Ferrari call Liberty’s hand on future of F1

We spoke yesterday concerning the news that some teams are still considering the offer to invest in Liberty Media’s Formula One Group and how McLaren’s Zak Brown felt there needed to be more time to vet the opportunity.

Today, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has, unsurprisingly, offered his thoughts on investing as well as Ferrari’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne. I found Marchionne’s comments much more measured and even an arm’s length stance:

“We have started exploring the opportunity now,” said Marchionne.

“We are in discussions with Liberty and I recently had a meeting with Chase [Carey, F1 CEO].

“The issue is not just the question of the financial investment. This is something that we do for a living in a very serious way. The Concorde Agreement expires in 2020.

“So, becoming a non-voting shareholder in an entity, which effectively keeps us trapped in without knowledge of what 2021 and the later world will look like, it is something I consider unwise.

“So one of the things we have tabled with Chase, and I think we’re not the only ones that are tabling these concerns, is clarity on what the post-2020 world looks like and what Ferrari may be able to get from its involvement in Formula 1 activities.

“Once we have clarity, then I think it becomes a lot easier to decide whether we want to participate in this venture.”

Point here is that Ferrari is the team most accused of being unfairly compensated through the existing agreements. Recall that Ferrari’s $100M historical team payment was part of the gambit to collapse the Formula One Team’s Association (FOTA) by offering Red Bull and Ferrari separate, lucrative deals. The plan worked. Now fans and certain pundits feel the Ferrari compensation package is unfair and Marchionne is keen to ask F1 boss Chase Carey what his intentions are going forward.

One opportunity that comes to mind is an investment in the F1 group that would compensate Ferrari on the backside of performance instead of taking a chunk out of team prize money. If the 60/40 split of the total profits is seeing Ferrari take a big chunk out of the front side of the 60%, perhaps they can recognize a larger portion of the 40% but that could be very unlikely.

Point here is that Ferrari, as well as Mercedes and Red Bull, are the product and over the next two to three years would normally be the time teams start to consider their long-term investment in F1. I imagine they may be keen to have those discussions earlier now that there is a new owner and there is an investment opportunity but as the article suggested yesterday, they may not be happy with what shares are being offered and what benefits they would have with this style of “ownership”.

That’s the key to Marchionne’s statement, a non-voting entity. That’s what we discussed in yesterday’s piece sourcing a Forbes article and I would imagine that Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull enjoy the voting and control option they currently have in the F1 Strategy Group but if that goes away and an option to invest in Liberty with a non-voting posture is the only answer, I’m not sure how keen Ferrari or anyone else will be to sign up.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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