Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes Benz has today announced a £1.1 billion loss for the first quarter of 2009. Last year in the same period it made a profit of £1 billion.
This frightening result is partly as a result of writing off a large sum from its failed investment in Chrysler. But it is also because sales are down 34% and the outlook for the rest of the year is bleak.
And the scary bit from the point of view of the company’s involvement in F1 is that it is now committed to slashing costs. “We want to limit our cashflow to the absolute minimum,” said chief financial officer Bodo Uebber.
According to the Financial Times, Daimler has set a target of slashing £3.6 billion this year alone. Workers’ hours and pay are being cut back.
There have been noises coming out of Germany in the last few days questioning Mercedes’ involvement in F1 and suggesting that if the FIA were to punish the team heavily tomorrow at the FIA world council hearing, they might follow Honda and quit the sport.
Whatever some people might say about Max Mosley wanting the manufacturers to leave the sport, it would be foolhardy at a time like this for F1 to seek to lose any team or major supporter.
The feeling is that McLaren has been seen to have done enough to satisfy the FIA that it has reacted to the events of Melbourne and of the Ferrari dossier case 18 months ago and made real, deep and long lasting change to the way it goes about its business. It has changed its governance, replaced the chairman, issued an apology from the driver, Lewis Hamilton and written a letter pleading guilty to all the charges.
A loss of 30 points or a possible suspended two race ban seem the likely outcome tomorrow.
Meanwhile Ferrari seems to be the team shaping up to make threats about leaving F1. Its president Luca di Montezemolo made a flying visit to Bahrain and met with other FOTA members and with Bernie Ecclestone and made some suggestions to the Italian media that Ferrari is not interested in F1 controlled by a £30 million budget cap, nor by standard engines.
Although it has a seat on the world council, Ferrari was not planning to attend tomorrow’s extraordinary meeting because it had been called to hear the McLaren case. But as it seems likely that Max Mosley will use the occasion to vote through the budget cap and rules for 2010, Ferrari is reviewing that decision.
Everyone goes on about the FIA and Ferrari being hand in glove, but in 20 years in the sport I have never seen them as far apart as they are now.