- Associated Press - Friday, February 28, 2014

LONDON (AP) - The group which acts on behalf of Formula One teams was disbanded Friday because of financial issues, likely giving more control of the sport’s future to Bernie Ecclestone.

The Formula One Teams’ Association was established six years ago to safeguard interests at the onset of the global financial crisis, and ensure the teams were unified in negotiations with Ecclestone and governing body FIA.

But FOTA began to fracture in 2011 when leading teams, including Ferrari and Red Bull, quit in a dispute about cost reduction moves within motor racing’s premier sport.

Now FOTA has collapsed completely over unpaid subscription fees and a failure to strike an agreement with all 11 teams after only seven were formal members for last season’s championship, secretary general Oliver Weingarten said Friday.

Weingarten said the “changing political and commercial landscape” led to the teams deciding they no longer required an umbrella organization to negotiate on their behalf.

Ecclestone, F1’s long-time commercial head who is facing trial in Germany in April over an alleged bribe, stands to benefit most from FOTA dissolving despite his own power being diluted slightly over his legal problems.

“There is now no official forum in which teams can come together and coalesce without commercial rights holders being present,” Weingarten said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“The teams will probably think they can exist and fight their own corner but there will be something when they will realize they will be stronger in numbers. There is a crisis around the corner - whether on the track, with the impact of the new regulations, whether on the governance side, or on the commercial side.”

Weingarten cited recent successes in negotiating testing deals for teams to go to Bahrain and Jerez, Spain, and establishing forums to engage fans.

“No one is now looking out for a number of (teams),” he said. “There will be a trigger which will force the teams to come back together.”

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Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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