Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has audaciously asserted that the fabled Scuderia is 'the only car manufacturer still in F1' - as the top flight returns to a more independent-led era once more following the departures of Honda, BMW and Toyota over the past year or so and effective withdrawal of Renault.

The loss of more than half of its car makers - ostensibly heralding the end of the manufacturer-dominated age - leaves only Ferrari, Mercedes and a substantially reduced representation from Renault in the top flight in 2010, following the French company's 75 per cent sale of its Enstone-based F1 operation to Luxembourg investment firm Genii Capital in December.

Mercedes, for its part, will be present in its own right for the first time in more than half a century this season, after taking over a controlling stake in 2009 double world champions Brawn GP - but still, di Montezemolo controversially urges, the three-pointed star's commitment to the sport by way of the 'Silver Arrows' is not akin to the unstinting support of Ferrari.

"You cannot compare Ferrari with Mercedes," the Italian contended. "We have been in Formula 1 for 61 years without interruption, and in Italy. Mercedes as the German team has everything built in England. First they were a partner of McLaren, now they have purchased the former Honda team.

"They have taken the courageous path of increasing their involvement in Formula 1, and I very much welcome that. I have great respect [for Mercedes], but it's a different involvement to us."

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