Bernie Ecclestone believes Ferrari’s threats to quit Formula 1 should be taken seriously, fearing the sport may not be able to survive without its most iconic team on the grid.

Ferrari CEO and chairman Sergio Marchionne made repeated quit threats late in 2017 in response to Liberty Media’s plans for F1, offering scepticism over the proposed engine rules for the 2021 season.

Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport in Germany, former F1 CEO Ecclestone said that Marchionne’s comments should be taken more seriously than previous quit threats, believing that while Ferrari could survive outside of grand prix racing, the sport may not be able to without the Prancing Horse.

“If it had been [ex-Ferrari chairman] Luca di Montezemolo, you would not have to take it so seriously. Motorsport was Luca’s life,” Ecclestone said.

“Sergio can live without Formula 1. He is only interested in the business. The most important thing for him is that he can offer the shareholders a good business result.

“If Marchionne does not like the path Formula 1 takes, then he will stop.

“I'm afraid Ferrari could live without Formula 1 - not the other way around.”

While Ferrari has made numerous threats to quit F1 over the years, Marchionne stressed last year it would leave the manufacturer better off financially and that its board would be “celebrating until the cows come home”.

Ferrari is currently bound to race in F1 until 2020 under the Concorde Agreement, with its commercial benefits from the sport allegedly set to be reviewed by Liberty Media.

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