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By Alan Baldwin
LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - Bernie Ecclestone has made clear that Formula One will pay prize money to only the top 10 teams from the end of this season.
Since 2010, payments have been made to the 11th and 12th-placed teams to help three newcomers on reduced budgets who came in after the abrupt departure of major manufacturers Honda, Toyota and BMW.
There are now 11 teams remaining after the demise last year of Spanish-based HRT. Ecclestone, the sport’s commercial chief, said the plan was to return to rewarding the top 10 only, injecting more drama into the battle to avoid last place.
“It’s a bit more incentive to get going and get into the top 10. It’s a bit like the football where you can go up and down,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The confidential Concorde Agreement that governs the sport expired at the end of last year and a new one, to run to the end of 2020, has yet to be signed by all parties.
In its absence, Ecclestone has agreed individual commercial agreements with all of the teams expect Russian-licensed Marussia, who have finished 11th in the last three years and behind Caterham.
Marussia chief executive Graeme Lowdon confirmed to Reuters that his team had not been offered a bilateral agreement by rights holders CVC but was reluctant to discuss the matter.
“It is our understanding that none of the parties are making any public comment about the financial discussions relating to a new Concorde Agreement and on that basis we would prefer not to make any comment,” he added.
Ecclestone said after HRT folded that he would rather have 10 teams, providing one of them was Ferrari.
The new Concorde Agreement, which must be signed by all teams as well as the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA), should replace the various bilateral agreements once it comes into operation.
Ecclestone told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix this month that the detailed document was “in the hands of the lawyers”.
The FIA said on March 8 that negotiations were “proceeding positively in order to be concluded in the near future”.
Marussia are 10th overall after four of this year’s 19 races and ahead of Malaysian-owned Caterham. They nearly finished 10th last year but lost out to Caterham in the final race.
The two tail-enders considered a merger late last year but the idea was abandoned after initial talks. (Additional reporting by Keith Weir, editing by Clare Fallon)