Tail wagging the dog

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

I am about to commit F1 blasphemy. Stand by while I put on my flak jacket … OK now I’m ready to take on one of F1’s most sacred cows: Ferrari.

Before I begin cow-tipping, I want to be very clear on one point. I love Ferrari, the road cars and the racing cars alike. I love the history, the mystique, the culture from which it comes, their style, their panache, their ethic, what they inspire, and the drivers that have raced for them throughout the years. If I had to pick one and only one car from all the cars in the world to own, old or new, super or road-going, it would most definitely be a 1965 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso and that is coming from a Porsche guy through and through.

As they have been all year, Ferrari are making headlines, however it is not because of the missed opportunity to win a drivers title which would be their first since 2007. I am also not referring to the lights-to-flag win in Brazil with Sebastian driving like his old self, thoroughly controlling the race from P1. Instead, the headlines I am referring to are due to the dust-up over what Liberty Media have in store for F1 going forward and what Ferrari deems is good for them, or rather what is not.

Here are a few quotes from Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne to get us started: “It (Formula 1) has been part of our DNA since the day we were born,” he said. “But if we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognizable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore.” He further went on to state, and this is the meat and potatoes of his complaint: “I think you need to be absolutely clear that unless we find a set of circumstances, the results of which are beneficial to the maintenance of the brand in the marketplace and to the strengthening of the unique position for Ferrari, Ferrari will not play.”

There is so much subtext there I don’t even know where to begin, but one thing is quite clear, that is a threat any way you form the carbon fiber. And that will be our point of departure for this discussion.

I am quite clear on which side of the debate I come down and while I am happy to share my opinions on all matters F1, this really is a post to spur honest critical thought on the subject matter at hand. This post is about Ferrari and what we all feel is their rightful place in F1, the sport of F1 and how these two entities will find common ground and mostly by default all about the fans which is you.

My Opinion And Only My Opinion

As I see it there are really two parallel points of view in this discussion and they should not be co-mingled if we are to further flush out this on-going argument that since the signing of the Concord agreement (there have been several, in which Bernie Ecclestone entered into several secret deals behind closed doors with the sport’s most prominent teams), rears its head every so often.

The more common point and the one that gets most people’s knickers all in a tizzy is, how relevant would F1 be without Ferrari? Would a constructor’s title or driver’s title still have the same value if both were won without Maranello in the mix? If we further parse this point out, one also has to ask (and answer) the question: what value do the current owners (Liberty Media) feel Ferrari bring to the party from a commercial point of view and what would they lose if Ferrari call for a divorce from F1? Conversely, what if any benefit does Ferrari enjoy by competing in F1 against the former titans of the sport, Williams and McLaren, as well as the new titans, Red Bull and Mercedes?

The less common point, but one I feel is worth our time, is how healthy is it for Ferrari to believe they are more important than everyone else, which I will concede is just a simple fact of life. Ferrari is more important to the sport than Force India as an example, but collectively, than all the other teams??? I wonder.

Many F1 fans will not agree and most Ferrari fans will most definitely not agree that F1 could survive without its most celebrated and most successful constructor. I am very interested to hear how the readers of this blog feel about it. However, one could also make the argument that any F1 team, even the holier than thou Ferrari, which uses threats to get what they want out of the sport is 1) not in a healthy relationship with the sport, 2) probably creating resentment from other teams in the sport (which was the case if my memory serves me when Ecclestone’s back room deals came to light previously) and lastly, is just not that sporting.

We should all take pause and remember that what we have come to understand as F1 began long before El Commodore starting building and racing his own cars in what would eventually become the official FIA sectioned formula.

It is true however (and everyone brings up this point ad nauseum) that historically Ferrari have been the only team to contest each and every race since F1’s official beginning in 1950, and I would absolutely agree that Ferrari should enjoy some preferred status in F1 as such. But should that entitle a team, any team, to hold the sport hostage for more money, require a unique veto power, or in the case of what has spurred the latest exit threats, to quash the vision or direction of the new owners???

Team principals and team owners have been asking for years for modernization and new ideas, including Ferrari. Maybe Liberty Media will make some changes for the better and maybe Ferrari should let the new owners try a few un-orthodox things or less traditional things to see if something positive can be achieved. Just a thought.

Let’s just outline for a second why Ferrari and Sergio Marchionne are posturing in this way to begin with. What seems to have really caught the eye of Ferrari are two areas of what will surely be a very difficult negotiation come 2020: engine formula and prize money. These are not points I wish to distill at this point, they are not part of this post, I am merely giving you the reader a bit more information and context.

That one manufacturer should think they are so important and should wield so much influence is sending the wrong message if you want other marquee manufacturers to participate – such as Porsche or Aston Martin. The idea that Ferrari could enjoy an unfair advantage, possess any veto power, or get paid 100 million dollars (note: this figure is a bit difficult to nail down – It took me several attempts to find information I was confident in. I finally settled on a article from Forbes of this year) just to show up when they have so many millions at their disposal already sounds insane to me and I feel is ultimately is bad for the sport. I can’t even think of a good analogy for this so here is a bad one. Ferrari getting that much money (and if I am correct that does not include the prize money for their finishing position at the season’s end) is similar to Amazon receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to build their new compound in whichever chosen city agrees to pay this ransom. Does anyone have any idea what Amazon is worth currently??? You could look it up, but I just did. As of July this year Jeff Bezos’ company is worth over 500 billion dollars. Wow…

I have, since the moment I learned of the historical payout to Ferrari felt it was completely out of line, no matter how important Ferrari is to the sport. Do they not make tons of money already by just being in F1? Did the Lakers get a show-up fee in the go-go eighties? How about the New England Patriots? If there ever was a Football team right now that deserves it, look no further. Does this same deal exist for Real Madrid? FC Barcelona? Man United? Arsenal?

History. (Not All It Is Cracked Up To Be.)

That there is some kind of mystique that Ferrari brings to the table is completely understandable in the context of the history of the sport. But I ask you, in the 20 year Ferrari drought from Jody Scheckter’s WDT to Michael Schumacher’s, did the sport enjoy any less success because Ferrari was not challenging for regular podiums or annual titles?

To put it another way, F1 did just fine without the red car winning championships. To hear some people tell it, Ferrari at one point were the laughingstock of the paddock until Luca di Montezemolo made it his life’s work to make the team from Maranello respectable again.

Tell me, how can one say Ferrari are so important yet for 20 years they had little or no success in the overall championships… the same 20 years that the sport became the juggernaut that it is today? Was this success due to, or because of Ferrari? Sure, it is nice to have that red car on the grid, but what percentage of Ferrari involvement really contributed to the sky-high world popularity and success that F1 gained in the 80’s and 90’s?? You tell me. Do the names Lotus, Williams, Brahbam, and McLaren ring any bells??? Did not these teams have just a bit to do with this success, that by the way also elevated Ferrari’s status despite the fact that Ferrari was not winning on a regular basis? (note: I know other teams also get historical pay-outs and there are also deals with Red Bull and Mercedes, but lets stay with Ferrari for now).

Again, one can look at Ferrari’s continued and long-term involvement in F1 as the leading point. This constructor should enjoy a unique type of status in the sport, and while it is true that teams such as Brahbam and Lotus are no longer, it must be stated that Ferrari have for a very long time been underwritten by the huge conglomerate FIAT to varying degrees over the years. In simple terms, FIAT pays all the bills for the Scuderia. How hard is it to just stay in a sport with no accountants to answer to? All you really need to do is show up.

It’s Not Personal, Just Politics

OK, now that I have well and truly focused the crosshairs on my back, let’s tackle yet another point that I think is always missed. Politics. Why would the current owners of the sport pay so much money to in any way upset the carbon fiber apple cart? Why would Liberty Media want to do anything that would cause the sport’s most celebrated team to threaten to quit?

I think it is all gamesmanship, and that the quit threat is just that, a threat. Did Red Bull follow through with their threats to quit? It seems that just few years ago Dietrich Mateschitz was saying he would be quitting every other week for something or another. Christian Horner, who is always good for a quote and I’m fond of referring to, weighed in on this issue by telling the press, where would Ferrari go? And I agree, where is Ferrari going to get the kind of exposure and fan devotion that they enjoy from F1? Again, I will absolutely agree that Ferrari helped create that level of exposure but now that the genie is out of the bottle, Red Bull and Mercedes have done a pretty good job at creating their own mystique thank you very much, as had Williams and McLaren.

I would love to see a more comprehensive poll in regards to what the entire F1 fan base thinks about Ferrari’s importance in the sport and whether or not Ferrari’s exit would truly make a difference. And when I say more comprehensive, I mean a plethora of questions, different age groups, traditionalists vs. new generation, is it the driver that you follow or the brand, why do you follow F1, what got you to notice and follow F1, if Ferrari is not challenging for race wins will you still find F1 compelling, etc. etc.

But as of right now we just have the survey from a poll that Autosport referred to in a recent article that was the impetus for this Op-ed. I have not verified the results, but if we are to take the comments at face value then there are opinions on both sides of this discussion. Autosport does not give a clear percentage of how many polled believe the sport would be worse off, just a cross section of opinions. Here are a few:

1.RPM40: I’d be sad if Ferrari left. It is a huge brand; it wouldn’t take much for F1 to be relegated to teams like IndyCar currently has, without much in the way of a clear identity. While the hardcore fans may not care as much, it’s a big draw for the casuals to hear a name they know.

2.Nustang70: Ferrari needs F1 just as much as vice versa. Ferrari needs a sport that can absorb a great deal of profligate spending.
Ferrari may complain because it isn’t winning championships, but so long as they can outspend and outperform nearly everyone else, they’re comfortable enough. Where else can they get that environment? Le Mans is the only other option.

3. PayasYouRace: F1 without Ferrari would be strange. But Ferrari without F1 would be stranger still. It would become just another manufacturer of sports cars.

4. Augurk: What a mess that has been created when Ecclestone gave Ferrari the advantages it has. There’s no way out without a loss of face.
How are Ferrari supposed to explain to shareholders that they will accept the loss of its “longest-standing team bonus” and its veto on regulation changes? They [Ecclestone and Ferrari] maneuvered themselves into a position where there will always be a loser.

In Retrospect

I think it is safe to say, not one fan, not any passionate F1 fan wants to see Ferrari out of the sport and that most definitely includes me. I am pretty sure no driver wants Ferrari out of the sport due to the fact that all drivers want nothing more than to race a Ferrari, even one that is not challenging for podiums and race wins, such is the draw and importance of this marque.

In Ferrari’s new found resurgence I am pretty sure Mercedes and Red Bull want nothing more than to compete against Ferrari, such is the feeling of victory against a great competitor and a team with such a rich history. Lastly, I am quite sure Ferrari don’t want to leave the sport as they seem to be on the cusp of another championship winning era with Sebastian Vettel.

What I am also quite sure of is that F1 and by extension the other teams don’t want a sport that is skewed toward just one of those constructors regardless of their history and mystique. Competing in F1 is so very hard already with the top teams spending millions of dollars to race each other. Smaller teams spend millions just to stay on the same lap albeit 40 – 90 seconds behind. How fair is it for every other team aside from Ferrari to spend these millions and to also be at a disadvantage or feel that it is not a level playing field due to the fact that one team can leverage its power politically to pick and choose what rules and regs they like, or that suit them, or worse, by threatening to quit?

Frank Williams, rather Sir Frank Williams, was honestly surprised by the veto power that Ferrari was given by FOM. I think the sweetheart deal that came to light in the press during one of the the Concord agreement (from 2005 or there abouts) was enlightening to quite a few people in the paddock. I remember thinking at the time, how can the other teams acquiesce to such an arrangement, but then again it was Bernie’s sandbox at the time and what Bernie wants Bernie gets, if you want to stay in F1 here is the deal take it or leave it…

The Question still stands, Does Ferrari need F1 more that F1 needs Ferrari?? I don’t know the answer to that question. I am sure that we do not need to see what would happen if F1’s most winningest team left the sport, and after all as long as I can remember, the F in F1 stands for Ferrari…

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Salvu Borg

Dear NC, Have you just started a new job with LM?

Negative Camber

LOL…no, I missed the author pull-down menu….this is actually Johnpierre that wrote it. :)

Salvu Borg

As you missed the author menu I am not to blame believing it was you doing the writing and not your twin.
He certainly beats you both as a FERRARI fan as well as an LM fanatic.
“How would you feel being credited with taking FERRARI out of F1? And tipo-e-spinto came the answer, LIKE A MILLION BUCKS”
And I will repeat what I already said on here, who in his right mind would want to invest in F1 without FERRARI?.

Negative Camber

I didn’t blame you.

John Palermo

I think so.


“The Question still stands, Does Ferrari need F1 more that F1 needs Ferrari??” I think that is one of the few questions you raise that is easy to answer…. F1 would work fine without the red cars, all be in a diminished capacity from a historical perspective. Ferrari’s modern identity IS F1… Maybe it could go back to sports car racing but it would not be the same for them for a generation (and it’s far from certain they could compete at their traditional level and get that name back). That Bernie & FIA special giving the red team veto… Read more »

Salvu Borg

Yes, LM wants the cash flow more than the goose, All these polemics are being pushed forward in the name of milking the cow better than the ones before them did, but it is clear that LM is not only not going to beat the milking of the system the ones before them did, but in their first year they are projected to take a record loss when compared to what the ones before took home, the real problem is their loss will be 50% shared by all teams, their loss already amounts to around 40 million.

charlie white

Like you, NC, I’m a diehard Ferrari fan but no team is greater than the sport it participates. Major League Baseball would still be baseball without the New York Yankees. For Sergio Marchionne, he would be more concerned about falling Chrysler and Fiat sales in the US and searching for a corporate merger partner than Ferrari in F1. Unlike Chrysler, Ferrari sells every car they make and would continue to do so if it left F1. If racing is so important to Sergio, then why Dodge not in NASCAR again? The brand has long history in that motorsport. Unless Ferrari… Read more »

Salvu Borg

FERRARI FANS? You out to have told that to the marines on thanksgiving day.


It’s refreshing to see your objectivety on this and I agree with almost every point and counterpoint you have made. Too many times I see fans of a particular team blinded by that enthusiasm. I too call ferrari my favorite team (although Vettel is somehow my least favorite active driver, how does that work!). In my mind I think the answer is quite simple, Ferrari need F1 much more than the other way around. I do NOT want to see Ferrari leave. I enjoy cheering for them every week. But I think it is completely foolish of any organization to… Read more »

Salvu Borg

We are in a situation that a fanboy can only see all objectivity on God’s green earth when the all the “past it’s sold by date” love for anything to do with FERRARI oozes out of somebody’s holes.


What you lack in intellectual ability you make up for by being so entertaining.

Salvu Borg

Bob, We (me and you) are far apart in our believes.
While you notice my lack of intellect, I marvel at yours.
While you notice me being so entertaining, I marvel at your lack of it.

Negative Camber

MY BAD!!! Johnpierre is the author of this opinion piece. I missed that at the time of publishing. Any props for objectivity are for him on this post, not me. :) I’m a Ferrari fan, of course I think F1 needs them. ;)


Damn, I thought t was you… you both have similar writing styles! Excellent article either way.

Johnpierre Rivera

now it is my turn to say Damn. that could be the best compliment i have yet to receive. however i most definitely think NC can write circle around me…

Negative Camber

You’re too kind.


Thanks for a well written, well balanced piece. It’s the opposite of garbage in, garbage out in effect here – a good piece yields good comments from the community. :) In sticking with the format, I duly declare that I am NOT a Ferrari fan. Never have been. I am an Alonso fan, so rooted for him to win in those years. And I have been to the factory and museum in Maranello because I am an F1 fan. And that’s actually probably the source of how I feel about this question: is this in service of the sport? I… Read more »


It’s a little more than the fact that Ferrarri can Veto any decision, or the substantial historical bonus. Information on all new developments of any team have to be passed on to Ferrari. It’s very simple – you have a new boss (Liberty) – like any business you accept a new Contract or leave – that’s how business works. Equitable conditions and payments for everyone – though I would also add bonuses for those teams that manufacture their own cars (otherwise we finish up with a field of generic HAAS cars and lose that single appeal of F1 – teams… Read more »


I don’t really know the answer to this old question, and in the great scheme of auto racing I’m not sure it really matters. I’d love to see Ferrari racing Le Mans and prototypes, but I’d also miss them in F1. On the other hand the politics of F1 is always fun to read. What ever the outcome is, I wish them and all of you a Happy Thanksgiving, well if you are American anyways, and the upcoming Holidays.

John Palermo

Hey Negative Camber. I understand you have to write an article and it is well written. After all this might be your livelihood, and so you can’t just post an empty page. You need to get some reaction from your readers, so naturally you’ll post about the topic that is red hot in the news at the moment. It’s easy to criticize the politics that go on in the background, most of which we don’t see, nor get the context of. Ferrari brings 30% of all F1 revenue to the sport, by the fans that follow Ferrari throughout the world.… Read more »

Negative Camber

Just to be clear, I didn’t write this piece. It is an editorial or Opinion piece from Johnpierre. My bias is well known, and I could certainly write a counter editorial to this piece arguing the opposite but I think that’s what JP wanted to do, get some good discussion about the topic. It’s a current hot topic and we’ve never avoided those since 2005. Is Ferrari that critical to F1? If you ask me, I would say yes and I also made that same case for Red Bull last year. Ferrari, like them or not, are one of the… Read more »


Better competition occurs when no team dominates the rule making body. I believe that to be an Occam’s Razor view of the situation.


A great article, and I agree with a very large proportion. One thing though – you say that ” not one fan, not any passionate F1 fan wants to see Ferrari out of the sport.” I love F1, have followed it all my life, visit the tracks and have a deeply sad level of knowledge about the teams and their history. But I’d not miss Ferrari all that much if they left. I’m tired of their posturing, their lording it over the other teams, their casual insistence that they must be preferentially treated just because they’re Ferrari. I have a… Read more »

Salvu Borg

That old geaser that with the help of his one time tax adviser/buddy made F1 what it is today.
‘FERRARI is the biggest thing in the sports, The F1 is FERRARI, FERRARI is the F1. The biggest interest of other teams was always to challenge FERRARI/race against FERRARI.”


Do you believe what you say, or are you just winding people up?

Oh, and it’s Ferrari, not FERRARI. There’s no need to keep shouting.

Salvu Borg



As I thought, a troll.

I’ll ignore everything you post from now on.

Salvu Borg

Your chose, a right of yours.


Personally I think Ferrari are just like Manchester United.. Supported mainly by those with a magnetic attraction to the colour Red. The BS about them bringing in 30 odd % money is speculation based on people buying hats and merchandise. Clearly without Ferrari others would get a better look in and so the whole atmosphere at GP’s would be more.. multicultural with punters buying other team merchandise. Nop… I can’t see a down side to Ferrari leaving the sport!


“Ferrari generated €488m of revenue from “sponsorship, commercial and brand” in 2016, including its F1 team. ”

Read more at:


While I don’t like using speculative numbers, I find in mind dumbing that they are spending the majority of 500m on R&D… to finish 2nd. But even the article eludes to the fact that it’s impossible to nail down an exact number.

Johnpierre Rivera

and this is yet another point that comes up whenever the overall discussion of cost are spoken about. the amount of money that is spent for what effectively we the fans never see is getting (got out of control) a long time ago. I was never a fan of Max Mosely, but he was correct that the spending for a part say in the gearbox that allows changing to happen more rapidly (like a few milliseconds) just does not enhance the sport – so why spend millions on it????


Thanks for that.. still can take a jump for me though!


I just finished reading an article that says Ferrari will save between $100 to $159 million dollars if they drop out of F1. So I can look at that and say that they have a financial incentive to quit. I can also say that Ferrari has been investing that much annually in the sport. I don’t think its really a bluff. Reference: The Economic Times, Nov. 18th. online.

Paul KieferJr

JP, I think the better question would be “Does Ferrari think they’re better than me and/or God?” My answer would be “no”, and I’ll happy to explain it to them in boot camp. I’m sure that they’re great automakers and all, but to have that kind of hubris tempts me to correct their attitudes quickly.

Sorry, but I do have this “all-business blue-collar military brat” outlook and it just irks me when someone believes that they’re better than God. Ferrari’s fallen into that particular sin, and that needs to be fixed in a hurry.

Salvu Borg

When one stretches things to their extreme, he risks sitting in the resultant oversplits and all that comes out of such splits.
AS also, suggesting the extreme can only lead to an absurd conclusion.


I don’t think Ferrari wants to leave Formula 1. The way I see it, Marchionne said that if Formula 1 is no longer Formula 1, then he’s not interested. I think that is a fair way to look at it. I hope that Liberty is careful when trying to improve Formula 1. Ferrari is not alone in their concerns and I don’t think they are the tail that is wagging the dog. F1 racing will continue without Ferrari, but it won’t be the same. Even commercially it will be worse off. I’m sure that a fairly high percentage of tickets… Read more »


Quite frankly I would have no problem with Ferrari less F1 series. They are a team that enjoys a playing field that is considerably tilted in their favour (money wise) yet consistently fail to deliver the goods. If F1 is a true meritocracy then let Ferrari leave and give other teams the money that they receive. I would love to see what a team like Force India could achieve with some extra funding.


Thanks for a well written, well balanced piece. It’s the opposite of the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ effect here – a good piece yielding good comments from the community. :) In sticking with the format, I duly declare that I am NOT a Ferrari fan. Never have been. I am an Alonso fan, however, so I rooted for him (and them) during those years. And I’ve been to the factory and museum in Maranello because I’m an F1 fan …. And that fact – of my love for this sport – is actually probably the source of how I feel… Read more »