‘F1 needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs F1’

Toto Wolff urges Formula 1’s owners not to ‘provoke’ Ferrari’s Sergio Marchionne

Ferrari Formula 1 future
Ferrari’s Formula 1 supporters fly the team’s famous red colours
(Image credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has warned the Formula 1 owners and stakeholders not to “mess” with Ferrari.

The Maranello-based Italian team have previously threatened to quit F1 because of proposed changes by Liberty Media, which took over the running of the sport at the end of 2016.

Liberty Media want a “new direction” for F1, the BBC reported in November, with proposed new engine designs and a budget cap for teams from 2021. But Ferrari, whose current deal with F1 expires in 2020, have said they could walk away.

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At the time Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne said that F1 had been “part of our DNA since the day we were born” but added “if we change the sandbox to the point it becomes unrecognisable, I don’t want to play any more”.

Wolff told the BBC that the Ferrari chief’s threat should not be taken lightly. “Marchionne has a clear vision of what F1 should represent for Ferrari, which is a purist sport that isn’t a shopping channel,” said Wolff. “I would strongly encourage the sport’s stakeholders not to provoke him.

“So, don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne. F1 needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs F1.”

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Former F1 driver Mark Webber believes Ferrari will continue after their contract expires, but says that the negotiations between the teams and Liberty Media is “a chess match at the moment”.

Webber told The Age newspaper in Australia: “Formula 1 has always attracted the best manufacturers in the world. They want to showcase their technology. It’s an incredibly high-end, high-technology sport and there is a glamorous [element] - all the big manufacturers, all the big brands, Formula 1 [has] that. I would be absolutely flabbergasted if Ferrari aren’t there in 2021 but never say never.”

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Hamilton: Mercedes need to ‘go up another level’

World champion Lewis Hamilton believes his Mercedes team must keep on improving to fight off the challenge of Red Bull and Ferrari.

The new F1 season starts this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and four-time title winner Hamilton feels Mercedes are the “target” for other teams to aspire to.

“Every year we have to take it to another level,” Hamilton told Sky Sports. “Because, if you look at last year, for example, Red Bull was a second or so behind at the first race and at the last race they were right there with us.

“I think at this point in the year, everyone is trying to hype someone up and we are the perfect target because we are the world champions.

“Red Bull seem to have done a great job on their car; it’s got a lot more furniture on it, should be a lot quicker this weekend and they’ve got two great drivers.

“Then you have Ferrari who were there in the real fight last year; it was no walkover that’s for sure, and this year we expect them to be on it too.”

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Ricciardo: Red Bull must make a ‘statement’ in Melbourne

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo says if the team are to be genuine title contenders in 2018 they must secure a good result at the Australian GP on Sunday.

Ricciardo does not have a great history in his home race but wants that to change this weekend. He told the Sydney Morning Herald: “As a team it would be huge. I think, if they are not already awoken, the other teams, it would get them going.

“For us to have a strong one would more set a statement for the long term this year and show that we are going to be fighting for the championship. It would be awesome to get off on the right foot.”

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