Ferrari threatens to quit F1 over proposed changes

Ferrari threatens to quit F1 over proposed changes
Ferrari has threatened to end its long and storied association with Formula 1 if the team doesn’t like the direction the sport takes under new US-based owners Liberty International.

Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne told a conference call with analysts on Thursday that the team would consider quitting F1 from 2020 if changes proposed by Liberty Media, including for a new engine design, were implemented.

“[Formula One] has been part of our DNA since the day we were born,” Marchionne said, Reuters reported. “But if we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognizable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore.”

Marchionne was referring to proposed changes released by governing body the FIA and the F1 Group – which is owned by Liberty Media – in Paris on Tuesday. The company is aiming to level the playing field and rebalance revenues, including through the use of cheaper and simpler engines, after the current agreement with teams ends in 2020. 

The Liberty Media group completed an $8 billion takeover of F1 in January, leading to the exit of chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who had run the sport for 40 years.  

Ferrari is synonymous with F1, and is the only team to have been an ever-present in the sport since the first world championship season in 1950. The ‘Prancing Horse’ has claimed a record 228 race wins, 16 constructors’ championships and 15 drivers’ titles.

When asked about how he would feel if he were to be the person to lead the company out of F1, bringing to an end such a long and successful association, Marchionne answered: “Like a million bucks because I’ll be working on an alternative strategy to try and replace it. More rational one, too.”

He added that he believed Liberty Media had “good intentions” for the sport, and said he supported reducing running costs for teams – although at the moment it seemed Ferrari and Liberty are “somewhat at odds” over the direction the sport takes.     

“I think you need to be absolutely clear that unless we find a set of circumstances, the results of which are beneficial to the maintenance of the brand in the marketplace and to the strengthening of the unique position for Ferrari, Ferrari will not play,” he said.

The sport’s Strategy Group is set to meet again next Tuesday to discuss other potential changes, and Marchionne said he would go to the meeting “with the best of intentions.”  

“I am attending those meetings on strategy because it’s important, because it matters a lot to this business. The financial implications of the wrong choice for the moment going forward are pretty significant to Ferrari.”

Fellow F1 teams Mercedes and Renault have also publicly voiced concerns over the proposed engine changes, which they say would involve significant costs for the sport’s engine manufacturers.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said he had "strong scepticism" about the proposals, while Renault Sport F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul said it was "a starting point for discussions," but that changes could be made within “the current engine architecture anyway.”