Ecclestone: Take Ferrari's threat seriously

06/11/2017
NEWS STORY

Over the forty-odd years he ran the sport, Bernie Ecclestone had run ins with just about all the team owners and bosses of the day, be it Colin Chapman, Ken Tyrrell or the infamous (then FISA boss) Jean-Marie Balestre.

But it was Ferrari, first with the old man himself and the men in suits that followed, that presented the F1 supremo with his biggest challenges.

To keep the legendary Italian team on board (and quiet) Ecclestone had to agree to all manner of deals, from eventually rubber stamping its controversial veto over regulation changes to the equally controversial prize money bonuses.

Though well documented, it's worth repeating that the arrangement is such the before turning a wheel each season Ferrari is guaranteed around 80m. The deals mean that even though it finished third in the 2016 standings, it took home a greater share of the prize pot than champions Mercedes.

Not for the first time in its long history in the sport - having only missed 16 of the 965 races the Formula One World Championship has comprised since 1950 - Ferrari is threatening to quit, and while many are dismissing this as another attempt by the Italian team to get its way, Ecclestone isn't so sure.

Unhappy with the engine regulations announced last week, and about to be even more unhappy at Liberty Media's plans for the future of the sport, which will not only see its bonuses scrapped but its basic share of the pot reduced, not to mention a budget cap that would mean culling staff and limiting technical resources and thereby the threat of facing increased competition from the likes of Force India and Haas, Sergio Marchionne is warning the team must reconsider its future.

"If they can't win, they will put forward new regulations," Ecclestone tells The Independent. "If the regulations come out where Ferrari think it is going to be a struggle and they can't support the money then they will leave.

"They don't want budget caps and all that," he adds. "They want to spend what they can afford to spend and I've always said the same thing. If people can't spend they have to go. If there are then only three or four teams something would have to be done but until that actually happens nobody is going to do anything. All the teams that say they can't afford it shouldn't put an entry in."

Of course, Ferrari's is the opening gambit in what is likely to be a long and hard-fought war, and after hearing Liberty's proposals there will probably be similar threats from others.

Over the years Ecclestone has mastered this high-octane game of poker, and knows just about every trick in the book, what to offer and what to actually give. By comparison, Liberty is a relative newcomer.

While it has instituted various major business deals over the years, trying to keep the ten F1 teams in check is like attempting to herd not cats but tigers, so we can expect some blood to be shed along the way.

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Published: 06/11/2017
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