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BMW aiming to be F1 winners again in 2001

BUDAPEST, Oct 27  - German carmakers BMW are aiming to be Formula One winners with the Williams team by the end of the 2001 season. 
BMW motorsport boss Gerhard Berger said after an engine testing session on Wednesday that he was not expecting immediate success for the BMW WilliamsF1 team next season. "If we can be in the mid-field, that would be successful,'' the Austrian former Formula One driver told reporters at the Hungaroring circuit. "In the end of the second season, we would like to win races.'' The new V10 engine was tested in a 1998 Williams chassis driven by Germany's Joerg Mueller. Berger said the new Williams chassis for 2000 should be ready for the first tests by the end of January. BMW is returning to Formula One racing after a 12-year absence as engine suppliers. They last won a race with Berger at the wheel of a Benetton BMW Turbo in the 1986 Mexican Grand Prix and last provided engines to the Brabham team in 1987. Brazilian Nelson Piquet also won the drivers' title in 1983 in a BMW-powered Brabham. Williams, currently fifth in the constructors' championship, are powered by Renault-based Supertec engines this season. 

Hakkinen keeps a low profile in Japan

SUZUKA,  Oct 27 - McLaren are making sure that reigning world champion Mika Hakkinen keeps a low profile and stays focused ahead of Sunday's decisive Japanese Grand Prix. The Finn, who is four points behind Ferrari's Eddie Irvine in the Formula One standings, was pulled out of a promotional news conference with tyre manufacturers Bridgestone on Wednesday and will not arrive at Suzuka until Thursday. ``In preparation for the Japanese Grand Prix, it is of paramount importance that Mika Hakkinen is at the peak of physical and mental fitness,'' said McLaren boss Ron Dennis in a prepared statement. ``It is equally important that Mika remains totally focused on winning the 1999 world championship.'' ``I believe that everyone involved will appreciate that these measures are taken in the best interests of the team and its partners,'' Dennis added. Hakkinen won at Suzuka last season to take his first title and McLaren are determined for him to be in peak condition, especially with Irvine being boosted by the return of German team-mate Michael Schumacher. An exhausted Hakkinen was bent over double on the podium after the last round in Malaysia when he finished third behind the two Ferraris led by Irvine. That followed last month's Italian Grand Prix in Monza, where the Finn was seen hunched behind track barriers in tears after a mistake sent him out of the race while leading. Hakkinen was named provisional champion after Irvine was disqualified from the Malaysian Grand Prix but was stripped of that on Saturday when a five-man panel of the International Court of Appeal upheld Ferrari's appeal. McLaren's decision is in stark contrast to the atmosphere at Ferrari and their handling of Irvine. The Briton faced the world's media on Wednesday after several nights of celebrating his team's appeal success. 
Ecclestone to sell half of Formula One

By Quentin Bryar 

LONDON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Bernie Ecclestone agreed on Tuesday to sell half his Formula One empire to Deutsche Bank's Morgan Grenfell Private Equity in a $1.3 billion deal which puts the company's flotation back on track. Morgan Grenfell said it had agreed to buy 12.5 percent of Formula One Holdings, which owns grand prix broadcasting rights, and would bring in other investors to take the holding to 50 percent over the next few weeks. Morgan Grenfell Private Equity chief executive Graham Hutton said it had agreed a strategy with Ecclestone, chief executive of Formula One Holdings, that will lead to a flotation probably in two to three years. He said a Financial Times report that Morgan, which owns half of the Arrows F1 team, would pay $325 million for 12.5 percent of the company, with an option to buy another 37.5 percent for $975 million was ``not wildly inaccurate.'' 
The private equity arm of the Benetton clothing family, 21 Investimenti, meanwhile confirmed in Milan that it had been contacted about joining the deal. Benetton also have their own Formula One team. 
The deal is not conditional on the outcome of a European Commission inquiry into the way the sport is run and its television deals. Hutton said Formula One was an extremely strong company and that the firm was comfortable with the investment however the inquiry was resolved. Previous plans by Ecclestone to float the company stalled in the face of the inquiry. In June, the Commission released an initial finding and a statement of objections that the way the sport is run and the television rights transferred by the sport's ruling body FIA to Ecclestone violated EU competition rules. Scott Lanphere, the Morgan Grenfell Private Equity director who led the transaction, said Formula One was the world's leading sporting brand name. ``It attracts more viewers than any other annually held sporting event. Moreover, almost all of its revenues are contracted, which makes its earnings the highest quality of any business I know,'' he said. The FT said Formula One was expected to earn a profit of about $200 million on revenues of $400 million this year, most from the sale of television rights. Formula One launched a $1.4 billion eurobond secured on future revenues from commercial and broadcasting rights to international motor sport in May. This year's Formula One world championship is set for a thrilling climax in the final race of the season in Japan on Sunday, after the sport's ruling body overturned the disqualification of Ferrari from the Malaysian Grand Prix. Ferrari's British driver Eddie Irvine has a four-point lead in the championship over McLaren's Mika Hakkinen of Finland.