Mercedes unwilling to sign new Concorde Agreement


As if the row over 'duct-gate' wasn't enough, Mercedes has sparked another feud at a time the sport most needs the teams to be pulling together.

Having previously said that he would prefer to see the current Concorde Agreement extended for another year, Toto Wolff admits that Mercedes is unwilling to sign a new agreement.

The new Concorde is part of Liberty's grand plan to overhaul the sport, particularly in terms of levelling the playing field, and it is in terms of the more equal division of the prize monies that particularly concerns Mercedes.

Last month, at a time rival teams were expressing their keenness to sign a new Concorde - the agreement that effectively holds the sport together - Wolff told Autoweek that rather than signing up to a new agreement he would prefer to see the current agreement extended, interestingly admitting that "if we were not signed up for five years, that would give us flexibility".

"The Concorde gives a certain safety to all stakeholders," he continued. "It gives Formula 1 a safety net to have teams signed up. It gives certain stability to Formula 1 when pitching for TV or sponsorship partners because they know that the teams are going to be participating and it gives a safety net to the shareholders of Formula 1 teams and to employees knowing that we are in this for the next five years.

"If you have a rolling non-committal situation it could provide instability," he admitted. "People like to have some kind of visibility: What am I buying into and what do I pay for? If there could be structural or seismic changes every year that would obviously not be great."

Speaking at the official press conference on Friday, the Austrian's attitude on the matter had clearly hardened.

Asked how close the teams are to signing a new agreement, Wolff said: "The Concorde Agreement is a complex topic..."

"Everything is complex!" joked Frederick Vasseur.

"This one is more complex!" said Wolff bluntly. "It obviously involved 10 teams, the FIA and FOM and we respect that everybody has their point of view and the only interest at heart...

"We from Mercedes made it very clear that we are happy with a more equitable split of the prize fund, the way success is rewarded and possible for everybody we agreed to.

"We are I would say the biggest victim in terms of prize fund loss in all of that. Ferrari has maintained an advantageous position. For Red Bull it balances out with Toro Rosso. So it's us that are hurt the most.

"I feel that Mercedes has contributed to the sport over the last years," he added. "We have, apart from being competitive on track, we have the driver that has clearly the most global appeal and we feel that whilst being in those negotiations we weren't treated in the way we should have been.

"Therefore there are a bunch of open topics for us that are legal, commercial and sporting and in our point of view I don't feel ready to sign a Concorde Agreement."

Asked how far away Mercedes is from agreeing to sign up, he responded: "That depends on the other side. If you are willing to sit at a table, address the critical topics, discuss them, come to a compromise outcome, then I think it can go pretty fast. But I haven't seen that approach."

Later, at the second press conference, the three grandees of F1 as it celebrates its '70th birthday', Ferrari, McLaren and Williams, all admitted they were willing, indeed keen, to sign up.

"As Scuderia Ferrari we are ready to sign," said Mattia Binotto. "I think the deadline of the 12th of August is coming pretty soon. There is still very little (elements of) wording that need to be addressed - it's only a legal matter - but on all the principles, we are somehow happy.

"It's a long time that we discussing with FOM so it's not here on the last day that now we are putting a long discussion we've had so I think we have a great understanding with Chase.

"I think that the proposal is certainly helping the small teams, which is important," he added. "As Ferrari, I think our role has been recognised which for us is quite important and overall, as I said, we are ready to sign so it's clearly waiting for it and quite excited."

"McLaren's in the same position as Ferrari," added Zak Brown. "We've all been negotiating this for some time. We're ready to sign. We'll be able to hit the August 12 deadline.

"Some very small dotting the i's, crossing the T's," he admitted, "but all the fundamentals are there and I'm really excited for the future of Formula 1.

"I think the new Concorde Agreement - I'm not even sure we're calling it the Concorde - but to do that by deed poll, is going to bring a much healthier sport, more competitive sport and the biggest winners are going to be the fans and if we have a lot of happy fans around the world then that means a lot of happy promoters and happy sponsors and very healthy competitive racing teams."

"You've got the triple," said Claire Williams, "you've got the three most historic teams in Formula 1 ready to sign the Concorde Agreement.

"Williams are in a position to do so as Mattia is. We've got some minor legal issues to resolve but we would be ready to sign it to meet the deadline.

"As Zak said, I think it's fantastic for the sport, we can move forwards. We've got some great new regulations coming online for 2021 which is certainly going to level the playing field and make this sport... or give it a much brighter future which we're really excited about."

Wolff always chooses his words carefully, and it is worth noting his comment about the Concorde committing teams to five years and Mercedes needing "flexibility".

This, once again, raises the question of the German team's long-term commitment to the sport, while the comments regarding Hamilton's 'pulling power' could be seen as a clue as to why talks concerning a new contract with the Briton are on hold.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Silverstone, here.

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Published: 08/08/2020
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