- Bernie Ecclestone calls for Formula One teams to cut their spending
- The Formula One supremo is keen to see a budget imposed on the sport's 12 teams
- He wants the sport's smaller teams to be able to compete with more prestigious names
- The 2012 Formula One season begins with the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has told the elite motorsport's teams to cut their spending and get back to basics ahead of the new season's opening race in Australia this weekend.
Ecclestone said the large budgets of prestigious teams such as constructors' champions Red Bull, Italian marque Ferrari and Britain's McLaren make it difficult for smaller constructors to compete.
The 81-year-old suggested a mandatory budget could be introduced, but said it would be opposed by F1's most successful teams.
"The teams have to learn to be competitive without tons of money," Ecclestone told the F1 website. "They have to refocus again on the basics -- on racing, spending on the sport -- and not on baronial motorhomes and all kinds of entertainment.
"We have had this kind of problem for quite a while now as, of course, they spend what they have. You could install a mandatory budget for all teams -- on the basis of the smaller teams -- but they (the big teams) don't like it and fiercely fight against it."
The division of prize money and television revenue in F1 is dictated by the Concorde Agreement, a contract between the sport's governing body, the FIA, the rights holders and the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA).
FOTA was originally formed to help the teams during negotiations with the sport's ruling bodies, but it has recently been hit by Red Bull and Ferrari's high-profile withdrawals.
The current Concorde Agreement is due to expire in 2013, and Ecclestone said he would like to explore the possibility of restricting teams' spending in the future.
"I would welcome it," he said. "Yes, I think it could happen. We are in the middle of discussions ... They (the teams) want to get more money -- to be able to spend more!"
Ecclestone rejected suggestions that lower budgets force smaller teams to recruit drivers who are backed by wealthy sponsors -- pilots often referred to as "pay drivers."
"I don't like the phrase 'pay driver.' They have deep-pocketed sponsors who support them. What's wrong with that? I have never seen a driver giving his own money for a ride."
One issue which dominated the buildup to last season was the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix due to civil unrest in the Gulf kingdom.
A group of British peers have called for this year's race to be called off, but Ecclestone said the April 22 grand prix will go ahead as long as organizers are confident they can host the event.
"The organizers say that they have everything under control," he said. "For now I think we should believe them."
Ecclestone tipped Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel to retain his drivers' championship and become only the third driver after Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio and fellow German Michael Schumacher to win three titles in a row.
He went as far as to suggest that Vettel could break the record set by seven-time champion Schumacher, who will again drive for Mercedes this year.
"The preseason tests spoke a quite clear language: the Red Bull looks super competitive again -- and Sebastian is only 24, so he still has an enormous potential to fill," Ecclestone said.
"Realistically, everything points to Sebastian. He's got it all: talent, passion, zeal, a clear head -- and he hates to lose. I could imagine him beating Michael's record."