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Ferrari's last stand?

NEWS STORY
03/11/2017

Inevitably, Sergio Marchionne's claim that Ferrari could quit F1 should the sport's new owners proposals not suit it, were met with 'don't let the door hit you on the way out' and 'bye-bye' comments on message boards and forums.

And while Ferrari, like Red Bull and Renault, has history in terms of throwing its playthings out of the perambulator when it doesn't get its own way, we should probably be taking this particular threat a little more seriously.

In the last year, the sport has already undergone one seismic change, with the departure, after forty years of Bernie Ecclestone, the no-nonsense, charismatic supremo who held it all together even if using dictatorial methods to do so,

There was much wrong with F1 under Bernie, especially his refusal to move into the 21st century, but there was also much right. And in a classic example of 'better the devil you know', fans may soon come to realise that compared to Liberty Media, Bernie Ecclestone was a good guy who at least had a passion for the sport.

After months of talk, Liberty Media is about to present its vision for the future of Formula One and the road the sport will take to get there; while the end result may well appeal it is the means of getting there that could well tear the sport apart.

Increasingly, rather than the governing body, it is the sport's owners, under the guise of Chase Carey, Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn who are writing the rulebook.

While there was understandable criticism of the money CVC reaped from the sport, Liberty too is not in F1 for altruistic reasons, it is here to make money. Such things as passion, tradition and history do not figure in the Liberty vocabulary, unless as soundbites or potential revenue streams.

Liberty is seeking to make as much profit from as little outlay as possible, in its world it is quantity that matters not quality, 'stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap'.

Over the years there has been much criticism of the way the sport has been manipulated to produce the right results, under Liberty this will only get worse.

While Sergio Marchionne has gone public, admitting that Ferrari could quit the sport if it doesn't like the direction the sport is taking and the route it is taking to get there, don't for a moment thinks that the Italian team is being a troublemaker, a lone voice of dissent, for Mercedes, Red Bull and others could follow suit.

Faced with having their bonuses withdrawn, their share of the prize pot reduced, told to shed a majority of its workforce, perhaps share technology with rivals and all with the hope of being upstaged by a Sauber or Haas, the big teams will tell Liberty to stick F1 where the sun doesn't shine.

At this time, 2021 might seem a long time away and therefore much can change, but in the same way work is already well underway on the 2018 cars, so too the teams and manufacturers are looking even further ahead.

Though few will sympathise with Marchionne's comments in terms of money, they will at least understand where he is heading in his comments relating to the NASCAR-isation of F1.

Until just a few years ago, talk of Ferrari's right to veto the sport's regulations was thought to be an urban myth. But then it was revealed that while there had indeed been such an agreement it was essentially unwritten (verbal), until 2005 when (then) FIA president Max Mosley confirmed the veto in a letter to the company and subsequently had it included in the Concorde Implementation Agreement from 2013 in an attempt to stop it leaving the sport. It worked.

Under the agreement, Ferrari had "a right of veto in respect of the introduction/modification of any technical or sporting regulations (except for safety requirements)".

As recently as last weekend, Maurizio Arrivabene was talking about the veto, a powerful weapon in the team's arsenal and one it used as recently as 2015 when the FIA wanted to impose a cost cap on engines.

Previously, Ferrari had exercised its veto in 2009 when the FIA was attempting push through a $60m budget cap for teams due to be introduced a year later. The veto was rejected because it "could only be said to apply to changes to the Sporting or Technical Regulations which would require Ferrari to alter its car", though the FIA subsequently dropped its plans for the cap anyway.

With an eye on the forthcoming meetings at which the engine and other plans for post-2021 were to be revealed, speaking in Mexico, when asked about the veto, Arrivabene said: "At a certain point we apply our right to do a veto for good reason at that time.

"With people who have a clear idea, people who understand what they are talking about, I think you don't need any veto," he continued.

"For us, if I have to talk for Ferrari, for us the performance is part of the DNA of our company so the performance is important because we are representing this brand. Then, if we able - as I've said, many times - to reduce the costs, to keep the performance with the same base in terms of engine architecture, fine. And then it's important to understand how to do it and if it's acceptable the way that it's going to be proposed but we don't need to apply any veto."

Along with the Concorde Agreement, Ferrari's veto ends in 2020, and as sure as God made little apples, along with the various bonuses, Liberty will be seeking to ensure that any further contracts weigh heavily on their side not the teams.

Up until now, it's been a fairly pleasant honeymoon, now however, all parties are going to discover that to make a marriage succeed you have to work at it, take nothing for granted and accept a certain amount of give and take.

Even before Liberty reveals its plans for 2021, as the 'happy couple' finally settle down to married life, it would appear that the marriage counsellors are needed... and fast.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by cricketpo, 04/11/2017 23:57

"This smells of brinkmanship. But that is F1 all over. Let us hope Liberty are testing the water so to speak. Run it up a flag pole and see who salutes. I would hope that there will be further discussion from all concerned before any final decisions made. I don't particularly like teams trying to tell us what sort of F1 we should be watching. We the fans should be informing the teams as to what what it should be and they can take it or leave it.
"

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2. Posted by mickl, 04/11/2017 15:01

"How is this even a frickin news story these days?

Any mention of budget caps or equal wealth distribution and 2 things happen:-
1. Ferrari threatens to quit unless they get the same deals
2. Red Bull says they are happy with all that AS LONG as they still get the same as they do now or else they'll threaten to quit"

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3. Posted by Rock Doc, 04/11/2017 14:17

"I don't like the current setup but I understand how difficult it is to herd cats. You can't tell them how it's going to be, you need to make them want to move. That was Bernie's skill. Cats will only go where you want them to go. So help them to want to go the way you need them too.

If it wasn't for the way the money is handed out at the moment McLaren would not still be around. No title sponsor for years. At the back of the grid for 3 years would have meant no prize money. It was only the special deal with the tops teams getting extra money that allows them to survive. They've been burning through they bank accounts like no tomorrow.

If you want to keep the names in the sport then you need to look after the names in the sport. Us fans seem to miss that at times. We like the history and the stats, but don't always realise the whys.

As long as the best win we are generally happy. If it is close racing, happier still. If we feel it has been fix then we will turn off and watch something else. There are plenty of other races series to watch and each to their own. Just don't try and make F1 like something else.

But this is a business and the business men want their money. I have a very bad feeling about how this is all going. Let's see who blinks first.

"

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4. Posted by Cobra Racer, 04/11/2017 11:38

"You all witnessed what is about to befall F1 under Liberty when they presented the very profane "opening Ceremonies" in Austin. Stay tuned!
"

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5. Posted by Pavlo, 03/11/2017 23:12

"My opinion: this all is a mind game from all the sides in a preparation to the negotiations. In the end they will find the solution, again paying lots of money to Ferrari, and slightly less to McLaren, RedBull and Mercedes.
I think Bernie did the right thing and Liberty must be realizing this. F1 needs to secure certain teams to stay alive. What they need is supporters (who can pay in any form) and ensure they don't get the competing series of the same level. So what Bernie did, he got a commitment from several top teams. Others just follow. When Marussia disappeared, who really cared? We knew some Haas would be willing to come.
The thing is, Ferrari is really unique. It's not only the huge amount of supporters, but mostly the fact that F1 is vitally neccessary to Ferrari branding (just visit Ferrari museum in Maranello and see). They just can't afford leaving F1 as Toyota or BMW did, they will put all possible effort on destroying the F1 and creating the new series, which will allow to inherit the name and keep all the historic record. But as long as acceptable, Ferrari is willing to stay in F1 even when not winning for 25 years.

The question is, how to get that commitment. There are some teams where it's pretty easy: like Williams, McLaren, Sauber. They will stay no matter what rules are, as long as they just have money. So the more Bernie valued them, the more money he gave.
But there are teams, and first of all Ferrari, who will bring money as long as the sport matches their brand. So they ask to have more control, and Bernie had to give it. For Ferrari it went as far as "right of veto". What if Red Bull has some similar candies, maybe we don't know yet?
And there are teams who just can't commit - like Mercedes and Renault. They are there as long as it gives good publicity, but will easily leave with no regrets. So it does not make sense to give them many powers in governing the sport.

Noticeable that all the teams are fine with Ferrari having that "veto". Only spectators argue, but did you hear any team principal criticize it? Maybe because they know, that this veto can be used to block the changes they all don't want, but can't practically be used to get immediate advantage. Or maybe because they get some other bonuses that we just don't know yet."

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6. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 03/11/2017 21:54

"Regarding Ferrari appeasement, for that is what this is really about, I think Liberty will not have a budget cap but will give out more prize money, to all the teams. Ferrari might get less but can spend what they do now and no veto (something I suspect has been used more than we will ever FRICen know).

In the meantime, Ferrari will do more positioning over the coming few seasons to get into as strong a position as it can for negotiation."

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7. Posted by Rhaycen, 03/11/2017 18:28

"The problem with liberty is that their ideas seem to devalue the F1 brand a little, and that is something Ferrari won't allow to happen. While I don't take the teams serious each time they threaten to leave the sport, we should listen to Ferrari when they say they will leave the sport for reasons of "money".

An F1 car is basically a giant advertisement board, and a very exclusive one at that. While Red Bull might value mostly the air time it gives their product, for Ferrari that exclusivity is also extremely important. Ferrari sells exclusive cars at exclusive prices, but more than that, they sell shirts, hats, cologne and a range of products that aren't all that exclusive but have value because they make them seem exclusive by slapping the Ferrari brand on them.

As said, I don't listen to teams when they claim to leave F1 because of technical regulations, but when a brand like Ferrari says they might leave because of "money", I sit up and listen ... and liberty would do well to do the same."

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8. Posted by F1 Yank, 03/11/2017 16:33

"Granted I am a huge Ferrari fan as well as other F1 teams but the teams/manufactures always threaten to leave if the model does not suit them. The true designers and engineers are able to develop amazing things when only given a box with a few items in it. Look at the Pine Wood Derby concept. Didn't Red Bull threaten to leave last year? Granted you have an unfair advantage if you have the budget to R&D but perhaps the teams should have to share that data?"

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9. Posted by Lapps, 03/11/2017 16:23

"There can be no excuse for one competitor in any sport having such an advantage over the others. And it gets used! The two cases that were really OTT, both of which were implemented mid Season, were:
1. The legal tyre profile that suddenly became illegal
2. The Mass Damper ban implemented just before the mid season testing ban kicked in.

One would think a proud manufacturer would be too embarrassed to use such an advantage. Apparently not!"

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10. Posted by Max Noble, 03/11/2017 13:38

"...and we the fans are about to see the free market truely apply a value to racing heritage compared to business salesmanship. May the best value proposition win... (yay... fires failing (Honda) party popper...)"

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