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F1 teams given end-March deadline to sign for 2008

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Mar 22 (Reuters) Formula One's governing body has told carmakers to sign up for the 2008 championship by the end of March or be frozen out of the decision-making process.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA)'s world motor sport council met in Paris today and agreed president Max Mosley's plan for a 'window of opportunity' from March 24 to 31 for teams to commit.

Anyone wishing to join at a later date can still do so, assuming places remain in a 12-team championship, but they will have no say in shaping the regulations.

The decision put pressure on the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association (GPMA), whose five members have been threatening their own series from 2008 when the existing commercial agreement expires.

The five -- Renault, BMW, DaimlerChysler's Mercedes, Honda and Toyota -- are close to agreeing a deal with Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA move is a further tightening of the screw.

Mercedes have a 40 percent stake in McLaren while the other carmakers all have their own teams.

So far, Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Midland and newcomers Super Aguri have committed to Ecclestone's championship.

The meeting in Paris approved the sporting regulations for 2008, including a controversial plan to freeze engine development for a three-year period from the start of 2008 to the end of 2010.

Some GPMA members are unhappy with the plan but Wednesday's council decisions effectively mean the only way they can prevent it happening is by signing up for the FIA championship by March 31.

The FIA said the regulations, aimed at reducing the cost of competing and improving the spectacle and safety, would be published tomorrow.

''The regulations which affect the design of the cars must be finalised before 30 June 2006 to give the competing teams sufficient time to design and develop their 2008 cars,'' the governing body said in a statement.

''The regulations not affecting the design of the cars can be modified at any point up to the start of the 2008 season.'' Reuters PDS BD1857

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