Mercedes made Concorde compromises claims Wolff


It was one of the great U-Turns.

Just days after it looked very much as though the new Concorde Agreement was in jeopardy, it was proudly announced by Formula One Management that all ten teams has essentially signed-up.

All ten teams obviously meant Mercedes, when days earlier team boss, Toto Wolff had been voicing his objections, suggesting that the current agreement be extended by a year as some of the sticking points in the new agreement were 'discussed'.

"If we were not signed up for five years, that would give us flexibility," he told Autoweek ahead of the 70th Anniversary race at Silverstone.

"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 added. "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."

Asked how far Mercedes was from agreeing, he replied: "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.

"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," he insisted. "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. 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."

Lo and behold, ten days later comes the announcement that all ten team have 'signed-up', including the Black Arrows.

Asked, just three days before FOM's announcement, what led to his team's Damascene moment, he replied: "I changed my opinion in Silverstone. I've been pretty vocal after the meetings that we had within the team to say this is what we need and these are the clarifications we needed in order to move forward.

"I don't think that the teams will ever be united," he admitted. "Everybody tries to achieve some little deals outside, there is a blame culture in the media, so we have decided to move forward with Liberty.

"I've had some very constructive discussions with Chase over the last weekend and most of the clarifications that we wanted to achieve have been discussed and I feel we are at a good point to sign the Concorde Agreement and move on."

Now, a further ten days down the line, Wolff claims that his team had to make a number of compromises in order to move things forward.

"Look, it is a negotiation at the end of the day," he told reporters. "I have great respect for Chase Carey and the complications in dealing with all the stakeholders, everybody will have a different agenda and different objectives.

"On the other side, why I was vocal was that I felt that Mercedes' role, particularly in the last seven years, wasn't maybe recognised in the way I would have wished for in terms of the financial split. But on the other side, I think he tried hard to create a better show, to balance the prize fund distribution better, and I think he achieved it.

"Obviously I would have wished a better situation for Mercedes but it is what it is. In the final part of the negotiations we agreed on some compromises that found its way into the agreement, and it's like with every negotiation, at the end of the day if both stand up from the table and are not quite satisfied it's probably a good outcome."

While many feel the teams act purely out of self-interest, Wolff believes he could have stuck it out for a better deal, but settled in the interests of the sport.

"I think we are all having the feeling that maybe we could have achieved more," he said. "But that is maybe an outcome that is good for working together in the future.

"If one party stands up and says, 'I just got the best deal', the other one will feel aggrieved."

Of course, in light of the Austrian's recent comments about his own future, and despite his insistence that all is well with Daimler boss, Ola Kallenius, there is the possibility that the final decision on the Concorde Agreement was taken out of his hands.

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Published: 30/08/2020
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