Ecclestone urges F1 to take breakaway threat seriously
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[March 23, 2018]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Formula One's
former commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has warned owners
Liberty Media to take the threat of a breakaway series seriously and
said Mercedes could follow Ferrari out of the championship.
Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has threatened his team could
quit if F1's American owners follow through on plans for simpler
engines and a redistribution of prize money after contracts expire
Ecclestone, who moved aside in January 2017 after Liberty took over,
suggested both Ferrari and Mercedes, who have swept the last four
drivers' and constructors' championships, were on the same page.
"Talking to people like Sergio and (Mercedes boss) Toto (Wolff),
they are not idiots," the 87-year-old told Autosport.
"They will weigh up whether it's better for everyone to leave and do
their own series, or do we need the (governing body) FIA to look
over things? So people will start to think what to do.
"The trouble now is that Sergio has come out and said, 'The next
time I see you, I'm going to punch you in the face'. And when he
sees the people, he's got to be sure that he's going to punch them
in the face.
"Sergio is not the guy that makes threats as a joke and then runs."
Although fierce rivals on the track, Ferrari and champions Mercedes
are closely aligned off it on financial matters and engines --
supplying six of the 10 teams in the series.
The threat of a rebel series has rumbled only days before Sunday's
series-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said on Friday that
Marchionne knew "very well what he is talking about".
"My only suggestion is please take him seriously," he told a news
conference at Albert Park.
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Former Chief Executive of the Formula One Group Bernie Ecclestone
ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Wolff, who was sitting alongside Arrivabene, struck a more
conciliatory tone but would not rule out Mercedes leaving Formula
One after 2020.
"It is clear that the current governance, how the rules are being
made is not functional, there is too much different opinions and
agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021, for the best
interests of the sport," he said.
"We have at least three more years together in this great sport,
regulated by the FIA, owned by Liberty, run by competent men and we
just need to give our input support into the best possible way so
it's great and we're not devaluing it."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner quipped that Mercedes and
Ferrari were "about the only two teams in Formula One that do agree"
and said it was up to Liberty and the FIA to table a plan rather
than hope for a consensus.
"My view on this is very simple, trying to get a consensus between
teams that have got varying objectives, different set-ups, it's
going to be impossible," he said.
"It's down to the commercial rights holder and the FIA to get
together, come up with a set of regulations.
"Put it on the table and it's down to the teams whether they want to
sign up to that or not."
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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