No deal yet, say F1 carmakers

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MANAMA, Mar 12 (Reuters) Formula One carmakers and commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone have made progress in talks to keep the sport united but no deal has been agreed.

''We're moving together,'' McLaren boss Ron Dennis told reporters at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after a meeting between Ecclestone and carmakers threatening their own series from 2008.

''I think everyone was desirous of getting to an MOU (memorandum of understanding) this weekend but it's not that far off. Inevitably in a negotiation it goes backwards and forwards a little bit.

''I don't think we are that far apart. There was quite a degree of optimism that we would be able to tweak the MOU and get it done but that didn't happen,'' he added.

A spokesman for the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association (GPMA), grouping Renault, BMW, DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes, Honda and Toyota, said a draft memorandum would be updated before next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The carmakers have threatened to set up their own championship from 2008 when an existing commercial agreement expires unless they get far more of the revenues and greater transparency in the way the sport is run.

However, most people in Formula One have increasingly come to see their position as a means of applying pressure on Ecclestone.

Hopes had been raised that a deal could be reached this weekend after Ecclestone said he expected all the issues to be resolved before the race in Bahrain.

''I believe we are quite close to a commercial deal, to finalise it with Bernie,'' Renault's Flavio Briatore had also told a news conference on Friday.

One sticking point is a European Commission antitrust review of CVC's announced takeover of Formula One's SLEC holding company by buying out the banks who own 75 percent of it.

That decision is expected by March 21.

REUTERS PDS BS1644

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