, the FIA's race director, explained the decision, telling the sport's official website: "Should four hours elapse during a future race, drivers will receive a signal telling them they have one more lap before the checkered flag." The 2012 Formula One season sees the introduction of a four-hour limit for races, following last year's rain-delayed marathon in Canada. Charlie Whiting, the FIA's race director, explained the decision, telling the sport's official website: "Should four hours elapse during a future race, drivers will receive a signal telling them they have one more lap before the checkered flag."
To the four
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"I think it is also fair to say that sometimes we have severe problems with the tires. I would not say that there is anything wrong with the tires, it's just that we are right at the knife-edge and sometimes it falls the wrong way.

"There is no doubt that tires have an enormous effect this year -- probably too much in my view -- but, on the other hand, for the fans it has been an incredibly intriguing season so far."

Whitmarsh believes the unpredictability of results -- there were an unprecedented seven winners from the first seven races -- has made the sport more appealing as it looks to enter new markets.

"We have to connect to younger people, who have got lots of entertainment options apart from sitting in front of the television," he said.

"Formula One is a world sport, of which there are only two -- soccer and Formula One -- so it is fantastic to see what's been achieved over the last 30 years. And we should be aiming to do it again in the next 30 years.

"I hope we can capture the imagination in North America. They are such a huge market, they love cars, and we are the premier motor racing in the world. So when we can provide them with entertainment -- and we have a product that is massively exciting -- then I'm sure we can make it."

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