Withdrawal from F1 would boost Ferrari by 100m


Announcing his unease with the proposed engine regulations for 2021 and subsequently threatening to withdraw his team from the sport, when asked how he would feel about being the man who took Ferrari out of Formula One, Sergio Marchionne gave an unexpected answer.

I'd feel "like a million bucks because I'll be working on an alternative strategy to try and replace it", he said. "A more rational one, too."

While Christian Horner was quick to dismiss the threat to quit as "bluster" analysis of Ferrari's most recent financial filings suggests Marchionne might not have been exaggerating the situation.

While the precise details of Liberty Media's plans to level the playing field for the teams have yet to be revealed, it is well known that this will include a more even distribution of the prize pot and the scrapping of the various bonuses paid to certain teams.

It is well documented that Ferrari receives an annual historic bonus of around 80m every single year, leading to a situation whereby last year it received 160m, 40m more than world champions Mercedes. Indeed, poor old Manor was entitled to only 40m and subsequently went into administration.

Being a division of the car company, the Ferrari F1 team, unlike the majority of its rivals, doesn't file accounts, however, analysis of the parent company's accounts for the year ending 31 December 2016 are revealing.

According to a report in The Independent, "the single biggest expense is found in the 450.7m research and development costs which the filings say 'mainly include the research and development incurred for the Formula 1 racing activities'. This alone comes to 12.2% more than the total costs of the engine department and F1 team operated by Mercedes."

Furthermore, "the main component of research and development costs expensed related to the research and development performed for the Formula 1 racing car". Assuming this to be in the region of 75% of the total, this suggests a figure of around 338m not including salaries and the costs of running the team.

With Ferrari, like Mercedes, thought to be spending around 80m on staff - of which a fair proportion goes to drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen - and running costs of an estimated 55m, you are looking at a total spend in the region of 473m.

However, pulling the plug on its F1 programme wouldn't mean that said 473m could go straight into the piggy bank, because these costs are partially offset by prize money, sponsorship deals and the income from engine leasing to rival teams.

Ferrari, the car manufacturer, brought in 432m from "sponsorship, commercial and brand" in 2016, comprising "net revenues earned by our Formula 1 racing team, through sponsorship agreements and our share of the Formula 1 World Championship commercial revenues, and net revenues generated through the Ferrari brand, including merchandising, licensing and royalty income".

With the likes of Shell and Santander on board, the team's sponsorship tally comes to an estimated 167m, while engine leasing deals work out at around 15m per team, with Ferrari supplying three - Haas, Sauber and Toro Rosso - in 2016.

Combined with the 160m in prize money this leaves a deficit of 101m which was absorbed by the parent company.

Bottom line, as Marchionne suggests, withdrawing from F1 would mean the parent company would not need to cover the deficit - a deficit which will increase should Liberty tinker with the prize money arrangements as it plans to.

However, as Ferrari's filings make clear, this is not a clear cut decision, for though the research and development is all about the F1 team, it is "considered fundamental to the development of the sports and street car models and prototypes".

The Italian manufacturer claims that this is because technical developments in F1 will in time make their way to its road cars; "examples include steering wheel paddles for gearshifting, the use and development of composite materials, which makes cars lighter and faster, and technology related to hybrid propulsion.

"Our road cars (especially our sports car models) have benefited from the know-how acquired in the wind tunnel by our racing car development teams, enjoying greater stability as they reach high speeds on and off the track."

Furthermore, F1 is seen as the main marketing campaign for Ferrari, which doesn't advertise its cars in the same way as traditional manufacturers, hence the willingness to cover that 101m deficit.

On the other hand, being established as one of the world's most renowned manufacturers, with a logo and brand known throughout the world, the Italian company knows it no longer needs F1 to raise its profile... the fact that it continues to flourish despite not having won the championship since 2007 being a point in hand.

Indeed, under 'risk factors' in said filings, Ferrari states that "the company that owns the Formula 1 business was recently acquired by new owners and it is uncertain whether and how the arrangements relating to the participation of Ferrari and the other competing teams in the championship may change in the future".

Which suggests that Marchionne's comment was perhaps more than just "bluster".

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 18/11/2017
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