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Marchionne raises spectre of breakaway championship

NEWS STORY
18/12/2017

While some believe that Sergio Marchionne's threat to quit F1 is the latest in a long line of similar threats that go all the way back to team founder Enzo Ferrari, the Canadian-Italian took advantage of today's media lunch at Maranello to issue his strongest warning yet.

"Some people say that our threat about the 2020/2021 regulations is a bluff, but they're playing with fire," he told the assembled journalists at the traditional Gestione Sportiva Christmas lunch. "The situation has changed since 2015. Starting from that moment, everyone knows that if we threaten to do something, we do it.

"One of the greatest advantages is that the current Concorde Agreement is very different from previous ones," he continued, "and ensures a greater contractual freedom, even during the agreement with Liberty Media. The previous contract made it impossible for the team to evaluate an alternative outside of the circus. Now we can analyse the possibility to create something similar to Formula 1 in terms of a show.

"There is the possibility to create an alternative championship from 2020/2021," he warned. "We can't ignore this possibility, but I prefer avoid it if we can. I would like to continue with Formula One, but we have to find compromises that don't leave Ferrari without the possibility of showing its DNA in every race.

"If we can't find that, then Ferrari has to go away," he insisted. "If Ferrari can pull out other teams, we have to see it from an economical point of view, but I think that we are able to do it."

While the threat of a breakaway championship - as opposed to an alternative champion, which was in fact the creation of former Pitpass legends Rob Margeit and Glen Crompton - is nothing new, it was in fact Ferrari itself that left the proposed Grand Prix World Championship (GPWC) in tatters when it broke rank with its fellow 'rebels' and agreed a new secret deal with Bernie Ecclestone leaving the other teams no choice but to fall into line.

A few years later, in 2009, the spectre of a breakaway series was raised once again as the teams revealed their anger and frustration at proposed new rules which included budget caps, those on board even going to the extent of leaking a 17 date calendar for 2010.

As was usually the case, a deal was agreed, however, this was when Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley ruled the roost - though part of the deal reached in 2009 was that the Briton would not seek re-election to the FIA at the end of the year.

While much of the unease expressed by Ferrari and Mercedes thus far has centred on the proposal for the 2021 engine rules, much of the unrest is really down to Liberty's plans for the sport's prize money even though these have yet to be revealed.

Faced with a budget cap, a smaller slice of the prize pot and the scrapping of various bonuses, the bigger teams, led by Ferrari and Mercedes are shaping up for a major battle in the months and years ahead.

Though not directly addressing the financial side of his issue with Liberty, Marchionne instead focussed on the technical aspects of the company's plans, which, ironically, are the domain of Ross Brawn who guided the Italian team to numerous titles during its glory years of the early to mid-2000s. Ferrari, according to Marchionne, is concerned at the simplification of the sport in a bid to reduce costs and level the playing field.

"The main thing that bothers me is that inside Liberty Media there is a person with great experience in F1, which is Ross Brawn, who is trying to give a direction that is not in the DNA of the sport," he said. "We have been part of F1's history, so we understand bullshit and we understand F1. We have a race department that works only on F1, so we know F1 well.

"We have to try to balance Liberty's interests with ours," he added, "but I think that we can arrive to that in time to avoid Ferrari's exit from Formula 1."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Spindoctor, 23/12/2017 14:06

"@YMBF We largely agree. I don't expect a new series, or a break-away. Like you I expect it will be Business as Usual, until the whole rotten mess is revealed, as per the Emperor's New Clothes.
F1 might just be salvagable, but not by Liberty nor Russ Brawn if current form is anything to go by..."

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2. Posted by Your Mom's Best Friend, 20/12/2017 22:41

"@ Spindoctor

Agreed, regarding an miraculous resurrection of F1's past glories. Highly unlikely. But a new championship isn't going to happen either. It's all just the usual tired and tiresome pissing contest/jockeying for advantage between the opposing interest groups.

As much as a part of me (and you, and maybe a lot of other people) might love to see it, a new, breakaway, whatever - won't happen for a lot of reasons.

But, a thought occurred to me this morning that should have been obvious before: If Ferrari were actually to try something along these lines, and if other current F1 teams were also going to jump the good ship liberty, so to speak, then, Ferrari would be kissing goodbye to any kind of larger participation cut for themselves. There's no way any other party trying to get in on the ground floor of such a setup as a new series would tolerate it. Either way, in a sense, Ferrari loses. So for them it's just a question of maintaining as much of their BS privilege as possible. Where Ferrari is concerned, it's F1 or nothing.

I could see them going the WEC/Le Mans route, and an new Ferrari LMP1 might be interesting. But it's not F1. Though really, F1 isn't "F1" anymore. But anyway, they aren't going anywhere. And, except maybe into bankruptcy, no one else involved is either."

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3. Posted by Spindoctor, 20/12/2017 14:57

"I'm coming to the conclusion that a New Series (not a "break away") is the best option for maintaining what M. Marchionne calls the "DNA" of the sport.
Bernie, aided & abetted initially by Mosley and latterly by CVC, sucked the life-blood out of F1 and its Zombie hsuk stalks the Paddock, oozing pus. I can't see any miraculous resurection...."

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4. Posted by Yeyox02, 19/12/2017 20:13

"Mr Marchionne, do not launch threats just DO IT -quit F1- and that´s it."

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5. Posted by Your Mom's Best Friend, 19/12/2017 4:22

"@Anthony

Not sure I see where you get that... Baku ?

I mean, you, I and the rest of the nobodies (i.e. The Fans), may hate the new BS "circuits", city or otherwise. Or we may not.

But the teams ? The teams, "traditional" or otherwise --- they couldn't care less where they race, so long as they're getting paid. It's always been thus.

@Ro

Despite my overwhelming disgust at the way Ferrari handles it's F1 business in general, I have to say that, amazingly, I agree with your sentiment almost 100%. Well, the second part anyway.

If only for the complete and total implosion of current F1 I would be happy enough, but the prospect of a new or alternative championship is tantalizing. Where I differ though is, I don't see it happening. I would absolutely love to be wrong !"

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6. Posted by Anthony, 18/12/2017 22:31

"If Liberty push for more Champ Car US street circuits, then I'm sure that the "tradional" teams will break away. But who knows how that will work out ...."

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7. Posted by Ro, 18/12/2017 21:11

"I think this time there will be a new championship. I look forward to it really happening."

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