Ferrari chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne has warned the Scuderia “cannot keep on committing to F1 with decreasing audiences”.
His comments were made in an investor conference call last week, although he added that he has faith in Formula One's new owners Liberty Media and is hopeful the American media giant will be able to raise the sports appeal.
“What I do expect, to be honest, is the sport itself to do better in 2017. And I think there would be a great basis for us to continue and to continue our commitment to Formula One, and to really set the basis for a post-2020 world,” he said.
"I would expect that Liberty and Chase [Carey, F1's new boss], in particular, would have very clear understanding that the entertainment side of this needs to come back to play. We cannot keep on committing to a sport that has decreasing audiences for a variety of reasons. And so we need to re-popularise the sport and we need to make it more accessible.”
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Marchionne also added that there is no way Ferrari will invest in the sport and buy shares until there is some “clarity” on what happens beyond 2020 when the current commercial agreements expire.
Liberty Media has set aside around 19 million shares so the teams can invest if they choose, and while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff
recently said the offer should not be readily dismissed, initial proposals were flatly rejected.
“We are in discussions with Liberty and I just recently had a meeting with Chase,” Marchionne continued. “The issue is not just the question of the financial investment. This is something that we do for living in a very serious way. The Concorde Agreement expires in 2020, so becoming a non-voting shareholder in an entity, which would effectively keep us trapped in without knowledge of what 2021 and the later world will look like, is something I consider unwise.
“One of the things that I tabled with Chase is clarity on what the post-2020 world looks like, and what Ferrari may be able to get from its involvement in Formula One. Once we have clarity, then I think it becomes a lot easier to decide whether we want to participate in this venture.
“I think that there is a huge amount of upside left in F1, which if properly managed, can deliver rewards for everybody who is an investor in this business. We need clarity though and we are not there yet.”
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Meanwhile, Marchionne has dismissed the idea of Ferrari giving up any of its bonuses paid under the current commercial agreements, despite objections from some of the other teams – with Sauber
recently saying changes to the prize money distribution need to happen 'as soon as possible'.
“There is going to be no changes to the contractual agreements until 2020 with F1 and Ferrari. The topic has not even been brought to the table, and I think it will be fairly unwise to raise it as a discussion topic,” Marchionne underlined.
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