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Wolff: Money is the elephant in the room

NEWS STORY
20/12/2017

Despite the talk of purity, DNA and all the other excuses being used by certain teams to justify their concern at the direction the sport is taking under its new owners, the fact is that - as ever - money is at the root of it.

In the months ahead, Liberty has to reveal its plans for F1 post-2020, when the current Concorde Agreement ends.

However, other than a new, or at least updated, engine formula, the biggest change the Commercial Rights Holder is looking to make concerns money, with an end to the bonuses paid to certain teams and more equal distribution of the prize money pot.

"That's the elephant in the room," Toto Wolff tells ESPN. "That's the most important topic after 2020.

"It is clear that we need to find a structure that works for everybody," he admits. "Some of the smaller teams struggle on the income side."

In an attempt to level the playing field, Liberty is seeking to introduce a budget cap - a move that on several occasions before has brought the sport to the brink - and while the Mercedes boss accepts that such a move is inevitable, it is the way it is introduced and implemented that concerns him.

"We are not against a cost cap as long as it can be policed in the right way and it has a sensible system of introduction," he says. "We are not going to cut our workforce by thirty percent from one year to another and we are not going to give up a performance advantage that we have lightly, so there needs to be something on the other side.

"These discussions have just started in a friendly way, and again here we acknowledge that we might have different opinions. But at the end, for the sake of Formula One, we will find the right solutions."

At a time Ferrari is not only threatening to quit F1 but talking of a breakaway series (again), Wolff attempts to play down the potential scenario.

"Sergio is pretty outspoken and straight, and he comes to the point," he says. "He says that he wouldn't accept certain things and it's his way of dealing with things -- and in principle I share his opinion.

"I said in Abu Dhabi that we love Formula One, we are in here to stay," he continues, "but it needs to have the right framework, governance framework, regulatory framework, it needs to be managed in the right way and we will voice our opinion if we think things are not going in the right direction."

Other than the pachyderm in the apartment, the other issue facing the sport in 2021 is the revised engine formula. Though keen not to lose its advantage, Wolff is adamant that any resistance to change from his side will not be about maintaining the status quo.

"We are all up for it," he insists. "We like the challenge, we understand the shortcomings of some of the current regulations, it needs a fight at the front and we embrace the fight.

"I think it's important to acknowledge that the other side might have a different opinion on things," he adds. "I don't think there are massive barriers between us on the engine. They recognise it needs to be high-tech and we don't want to develop a completely new engine, so there is pretty much an alignment there.

"We need cars that are fast and spectacular, but you need to be able to overtake. We need to have a percent of the attention, we need tracks that you can overtake and where mistakes are penalised, so this is our job and we actually want it to prosper. We can cope with any regulation change. There is no team in the world that has won with every single championship and this is something that we are pretty realistic about."

That said, the Austrian admits that, contrary to FOM's initial proposals, he is keen to retain the most expensive and problematic part of the current power unit, the MGU-H.

"We don't like the cutting of the MGU-H - a high-tech piece of equipment - we would rather like to supply the H to some of the teams that lack the technology or some of the OEMs that lack the technology.

"The devil lies in the details but the conversations are going in the right way."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Anthony, 20/12/2017 14:50

"It always has been and always will be about the money. The key question is whether Liberty have the knowledge and diplomacy to deal with this. Trump may have made "America First" a popular slogan, but in decades of dealing with American businesses I saw so many examples of US executives assuming that everyone abroad would simply change their businesses to fit in with the US model, regardless of law, regulations and culture. Failure was the most common outcome.... Let's hope that isn't the case with F1, but personally I am planning to get to a quite a few F1 races over the next year in case Liberty turn it into a Champ Car series...."

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2. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 20/12/2017 14:38

"Liberty need to simply ignore the threats etc from the mfrs and bring in a revised prize money "pot". It's up to them to stay, or go. F1 will continue with or without them - and they know this perfectly well."

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3. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 20/12/2017 11:35

"Just confirming what everyone knows needs to be done, but its F1, so as usual very little will change and we will be discussing same old / same old when the next agreement comes around."

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