Ferrari vs Liberty Media on the future direction of F1
In the current issue of Race Tech, we led with the coverline Who Needs Ferrari? It was a direct quote following William Kimberley’s interview with former FIA president Max Mosley and it has sparked quite a bit of reaction. It is not simply a matter of pandering to a team that has long ruled the F1 roost by dint of its heritage and the prestige it brings to the championship, but who ultimately runs Formula 1.
Liberty Media, the US company that took ownership of F1 last year, wants a ‘new direction’ for F1. It is sympathetic to what has gone on before but nonetheless wants to change how things are done even it upsets teams like Ferrari.
The Italian team’s principal concern revolves around the 2021 engine regulations, including possibly smaller engines which could include standardised features. Another bone of contention is a budget cap, rumoured to be set at $150 million. Formula One Management chief executive Chase Carey has gone on record saying the sport must do something about spiralling costs and while refusing to be drawn on a specific amount has said that rules are needed with consequences for cheating.
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has reacted strongly to all this, saying that F1 had been “part of our DNA since the day we were born” but added “if we change the sandbox to the point it becomes unrecognisable, I don’t want to play any more”.
His strong stance was backed by Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wollf, who said: “Marchionne has a clear vision of what F1 should represent for Ferrari, which is a purist sport that isn’t a shopping channel. I would strongly encourage the sport’s stakeholders not to provoke him.”
However, at a very recent press conference in London, FIA president Jean Todt was pretty ambivalent about Ferrari remaining in Formula 1 saying: “You’ve seen big competitors leaving, coming back, but again, it is their choice.
“Knowing these people who are smart business people, who are rational people, in a way now that is why we want to reduce the costs, because for a company like Ferrari, racing should not be a spend. It should be at least equal and even should be revenue. It should be business revenue.
“That would be much more healthy than what it has been over the years where it has been too much spending. At the moment I am sure now that about six to seven teams are struggling in Formula 1. It is not acceptable to have the pinnacle of motorsport where 60 to 70 per cent of the field are struggling to survive.”
So it seems that we are in for a turbulent few years in Formula 1. Will Ferrari stay or will it go? Will the forthcoming new engine regulations lead to standardised engines? Will a cost cap be imposed, and if so, what will be the limit? And will Ferrari have its power of veto over new regulations taken away?
Hopefully we are in for a great season of racing, but what happens off the track could be just as intriguing.