until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

The cards Ferrari holds to navigate F1’s current crisis

by Matt Beer
3 min read

Ferrari’s resistance to lowering the budget cap as far as many of the other teams would like carries a lot of weight.

Ferrari itself inherently carries more political weight than any other team. In fact, it can be considered as the centre of gravity around which the championship turns, such is the perceived value of the historied brand.

Ferrari’s wishes over the years have shaped the F1 we have today.

For example, the exclusively V8 era would have come in 1989 had Ferrari not threatened to leave F1, even going as far as creating an Indycar to show it was serious. There’d have been no V10s or V12s in the ’90s without that. And there have been many more instances of Ferrari shaping F1’s history.

Ferrari Mansell 1989 F1

Had Enzo Ferrari not played the role of mediator – but with catches – between the governing body and the Bernie Ecclestone-led teams in the early 1980s, the category may have no longer even existed. What became the Concorde Agreement, the covenant between the governing body and the participants that guided the sport for the following decades, was originally the Maranello Agreement. So-called because at the end of 1980 the Ecclestone-led teams (about 70% of the grid) and governing body met on the neutral ground of Ferrari’s Maranello factory to make an agreement about the future.

We’d get to see Ferrari in F1 and at Le Mans in the big prototype class perhaps? Or a Ferrari effort at the Indianapolis 500. What’s not to like? Why is it a threat?

It was at this meeting that Old Man Ferrari insisted that, because he was geographically isolated from the others and that they might, therefore, conspire against the interests of Ferrari in framing the future, he wanted the power of veto on any decisions taken. Which was granted. The existence of this right was a closely-guarded secret until Max Mosley made it public during one of the spats between teams and governing bodies in the late 2000s.

No-one can recall any occasion on which the veto has been used. But it hangs there as an implicit, unspoken threat every time Ferrari disagrees with a proposal.

Max Mosley Jean Todt Ferrari FIA F1 2006

Consistently calculated by marketing experts as the world’s strongest brand, F1 places enormous value on Ferrari’s participation. Consequently, the Scuderia has been able to negotiate better financial terms than any other team, as F1 has recognised what it adds to the value of the F1 brand – which in turn benefits every other team. That’s the theory, at least.

Since 1974 Ferrari has concentrated exclusively on F1. But now the team’s boss Mattia Binotto is talking of reluctantly diversifying into other high-profile categories of racing if the F1 budget cap is set to a level that would otherwise make it necessary to lose key people and skills.

This sounds great news for the fans surely? We’d get to see Ferrari in F1 and at Le Mans in the big prototype class perhaps? Or a Ferrari effort at the Indianapolis 500. What’s not to like? Why is it a threat?

Sebastian Vettel Charles Leclerc Ferrari F1 2019

The problem with the idea for F1’s owners Liberty Media is that it could seriously impact upon the asset value of F1. If the world’s strongest brand were no longer exclusive to F1, then that could have serious implications to Liberty. On the other hand, losing smaller teams would also negatively affect the asset value…

The coronavirus has taken us into unprecedented times. The balance of power between F1 and Ferrari is just one of many things that might be subject to sudden change.

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