Enemies on the F1 track, friends off it – Ferrari and Mercedes the key dynamic
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Feb 2018   |  3:38 pm GMT  |  139 comments

The Six Nations Rugby tournament kicked off this weekend with some thrilling matches and highlighted a sporting dynamic that Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff insists exists between his team and Ferrari.

They can be bitter enemies on the race track and seek to not only beat, but humiliate each other.

But off-track the two team principals not only breakfast together on race morning, at a senior level the two manufacturers are well aligned and now it’s the F1 management team under Liberty Media that is the adversary.

This is set to be one of the key dynamics of 2018 and their unified approach will have some bearing on the shape F1 takes for the future.

F1 like rugby?
Ireland’s Johnny Sexton broke French hearts on Saturday, when he kicked a drop goal with the final action of the game, to steal victory. After being mobbed by his Irish team mates, his first act was to go over to the French team’s huddle and shake hands and share a word with them.

This is the spirit of rugby; the fact that the competitors can want to destroy each other on the field, but then immediately the final whistle blows, they come together with respect and humility thanks to their shared passion for the game.

“I like the analogy to rugby,” Wolff said last Autumn, “That you can be fierce and tough competitors and trying to punch each other during the match and win with all the necessary emotions – but you’re still able to have a beer afterwards.

“This is the attitude that we’ve had over the years..

“But it’s necessary; we are all stakeholders in this giant platform. And if this giant platform is successful, it makes the teams successful and it makes the sport successful and we are all benefitting from this.

“I think in the past – not only in the past, still today – there are individuals that are very narrow-mindedly focussed on Formula One as is there was nothing else besides it. And the truth is that there are many interests that we share besides the fierce competition on track.”

Throughout my 28 year F1 career, I have seen periods when some of the drivers had some sense of cameraderie and some of the team bosses too. When Stefano Domenicali ran Ferrari and Martin Whitmarsh was running McLaren there was a lot of off field respect and cordial relations.

But there has usually been a spirit of animosity off track, clashes of big egos and team bosses seeking to destroy rivals on and off the track.

The group of F1 team bosses was once described as “The Piranha club”, by Ron Dennis.

Shared purpose: to stand up to Liberty
There is a lot going on behind the scenes in F1 at the moment as the management team under Chase Carey reforms the sport for the future. They have had a year to learn who everyone is and how it all works and they’ve had some successes and failures with things they have tried.

But now comes the hard part; shaping the sport according to their vision, even if that puts them on a collision course with the top teams, especially Ferrari and Mercedes.

It’s mostly around engines, rules and money.

So far it’s been Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne (above) who has made most of the negative noise about Liberty’s plans. Mercedes have kept a lower profile.

But Ferrari have been more forthright in some of their actions too; for example Sean Bratches oversaw a bidding battle last year between Amazon Prime and Netflix for a new behind the scenes F1 documentary series. Netflix was chosen, but the word is that Ferrari aren’t playing. Mercedes will only feature in a limited way.

Liberty’s approach is to want to treat all their children the same, but Ferrari and Mercedes don’t want to be treated the same as the smaller teams. Much of the fascination of this season ahead will lie in how that negotiation progresses in parallel to the racing competition on track.

All possibilities remain on the table for where this could all end up, from a new Concorde agreement binding in all parties and agreed rules from 2021 onwards, through to Ferrari and Mercedes exploring a different series.

But unlike in the past, where one suspected that Ferrari would always break ranks and do what suited them when push came to shove, there does seem to be a shared sense of purpose with Mercedes and it is important to bear that in mind when watching what unfolds in the Great Game off the circuit.

All photos: LAT Images

What do you think about the dynamic between Ferrari and Mercedes? Leave your comments in the section below

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These two make me miss Ron Dennis and Flavio Briatore.


let’s get rid of all the manufacturers and give the power back to the real racing teams like Williams McLaren sauber force India alike. someone please breathe life back into f1


A pair of bullies whose motivation is to keep their position at the top by [mod], stifle innovation in other organisations and pat themselves themselves on the back for maintaining high standards. Or would you like to know what I really think?


I don’t think with Porsche entering the fray that there will be much off the track friendship with Mercedes, or Ferrari/ Alfa for that matter…..


@ Andrew…I would love to see Porsche enter F1 as a fully fledged team, if not on their own then maybe in partnership with Audi! AP F1 Racing. Both these marques have great hybrid power plants and the experience plus the wherewithall to enter the series but i would expect that they would rather see a less complex power unit in place before entering. If we add Aston Martin-Cosworth as well…WOW what a grid that would be? Is it likely to happen? I very much doubt it, as Liberty would have be able to take control back from the big three manu’s first and that won’t be easy, if at all.


I’d like to see Toyota back as well.


Not sure why the comparison between a global easy to follow sport like F1 and a complicated minority sport like rugby.
Maybe it’s a public school thing?


Make that pre-race breakfast a family thing by adding a couple of grid kids.


The key to it all is Ross Brawn. He’s where the power really lies.

He may say he’s only focusing on the technical aspect, but we know how F1 works. His influence either with Liberty or as a go between for the other teams cannot be understated.


I’m not too sure that Brawn is as powerful as a lot of people think. James would be the right person to ask to see where he thinks Brawn sits on the ‘power’ scale of F1 movers and shakers. If Brawn really is going to ring in substantial changes to the motive power units he’s going to have a near impossible time. Just consider the joint power wielded by the big three. They would be able to flex their not inconsiderable strength by virtue of their supply contracts to other teams … Sauber would be seriously compromised now by the Alfa Romeo infusion when coming to decide who to back in any serious confrontation as an example. Red Bull and Renault are still in conflict to a lesser degree but Horner is not shy when saying what he wants and he wants independent engine builders to be an integral part of the supply chain. Brawn is supposedly having round robins with the teams but what are the proposals? James, any news is better than no news.


Ross is now in a pretty powerful position. I hate those Power League lists, but if there were one in F1 today he’d be in the Top 5 for sure along with Carey, Todt, Wolff and Marchionne


@ James…thanks for the response. It’s very interesting that you place him in the top five. ATM i’m reading the Brawn/Parr book based on strategy and for the first time really come to grips with the Incessant and sometimes clandestine backroom dealing and the lengths that people like Brawn will go to in order to gain an edge!!!! I have always known it was there but the details are fascinating and i’m sure that there is a vast array of even deeper conflicts that were not published!!! Probably never will be unfortunately. If common ground can’t be found this time around then one party is going to suffer a great deal as this is simply a major power play for the future. The question is, just who is in control?


I would put Hamilton in that list too. The amount of social media exchanges he generates with fans is a powerful thing.


How did Mercedes become on par with Ferrari and supercede McLaren, Renault and even RBR and Williams in the power hierarchy! As a constructor – they have been involved only for 8 years compared to 78 for Ferrari, 60 odd for McLaren, 50 odd for Willams and 20-30 for Renault!

Nice touch to the past showing Ron as the Boss.


If Mercedes have only been involved for 8 years how did they win the 1954 & 1955 WDCs?


Things really don’t change much from the third grade playground, do they ?


Hi James, Johnny Sexton’s name is spelt wrong.

Not a big rugby fan but that’s the first thing that I noticed.


Call me a cynic, but I get the impression that Toto Wolff is the kind of person who is too eager to please other people (afraid to upset others); and that Ferrari are playing him (and Mercedes) given his call for “unity” currently suits their interests.

The moment things take a turn and the opposition (Liberty Media) now suits them, Marchionne (Ferrari) will likely stab Wolff and Merc in the back without even flinching.


I doubt if Toto became one of the wealthiest people in the UK (see Sunday Times ‘Rich List’ for details) by allowing himself to be played for a sucker very often!


I can’t help but think it’s this sort of attitude which will forever keep F1 in a bad (less good?) position. There is perpetually too much, “what’s in it for me?” and not enough, “what’s good for the sport?” Ferrari and Mercedes should be working with Liberty to move the sport forward, not just trying to protect their own advantages (particularly Ferrari with the welfare they receive). I don’t think Liberty necessarily has the answers, but the sport needs everyone pulling the same way on the same rope.


First you get the money. Then you get the power. Then you get the… competition.


If comparing Rugby to F1 that would make Mercedes the All Blacks. Ferrari possibly England , Red Bull Australia? Force India Ireland perhaps.


I’d say renault Ireland?


two corporate executives desperate to keep their unfair advantages re f1 payments.


Well, Ferrari and Merc really aren’t competitors in terms of the markets they serve so they should just be good friends and agree to alternate the winning of races and championships to share the dividends and maximise the appearance of there being a “competition”.

Then, as Renault and Honda also don’t really compete with Ferrari or Merc in terms of the overall auto market, invite them also to the breakfasts and make two more friends. Give them a few wins and maybe a championship to make it worth their while.

Then, everyone will be happy. Won’t they ?

Sport ? Pffft.


Considering last weeks public statement of support for Marchionne’s style by Wolff nothing in this surprises me. Alliances forged on a mutual dependency for control are nothing new. It is my belief that Marchionne is playing bad cop and Wolff is playing the opposite but only [ falsely ] to imply a sense of balance. Wolff cannot be trusted if one takes into account Brawn’s experiences over the Paddy Lowe incident. Forget Mercedes…Wolff will do what’s best for Wolff, IMO. He is nothing if not shrewd and he has achieved a great deal. Likewise Marchionne. Liberty will have to face up to formidable challenges and it won’t be pretty unless deals are struck to reduce the ‘heat’ generated by the threats from Ferrari. What does instill a degree of disillusion is the fact that Liberty have chosen to make changes, on the premise of their ‘vision for the future’ when they have not outlined in any detail what that ‘vision’ is. The grid girls issue is a case in point. They claim that they have acted in association with the fans? That change just appeared without any priors, to my knowledge. Same with the broadcast timings. Just an edict out of the blue.
What i do hope for is that there are changes made that reduce the control being exerted by the manufacturers. Until that is successfully undertaken Liberty will have their chain pulled relentlessly. I am not confident that they can effectively achieve this. Consider the fact that unless they can sort out these conflicting issues, come 2020 a business valued at $8B could well be worth a lot less!!!!

Tornillo Amarillo

What do you think about the dynamic between Ferrari and Mercedes?

Quotes from Machiavelli to…

MERCEDES = “Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.”

FERRARI = “Politics have no relation to morals.”

LIBERTY MEDIA = “The new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all.”

FANS = “The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”

JOURNALIST: “The one who adapts his policy to the times prospers,
and likewise that, the one whose policy clashes with the demands of the times, does not.”


Very good!


Re :shaping the sport according to their vision…

Personally, i could take or leave the grid girls. They aren’t why i watch, but i acknowledge that they are part of the glitz and glamour associated with the sport.

I wonder if Liberty feel that by banning them they are opening up a new market? If so which market?
I am unaware of there being any Weinstein type incidents or accusations in relation to grid girls (i stand corrected if there are), but i wonder what has led to this decision? Is it advertiser led, or is there some moral code being imposed?


Good question makes you wonder if the glitz and glamour of Monaco is going to be toned down no more shots of women sun bathing as the cars speed by underneath. Will the drivers no longer participate in the fashion shows so they wont be objectified?


@ LKFE…Yes, but what is their Vision? I am certainly not aware of what it is, how it was arrived at and how, if acceptable, it will be implemented. There is an old saying, ‘you can’t sell a secret’ if you want to carry the weight of the fans with you. So far all we’ve seen is tinkering around the edges and nothing of any great importance being put on the table for discussion. I am equally sure that there are a lot of happenings behind closed doors but will we, the fans, get to know where they are headed ? I very doubt it but we are still expected to fork out large sums for the privilege of watching a semi fixed championship.


Ha ha JA!!!

Northern hemisphere rugby…. “thrilling”?

You nearly had me there 🙂 🙂


I can’t believe Ferrari would be buddy buddying up to Mercedes, to maintain these PU rules, when they have been utterly dominated for years by the Mercedes PU package.

Ok they came a tiny bit closer in 2017, but don’t be fooled by Mercedes controlling the pace, controlling the race as to how close. Don’t be fooled be a Ferrari on the limits, able to match Mercedes at only a few tracks, whilst said Merc has plenty in reserve and a 100 percent, title winning, full season reliability. Plus Ferrari were, as ever, completely destroyed with their in-season development, again poorer than the team they are competing against (as per how slow the Alonso Ferrari was at season end against the NeweySeb Red Bull when he’d managed to drag the red car within a shout at the final race a couple of times)

It’s like Ferrari are satisfied with 2nd place…

You’d think, with the money they have, they’d be buddying in with Liberty to tweak the PU rules for the sake of better competition for victories, to give themseleves a realistic shot at the title again.

Hope someone else can break into the top two next year, though I doubt it with these PUs.


And surely Renault and Honda would benefit the most from radically new engine rules.


I’m missing something about that as well. With their resources and recent good form Ferrari would surely benefit as much as anyone from new rules.


Germany vs Italy on track
Off track
Germany smiles at Italy still in Euro debt
Similar to the Mercedes vs Fiat car war .
Also great win by England against the Italian side in 6 Nations 🏉”””,,,,,🏃‍♂️. Get in there !!👍




The tail must not be allowed to wag the dog.
Despite the Mr E type frenzy that the grid girl situation whipped up (gotta be one of the most commented on articles James?) Liberty must wrestle back control of the sport that it owns.
I truly believe F1 is at the most critical point in its history and has one chance to get things right for its future.
I don’t care what they paid for it or how much Bernie made or what the potential earnings are,the future depends on people watching. And if we don’t put money in the meter the lights will go out.
If anyone is capable of getting it right then Ross brawn is that man.
Mercedes and Ferrari both know this and are quite rightly concerned,but no matter what the cost, the tail must not be allowed to wag the dog.


German shepherd: “WOOF”
Spinone Italiano “WOOF”
French Poodle ????


F1canmaker… The tail is somehow attached to the ‘veto’ and therefore can wag the dog…..I think?


“Liberty must wrestle back control of the sport that it owns. “

I think that F1 must wrestle back control of the sport tbat was given to Bernie in the infamous 100 year deal! The whole idea of Liberty ‘owning’ F1 is anathema!


Liberty Media are making the same mistake with F1 that the BBC did with Top Gear….Liberty Media will learn the hard way that being “politically correct” and pandering to the left-wing is not good for viewing figures and profits!

F1 is a shambles …
> Ugly cars
> Boring personalities
> Lack of genuine competition
> Lack of showbusiness and glamour

Such a shame that F1 has lost so much of its shine.


Great analogy, and sadly all too true! The only good news is that being a listed company, we’ll have relatively quick market feedback on whether their strategy works or not.


Thanks, Bernie. Hope you’re having a good day!


I can only report the facts as I see them…

I can always get Sebee to chip in if needed 🙂


Wolff seems to have missed the fact that Rugby players and teams also respect the game as well as each other. Rugby players will still call the referee, Sir, and rarely argue his decisions.

And Rugby teams certainly don’t make little breakfast clubs to work out how to gang up on the sporting body so only they can win games and competitions in the future.


Excellent point.


Ferrari, friends? Ferrari do not have friends, they have underlings and patsies. If they are co-operating with Mercedes it is to increase Ferrari’s leverage and/or to pull the wool over Mercedes’ eye while Ferrari gets itself the best possible deal alone.
Liberty is going to have to stand up to the both of them. Ferrari versus fairness will be the ugliest battle in F1 history but someone has to do it, as the longest running team they certainly have a claim to a ‘little extra’ over some of the others, but only a little


Yes, Zetsche, the Mercedes board, and Wolff are collectively having the wool pooled over their eyes by Ferrari. How very naive of them…..


Totally agree, its all about leverage. What an absurd situation whereby competitors in a competion get so much say on the rules and prize money distrubition, and whats more absurd is that some teams have more say than others. Struggling to think of another sport where this happens. This is a situation that bernie created and was unable to sort out and must surely be liberties priorty.


I can think of a few more. In cricket India and England cricket boards dominate. In Rugby the English Rugby Union is the most powerful. In Rugby League the Australians have the most say. In Baseball, NFL, NBA the big market teams have the most influence.


I agree with your sentiment but the different levels of power and influence exist in every sport.

In the NFL Jerry Jones (Cowboys) and Bob Kraft (Patriots) have a whole lot more Pull than Mike Brown (Bengals) and Shad Khan (Jaguars) do.
I’m sure UEFA cares a significantly more about what Man U, Real Madrid and Barcelona have to say than even relatively big clubs like Tottenham or Sevilla do.

The main difference is that F1 has codified it into its rule and decision making processes where as in other sports the power ebbs and shifts with who ever happens to be the best political actor and is most successful at the time. (European soccer seems to have cemented the same 20 or so clubs into their own tier that no one else can break into but the general shifting of power still happens, PSG & Man City come to mind as recently ascendant clubs but that’s still all about €€€€. probably need more about 20 more €s in there)


Your right, the bigger richer football teams in Europe certainly do have a lot more influence and power than the smaller teams, that’s evident in the transfer market, and i think sometimes in the way the fixtures are arranged with the broadcasters. But i also think in the case of football here in the UK and Europe there is a very clear line between the regulators of the game the FA, UEFA and FIFA and the actual teams when it comes to the competition. Same as the ECB and ICC in cricket and the RFU, WR in rugby. In these cases the governing bodies set the rules and adjudicate. The line between the regulator and the participators of the competition are very clear. I can’t imagine for a moment any of those governing bodies sitting down to discuss with a select number of teams the rules in which the game is going to be played or how the prize fund is going to be distributed, or even negotiating a bonus just for taking part because of historical reasons. In F1 those lines are blurred and for me its difficult to see who’s really running the sport, if we can still call it a sport. Its all a culmination of decades of Bernie’s fire fighting approach to running the sport, a deal here, a loyalty payment there, a backhander who knows where. Just enough to keep everyone happy so he and all involved can keep the gravy train going and continue to line their pockets. For me, the way F1 was run has always business first and the sport second. It always made me smile in pre show interviews, when an interviewer would ask a critical question of Bernie to some team manager, you could see them squirm and tip toe about on egg shells, not very often did you see anyone in the paddock being critical of Bernie even though it was obvious to most on the outside looking in, some of the decisions were absurd. They all knew where their bread was buttered. The mess we have today is his legacy, and the race to fill the void in power and influence he left will be to the detriment of the sport we all love, if the regulators don’t grasp the nettle soon. Its going to take more bite from Liberty and the FIA than they have shown so far to sort it out. The FIA need to regulate, Liberty need to promote and the teams simply participate. Tough decisions need to be made, some teams need to be put in their place so we can have a fair and equal competition which will close up the grid and give the fans the racing they deserve, even if that means we risk being with or without a big name or two for the good of the sport.


The Philly Eagles, for example, won the Super Bowl with an underdog team, player injuries and a “second string” quarterback. one of the better games of the 52 year history ! Oh, and with a coach only “recently” from the High-School coaching ranks. . .

Wasn’t supposed to happen but in a reasonably balanced league where nearly anyone can win on any given day, the Eagles managed to string a bunch together at the right time and overcame Goliath.


Thanks for this. James, I’m probably more intrigued about your thoughts on Toto Wolff as an “operator” in F1. I’ve been forming the view that he’s among the best there has ever been. I think he handled the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry very well, ditto the Ross Brawn-Paddy Lowe “3-into-2-won’t-go” in 2013. He knew what needed to be achieved (winning titles without the drivers imploding, restructuring the team etc.) but was sensitive to the challenges involved in achieving this.

At the same time, he seems very effective at leveraging influence within the sport (though he may have a rival in Zac Brown in the years to come); the stake he had in Williams for many years (though no longer), the roles in managing careers of drivers like Bottas and Ocon. And, of course, Mercedes are an engine supplier to several teams on the grid.

In other words, I sense that he is very shrewd at knowing when to use the velvet glove and when to use the iron fist. He acknowledges the importance of influence for the benefit of his team/employers – Mercedes – and therefore seeks to acquire it, but he does not flash it around or overuse it, despite what must be an overwhelming temptation to do so in such a ruthless sport.

I would also picture the relations with Ferrari in this context. While Sergio Marchionne makes quite public statements about the threat to quit F1 etc., Wolff quietly builds alliances and prioritises shared interests but keeps Mercedes out of the line of FIA/FOM fire if it all turns ugly. Thoughts?


Toto Wolff has seen how there is no empathy in the paddock for Red Bull, because during their four years they started out as the fun team and degenerated into arrogant winners. Teams remember when Sebastian and Christian suggested that Red Bull was winning because the other teams were lazy and Marko’s suggestion that envy was the reason Red Bull was always target by the FIA.

Toto must have also noticed that Ross Brawn rubbed the teams the wrong way with his old school secretive but legal tactics (that famous tire test). Since 2014 testing, Toto Wolff knew he would be the leading team of the hybrid era. He has gone out of his way to cultivated the win with class attitude for the team. Mercedes rarely fights with other teams and rarely takes aggressive stands in public. They may be ruthless and focus in the secretive behind the scene technical meetings but on the public stage they always say the right things.

Finally, do not forget even when Mercedes were massively dominant (2014 – 2016) they still let Rosberg and Lewis race evenly even after accidents. This was important because the paddock knows that Lewis paycheck made him the lead driver in the team. In F1 those kinds of little things go a long way in getting respect from the other teams.

Despite the politics, the rank and file members of the F1 fraternity are still people who want to see fair competition. They know the drivers are not responsible for Mercedes domination, so letting them race fairly and competitively is important to the show, especially if you remember that is something we did not have in the previous eras where both Schumacher and Sebastian were the clear top dog.


@ Rishi…Yes, i agree that Wolff is an astute character and he done extremely well with his investments in both capital and labor. But he does have his weaknesses. Martin Brundle, towards the end of last season put to him the very self same questions that we, the fans, so often voice in our wishes and desires for an F1 where there there no inbuilt advantages to one or possibly two teams. He stumbled and failed to clearly prosecute a reasonable defence of the status quo. That interview showed that there is chink in his/their armor which needs to be exploited if we are to see any changes resulting is a truer competition for honors on the track.


Thanks Kenneth. I suppose a related point to what you say is Mercedes as a unit have been the team to beat over several seasons, which maybe helps his situation compared to being the team principal at a Ferrari or a McLaren, desperate for success but falling (sometimes well) short. So, yes, over time we may well see more chinks in his armour – he is human, after all. But overall I’m still impressed!


Nah, it’s all Lauda 😉


Haha thanks Clarks4WheelDrift. Can never forget Niki!


Yes seems a shrewd operator

Interesting that his background is tech investing – so he is self taught as a manager in the heat of F1 competition

I get the impression he has done lots of research in neuroscience etc in how staf react to situations etc


Thank you James for your insight. Wonder if the tech investing background is an example of a potential weakness also being a strength? He can approach problems with a fresh pair of eyes and a different perspective. It would also be interesting (although perhaps not unsurprising) if he has swotted up on neuroscience principles to help with the management of the team.


I get the feeling that’s what he told people so that other teams get distracted by thinking their wind tunnels need an MRI machine now to take on Mercedes.


𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝘁; 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝘃𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻

Well, with Liberty Media caving into the wooly jumper brigade and deciding grid girls are past tense, then who knows who’s in the firing line of their “moral code?” Daniel Ricciardo’s smile will be banned because it offends miserable, joyless left wingers…………and as for David Coulthard’s tight trousers, well, we can’t religiously sensitive viewers saying DC let it all out hang out, can we?

Ironic, isn’t it. Pretty young things are not being allowed on the circuit, but we can all look at men with bloated middle aged faces, straggly grey hair, stupid moustaches and beards! If that’s the American way, Liberty Media have messed up big time………..


“Oh no!! No more scantily clad woman 30+ years my junior pointlessly holding a numbered sign for 30 minutes every other weekend?!?! Pretty young girls are BANNED and UGLY old men are still allowed?!?!?! Will the lifeless noodle between my legs ever be stirred again?!?! The End Times are surely nigh! Just cancel the sport now before anything else is ruined.” -Gaz

Better buck up now Gaz or your remaining 30ish years left on this earth are going to have to be spent in a Safe Space to shield your delicate sensibilities from all the happenings in the modern world that don’t conform to your ever more outdated worldview.


So you miss Bernie? You agree with Bernie? Up Vote Bernie!

Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has lashed out at the sport’s new owners Liberty Media.

The 87-year-old said last week that he strongly disagrees with Liberty’s decision to ban grid girls.

But he has now told Sonntagsblick newspaper: “So far I have not seen a single thing that makes sense.

“They are doing almost everything wrong,” Ecclestone charged.

One theory is that Liberty – whose F1 operations are being run by Chase Carey, Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches – is making a deliberate effort to erase the entire Ecclestone legacy.

“That’s the way it appears,” Ecclestone agreed.


My bet is that Liberty will sell its shares before 2021. They are in over their heads – and soon the honeymoon will be over if its not already and the teams will begin to smell the rot coming from their end.


At a big loss.

To who?

A well rested after a long vacation…Bernie!


Mr E wasn’t all bad, and he wasn’t all good. He was human, like the rest of us – some good points, some bad.

He stood upto the reprehensible Balestre in the early 80s – that was very good, and very timely. Had Mr E not squared upto the mendacious FIA president, Formula 1 would have ended up splitting into two, just like CART/Indy did.

He orchestrated the pivot to Asia – that was bad.

Some good points, some bad. That’s the point – humans are not binary, and neither should be decision making.



Put yourself in his shoes. He knows he has to sell it. He knows he has to make it sellable and get those long term commitments. Would you do what he did and allow the manufacturers to have these hybrid PUs? I would lie if I told you that as much as I hate the PUs, I’d probably let the manufacturers have their way and pay them off to get it sold. I know Gaz…but I’m willing to admit that I’m as flawed as anyone! 🙂


Liberty may find that their are tougher opponents than the woolly jumper brigade!


LM need to recognize this is a global sport, with a European heritage. Americanization of F1 isn’t necessarily the right path, as it risks alienating its current core audience, and limiting growth potential in the long run (I don’t see American sports franchises being particularly popular in the rest of the world). And all for what? A quick win in boosting US based audience figures to sell a growth story, and make their financials look better? Yup – sounds like a long term sustainable strategy….


I am American and like it because it is proper like British English compared to American English or should I say was since things look to be going south. I am an outlier of course since it difficult to find fellow Americans who are passionate about F1.


#gaz boy you raise a good point. Is F1 a racing series or an entertainment based around a sporting event.
I can go for the pure sport without any add ons or I can go for the fun day out with all the family but you can not be half pregnant.
I don’t think Liberty really have a clue and banning grid girls is just an example of this.


Maybe they’ll replace grid girls with a bunch of cheerleaders for each team?



They will replace them with children.

Young aspiring racers, but ideally ones who have daddies willing to perhaps pay 25m/yr to get their boy a seat in the near future.

How sweet. Is it acceptable that I enjoy my beer in front of these children by the way as I watch this race? I’m not sure this is OK. P.C. Police, what’s the verdict on that one? I’m not sure anymore.


The children will be chosen based on “Merit or a lottery”, not funding from daddy.

I think of it this way:
Pictures from the Grid of say the ’92 British GP, would you rather see Senna standing next to some random scantily clad woman with ’90s style hair and dress or a young Lewis Hamilton staring up at his hero, a look of wonder and awe on his face?

I’d much rather the latter than the former.


Sebee. How many of the current drivers were backed by their fathers to the tune of 25m a year?


Maldonado’s bill was 27m, seasons ago.
How much is Stroll Sr. paying?


Sebee, that would be one current driver then?


Will be interesting to see the grid kids in front of the Martini liveried Williams…


That’s already happening, no? 🙂


They should all b* off and let us get on with proper racing…


That is the problem. Neither liberty nor the FIA Want good racing ,they want show business and money. I have no confidence whatsoever that liberty and the FIA will encourage changes such as simpler aerodynamics with lower down force and greater dependence on mechanical grip that will allow closer following,overtaking and better racing.
Liberty’s Focus on North American viewership shows me ,who lives in North America and sees how fans in the United States are oriented, that F1 as currently run and technically organized will fail to gain any further audience in the United States. Grid girls or no grid girls start times whatever they are will make no difference Americans are empty headed vacuous fans of Rahrah empty show business like NASCAR and F1 will not grow here unless it is all about close racing and not show business.
Liberty should focus on the racing but that is not their forte.
We have seen what they think F1 needs the Austin disaster with Michael buffer is proof.
I hope Ferrari leaves I hope Mercedes quits I don’t care what happens to Renault, I want F1 to fail as long as liberty owns it .


Not meant as an affront to Americans, mostly good people. My statement is meant as an observation of Americans as relates to sports , entertainment, culture and especially F1, based on the 35 years I WAS a fan of the sport. Americans generally are like selfish obstinate teenagers compared to Europeans. This is even more evidenced by the 2016 US election and the clown show in D.C. F1 with Liberty at the helm will quickly become more of a clown show than it already is and it hurts me to watch its decline.


Good points apart from the unfair slur on Americans!


And who exactly is the “us” that are going to pour the $$$ into putting 2-3 cutting edge teams on the grid if the manufacturers b****r off?

Come on, I get the problem, and I do agree that it needs addressing, but some of the so-called solutions that are being proposed are just nonsense, and more damaging than the current status-quo.

The only way this can work is compromise on all sides. The manufacturers probably have a greater capacity to compromise than the others, but trying to play hard-ball with these guys will ultimately be self defeating.


@ Redline…Yes, there will be compromise but Liberty i believe have the weaker position. With such a massive debt to service and the possibility of an all out confrontation how do they push their ‘vision’ [ whatever that is ] forward. IMO they really are in somewhat of a bind. Consider what the outcome would be if Renault/Ferrari/Mercedes simply said, sorry, no change. What could Liberty possibly do? If those same three teams pulled out they would take all the others with them as who would supply engines apart from Honda!!! The three key elements of strategy, Technical, Financial and Political need to be clearly enunciated. To date all we’ve seen is fluff and no indication other than some ‘ breezy’ outlines of a technical nature re PU’s. Liberty need to do more in the public arena if they are to carry the support of the fans/followers without whom there is no business.


@Kenneth… The lack of a clearly articulated vision and road map from LM is a huge disappointment. These guys are a year into their ownership. Its absolute nonsense that they need any more time to get to grips with F1 – you don’t do a deal like this without a cogent plan on how to develop the business – its just amateurish. No wonder the manufacturers are making a noise – they have to make significant capital investments and decisions based on whatever Liberty comes up with. If they don’t deliver a convincing strategy soon, the goodwill from the markets, manufacturers and fans will run out pretty quickly.


@Kenneth – good post. I agree that the manufacturers seem to have a stronger hand. Abiteboul chimed in today, calling the proposed rules “frightening”… so it seems they are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

If the manufacturers stick together, I can’t see a LM play that will satisfy them, the markets and the smaller teams. Maybe its time to go see the Chairman Emeritus for a primer on “divide and conquer”…


The buddy buddy relationship between Ferrari and Merc is the result of Bernie’s absence, no more divide and conquer from the puppet master! Liberty need to get tough with both of them, time to call their bluff and just tell them how it’s going to be. If the big teams want to be involved in shaping the future of the sport, then a more diplomatic approach is required, no more empty threats of quitting, and perhaps some sense of realisation that what’s good for the sport is good for them.
A more equitable split of revenues is drastically required, the removal of the mguh is a sensible idea, and the big two need to start looking for positives, rather than fighting tooth and nail to keep their advantage.


Too right, any sport must be run impartially by an organisation independent of the participants or it’s not a sport.


And if Ferrari and Mercedes tell liberty where to stick their bluff, what sort of venture would they have to sell with the two biggest players off to their own series


Jonathan, chance of Ferrari and Merc setting up their own series? Zero.


@TimW – i don’t think that anyone seriously believes they will set up their own series – its virtually impossible. But the threat to do so, or pull out of F1 is enough to undermine the analysts outlook for LM, and spook shareholders. IMO that is the real leverage the manufacturers have.


Virtually impossible? Really?

With the commercial power and contacts Mercedes and Ferrari have, are you honestly telling me they couldn’t start a new series?

Formula E is a new venture that seemingly continues to develop. A1GP had no problem starting a series but obviously alack of promotion hindered that effort.

Christ I could go back over the last few years and find many championships which manufactures created – World Series Renault. Didn’t Nissan have something similar? Formula Vauxhall/Opel, Formula Renault.

Of course, it goes without saying these tend to be lower level competitions but if ( big IF btw) Mercedes and Ferrari decide to create a Grand Prix championship I’d claim they have the finances available to kill off Eff Wan.

A constant theory put forward by the likes of Bernie suggested that they would never be able to build the tracks required but again, that’s an erroneous belief. All FIA championships are run on FIA sanctioned tracks, not F1 sanctioned.

Whatever contracts the likes of Silverstone made with the devil will one day run out at which point they will be welcomed by any new series.

In the mean time, what’s to stop the Silver and Red Grand Prix championship racing at circuits that are non Tilke designed. Maybe encouraged by being able to earn a profit rather than pay it to Liberty for the privilege?


@Hero … read my comment again – I didn’t say the couldn’t, I implied that they wouldn’t. That said, I probably should have used “very unlikely” rather than “virtually impossible”. If it were impossible for them to do so, they would have no leverage with LM, as the threats are only effective if credible.

In any case, ignoring the semantics, the point is not whether they have the financial muscle and capabilities to launch a new series. As you point out – many “lesser” organizations have done so – so quite clearly they could too, albeit with fundamental differences, as the others are all single make series as far as I know. The issue is that they (most likely) won’t need to, as it is in the interests of all parties to find an accommodation that yields a win-win. Anything else is at best a zero-sum game, and at worst a lose-lose.


@Jonathan – the “purists” on here seem to think its a better product without Mercedes, Ferrari and the grid girls! Hmmmm…


The buddy-buddy relationship between Ferrari and Mercedes is because they are both large corporates, with relatively aligned interests (except on track). Nothing sinister about this to be honest. Along with Renault, the scale of their commitment to the sport (and the inherent risk they are exposing themselves to – Honda docet) dwarfs that of the other teams. It will be almost impossible for them to accept having an equal voice and equal payback to smaller teams.


Redline, I didn’t say there wasanything sinister going on, just that without Bernie stirring the pot they appear to be getting along. Mr E was famous for his tactic of setting the teams against each other in order to stop them forming a collective. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that they shouldn’t have a voice, just that they shouldn’t be allowed to let their vested interests block changes that are required for the goid of the sport.


@TimW – sure, I take your point, and – to a certain extent agree – that Mercedes and Ferrari should take a broader “good of the sport” view. But on the other hand these are corporate behemoths, not pure racing teams, and to expect them to sideline their interests is not realistic. There needs to be a compelling argument for them to trade short term advantage for whatever Liberty is putting on the table for them in the long term.


Redline, i’m sure a deal will be done that sees everyone continue, the corporote behemoth thing is a double edge sword, the fact is it isn’t up to Toto if Merc continue, his bosses will decide that.


I think is it the other way around and that Mercedes and Ferrari will show Liberty who holds the power. Liberty as I see it are in a struggle for their survival as they are sitting on a mountain of debt having paid over tbe odds to buy out CVC and Bernie. Mercedes and Ferrari would survive if both pulled out of F1 but could Liberty? The olther interesting aspect is where Renault stands in all this since although we believe they want to keep the present PU format they may see competitive and commercial gains from supporting Liberty.


Warley, it should be remembered that Mercedes and Ferrari are both involved in F1 because of the excellent return on investment it offers, and they won’t give that up lightly. I don’t doubt a deal will be done, a mutually beneficial solution will be found, but ultimately if Ferrari do leave (and I don’t believe for a second the will) the sport will continue without them. This would damage both brands, and I am quite sure that all involved realise this. Mercedes have far less clout, their absence from the sport wouldn’t make much difference long term.
I would imagine Renault are hoping that the top two leave as soon as possible!


Nice analysis – fully agree. I too wonder where Renault and Honda stand on this? Most likely aligned with the Ferrari/Mercedes manufacturer camp? If LM can bring them in line with their views, it would somewhat undermine the manufacturer axis. Interesting times!


@ Warley…Having just read an article where Abiteboul claims to be against any changes to the PU, it would seem that he has thrown his support behind Ferrari and Mercedes. I must say though the article, if it was correctly reported was a bit of a mess to read. Abiteboul does make seemingly conflicting statements!!!


Of course we have to remember tbat the students have learned from the Jedi master Bernard Charles Ecclestone when it comes to the art of saying one thing when you believe something else. Who knows who will do what!


It’s all well and good saying that about diplomatic approaches but the fact is the manufacturers no the sport cannot live without them -particularly Ferrari . The fact is if you alienate . The fact is although you can make the revenue slightly more equal there will never be full equality because the fact is most years big cheese teams will finish in the top WCC placings because they have more resources and because of the higher placing so there will never be full equality such is technology demand and resource involved . What is needed is is the removing of bonus payments for Ferrari , Merc RBR etc and have that money shared out amongst say the bottom 5 teams in the WCC. There will always be a gulf in F1 . Liberty and the FIA can only do so much.


Stephen, I get your point, but F1 survived without Mercedes, Renault and Honda, and would survive without Ferrari. Of course it would be better to keep them, and I have no doubt that they will all remain, despite the threats, but they simply cannot be allowed to run the sport. Mercedes and Ferrari will not vote for anything that might erode their advantage, and if that something needs to be done in order to improve the sport, then it must be done wether they like it or not. If the sport thrives, then the teams thrive, equality will not happen, but the gap to the smaller teams can be reduced, and should be. The removal of the mguh would improve the noise and simplify the engines, this would please the fans, attract new manufacturers and give Honda and Renault more chance to carch up. Merc and Ferrari don’t want the last two things to happen, and are more than happy to sacrifice the first one to maintain their position at the front, Liberty and the FIA need to do what’s best for the whole sport long term, not what’s best for the top two next season.


@TimW – I don’t know that LM have the leverage. They are a listed company and beholden to their shareholders / markets. I seem to recall that their debt/equity ration was considerably higher than the industry average. Analysts and markets get nervous with Merc and Ferrari threats, so LM needs to sell a compelling growth and stability story. Be interesting to see how this plays out, but IMO the manufacturers have a stronger hand.


Redline, They can all live without each other if they have to, but with VW and Aston Martin waiting in the wings for a simplified engine to be announced, Liberty could replace Merc and Ferrari, could Merc and Ferrari replace F1?


James we have seen Liberty make what I believe are rather trivial changes with the grid girls and races starting 10 minutes past the hour rather than on the hour . Do you think teams will be disappointed that Liberty has prioritised such surface changes such as these before they have even dealt with issues such as cost cutting and money redistribution , broadcasting of the sport and the sports general technical direction. James by the way what do you think about moving race starts to 10 minutes past the hour?


They can’t do much about the distribution of money right now because of contracts that are in place. Costing cutting requires rule changes, which Liberty can agitate for (and it seems they are) but can’t force. So I would think the teams understand that.


No it’s inportsnt they do the Simone things as well, but the deeer things will takes lot of time like cost control, that has to be done in tandem with tech rules

The annoying thing about delaying the starts Euro races by 70 mins is that teams and others have to rebook flights in some cases, maybe some staff now have to stay an extra night etc


For me, the main race weekend that will be affected by the later start is Belgium as I usually drive from Spa to Calais on Sunday evening then get the ferry back to the UK on Monday morning. I’ve already booked everything so the ferry will be leaving at the same time but I won’t be getting til Calais until much later at night therefore I’ll have a bit less sleep than usual.

I wonder how the after race party at Silverstone will be affecfted by the later start. With the traditional 1pm race start, there was a lot of time available on a Sunday afternoon for the organisers to put on a show after the race. An hour and a bit of this time has now been eated up.

My main concerns with the later times are, as a race attendee, there’s no need to be at the track before 11-12 as there’s nothing going on. When camping, I’ll probably still be woken at 6am by loud music so that’s a lot of the day to have to fill in. As a TV viewer in the UK, it seems that more of my afternoon is taken up by watching F1. I pity Australian viewers who’ll now have to stay up later on a Sunday to watch most races.


James drunk at this hour? Surely not!
The total disruption of everybody’s onward or home journeys was the first thing I thought of when I saw this first touted as a rumour the other week. It is another indication that Liberty do not have much idea of F1 outside of the boardroom, contracts and revenue.
While Ross is involved I have to think he would advise against such a catastrophic move and was either not consulted or overridden.

While this has been downplayed as insgnificant in terms of the tv watching audience and as with the firing of Grid Girls “Liberty fixing things that aint broken”
It is hardly likely to do anything to the teams except unite them in irritation at having their travel and acommodation arrangements screwed up. So it may, as the Americans say “Bite them in the ass”


Yes, funny how knowledgable and practical Mr Bernie Solo now looks in comparison to the small army of non-logistics known as Liberty!


I’m not surprised they moved the timing…it was to be expected given their growth strategy in north america.


Was anyone other than TV executives consulted on the start time changes? Probably, like many, many other long time fans of the sport, I am not happy at all with the race time changes. It may well be the death knell for my pay tv subscription as I attend a lot of football matches anyhow and like to watch my sport live and in a suitable time slot.


Re french gp…Yep stuff the real fans who have paId to go trackside in favour of home viewers who have video recorders so can watch the football or f1 in any order. Or is it that Berni owns Paul Ricard so changing the start time is a stuff you from Liberty.


Firstly – has your spullung chunker gone on holiday?

It’s not only the teams who’ve been affected by the start time changes. Spectators, marshalls and track staff will all have to spend an extra hour at the track. Long distance attenders will also have to change their travelling times. It’s possible public transport will be affected too. Much of this will have to be paid for. Never mind LM will have sold a few more TV , adverts, so they won’t give a toss. I reckon their reputation will be taking another hit.


Ha ha ha.

I was reading James’ reply and laughed, because that happens to me all the time.

Edit option for comments would be sweet! James has the edit power. We don’t.


Thanks for your view James not to mention the French GP start 130 minutes later than it would have in the past and will start an hour later than the other European races this season- all because of an England World Cup game would you believe.


Well it is against that footballing powerhouse nation, Panama.


What is this a Kumbaya labor union?


Its a prayer gathering with alot of tamborines


Bernie always played divide and rule and Ferrari were usually the first to be ( bribed) divided. This current marriage of conveniece will be tested in the end when Ferrari are challenged over their veto and guaranteed bonus. Mercedes will want parity and how much are Ferrari willing to “share” before they start to play dirty in the divorce court?


If the two were to cooperate to “put on a show”, Sunday breakfast meetings would sure help. 🙂

Richard Mortimer

What would happen if F1 would lose both Maercedes and Ferrari? Red Bull would be the dominant team (based on last year), with Probably McLaren and Renault winning races, plus, maybe Williams and/or Force India.

Doesn’t sound too bad to me!

Also, maybe F & M would take their engines too. So, everyone has a Renault or a Honda? Maybe opens the door to other manufacturers coming in / back, such as Porsche or Toyota.


To ensure that the WDC and WCC are decided at final race?


I’m sure Arrivo knows very well that Toto is everyone’s friend till you get him in an unguarded moment, then the truth spills out, as Lauda found out to his cost last year.
– Hello Toto, cher ami !


James, I had four stars till now, why demoted?


Happened to me when Internet Service from the local business dropped email service and a new ISP had to be secured. Not the best approach, but was told that’s the way it was. . . 🙁


Someone voted twice, and thus un-voted.


No idea!


“So you’re winning the 2018 championship again?”


“What do you mean again? We haven’t won the 2018 championship yet.”


We’re in an endless Mercedes PU simulation loop, remember?


Yes says Toto and then points to Arrivabene “So you’ll be working for Renault in 2019?”😂

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