F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Thoughts from the front line

For­mula 1 with­out Fer­rari: pasta with­out sauce; pizza with­out top­ping. Each as un­think­able and un­ap­petis­ing as the other.

Bernie Ec­cle­stone knew it, hence the fi­nan­cial and reg­u­la­tory in­dul­gences he was pre­pared to grant the Scud­e­ria. Enzo knew it too, un­der­stand­ing the al­lure and mys­tique of his brand and the magic spell his rac­ers could cast upon mil­lions across the globe.

Of course the scar­let cars needed an arena in which to per­form and For­mula 1 has served that pur­pose ad­mirably since 1950. Arm-in-arm they’ve flour­ished, these two paramours, one to be­come among the world’s largest sports fran­chises; the other reg­u­larly noted as the world’s most valu­able brand. Could ei­ther re­ally do with­out the other?

Be­cause that’s what’s be­ing con­tem­plated in F1’s cor­ri­dors of power as Lib­erty Me­dia seek to re-frame the sport’s reg­u­la­tory and fi­nan­cial struc­tures, with out­comes dif­fi­cult to pre­dict.

Rune-read­ing has been made harder by the loss of old cer­tain­ties, such as the deep un­der­stand­ing forged over gen­er­a­tions be­tween Ec­cle­stone and for­mer Fer­rari pres­i­dent Luca di Mon­teze­molo. They’ve been re­placed with Lib­erty’s hard-ass sports-busi­ness mind­set and the iron-fist-in-iron-glove ruth­less­ness of Fiat-fer­rari supremo Ser­gio Mar­chionne. Rarely have rock and hard place been so im­pla­ca­bly jux­ta­posed.

As Pino Al­lievi (page 36) notes this month, the new tone of re­la­tions be­tween lead­ing play­ers on both sides has lent a nervy edge to post-2020 F1 ne­go­ti­a­tions. Lib­erty would be fools to let slip their most lus­trous bauble, but nei­ther can they be dic­tated to by a mere ‘player’ – even the grand­est one of all. Fer­rari, mean­time, have no doubt they’re in a fight for the very soul of the sport on which their rep­u­ta­tion is founded. Not for Maranello a dumb­ed­down F1 with spec parts that de­value the no­tion of a Fer­rari ma­chine – be that on road or track.

So when Lib­erty in­sist they are se­ri­ous about re­duc­ing costs in F1 we can only note their in­ten­tion and that their goal runs counter to Fer­rari’s wishes. Then when Mar­chionne in­sists: “There could be some­thing even more in­ter­est­ing than F1,” it would be naïve to take him at any­thing other than his word.

How Lib­erty would re­gard their prized as­set with­out Fer­rari is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine; just as one can only guess the re­ac­tion of in­vestors to any Fer­rari with­drawal from F1’s global mar­ket­ing plat­form.

Time, then, for cool heads and silken diplo­macy to pre­vail be­fore we find that in­stead of ev­ery­one be­ing a win­ner, as Lib­erty pro­fess to wish, ev­ery­thing has in fact been lost.

An­thony Rowl­in­son Cre­ative con­tent di­rec­tor

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