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UPDATE 1-Motor racing-Mercedes wants F1 to cut costs by 50 pct

(Adds BMW, Renault comment paras 10-14)

BERLIN, Dec 5 (Reuters) - German carmaker Mercedes DAIGn.DE said on Friday Formula One teams must cut costs by at least 50 percent over the next two years although its own financial position remained solid.

“Within the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) we’re working very hard on measures to cut costs, and over the next two years we must achieve cuts of at least 50 percent,” said Norbert Haug, the head of Mercedes Motorsport which powered Lewis Hamilton to victory in this year’s championship.

“Our Formula One involvement is built on financially solid foundations and is in large part financed by our sponsoring partners,” Haug added in response to an announcement by Japanese rival Honda that it was pulling out of the sport.

“This pullout is very sad,” he said. “It only shows how important the cost-cutting measures are that we’ve been advocating for more than five years, and which have only been realised to a small degree.

“Mercedes-Benz’s contribution is cost-efficient, the resonance in the media and in the public which last season and Lewis Hamilton’s win generated was worth many times our financial investment,” he added.

CUTTING COSTS

In a separate statement, German carmaker Audi VOWG.DE said its U.S. factory team would not take part in the American Le Mans Series, despite a series of wins since it first entered in 2000.

Another Japanese team Toyota 7203.T said it was also committed to cutting costs.

“We are contributing to the FOTA activities which will achieve significant cost reductions whilst maintaining the spirit of the sport,” a team statement said.

“We hope FOTA’s proposals and activities will be given the widespread support they deserve as they provide the sound, stable base Formula One requires at this time.”

BMW board member Klaus Draeger, whose team won in Canada this year and finished third overall, said in a statement that Honda’s decision would have no bearing on his company’s involvement in Formula One.

“F1 involvement is an integral part of the company strategy,” he added.

“There is no better platform than Formula One for demonstrating our brand values. BMW, moreover, makes targeted use of the Formula One project as a technology accelerator for series production.

“With the BMW Sauber F1 Team, we have from the start focused on high efficiency and have achieved our successes with a compact and powerful team. The cost-benefit ratio is commensurately positive.”

Renault said they remained committed to the sport.

Reporting by Dave Graham and Alan Baldwin; Editing by John Mehaffey and Ken Ferris

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