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Ferrari chairman issues quit threat over Liberty’s F1 plans

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Ferrari could leave Formula 1 after 2020 as it goes “at odds” with Liberty Media over the future direction of the sport, according to the CEO and chairman of the Italian manufacturer, Sergio Marchionne.

Liberty Media completed its takeover of F1 in January and is pushing to make changes to grow the sport and make it more appealing to fans, with a rebalancing of how income is distributed to teams being mooted to try and create a more even playing field, as well as revising the engine regulations for the 2021 season.

Ferrari is F1’s most recognizable brand, having raced ever since the formation of the world championship in 1950, amassing a record 227 race wins, 16 constructors’ championships and 15 drivers’ titles over 68 seasons.

But ahead of a summit of the sport’s leaders and team bosses next Tuesday, Marchionne stressed Ferrari would not continue to race unless the conditions to do so were favorable, amid speculation the manufacturer could lose its exclusive financial bonus from F1 as part of the restructuring of its income distribution.

“Liberty has got a couple of good intentions in all of this, one of which is to reduce the cost of execution of the team which I think is good,” Marchionne said during a call with investors on Thursday.

“[There are] a couple of things we don’t necessarily agree with. The fact that we now appear to be at odds in terms of the strategic development of this thing, and we see the sport in 2021 taking on a different air, is going to force some decisions on the part of Ferrari.

“I understand that Liberty may have taken this into account in coming up with their views, but I think it needs to be absolutely clear that unless we find a set of circumstances the results of which are beneficial to the maintenance of the brand, and the marketplace, and to the strengthening of the unique position for Ferrari, Ferrari will not play.

“And that’s got a whole lot of implications, apart from the cost relief from the structure of Ferrari, which is not inconsequential.

“But it does open up a whole lot of alternatives about what Ferrari could be doing with itself going forward and beyond that date [2021].

“I don’t want to prejudge any of this. We’re walking into this meeting next Tuesday with the best of intentions, we’ll see where it takes us.

“What I do know is that it is part of our DNA since the day we were born. It’s not as though we can define ourselves differently.

“But if we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognizable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore. ”

Discussing the financial impact of Ferrari leaving F1, Marchionne said such a decision would be “totally beneficial to the profit and loss”, and that the board would be “celebrating here until the cows come home”.

When asked how he would feel about being the CEO that took Ferrari out of F1, Marchionne said: “Like a million bucks, because I’d be working on an alternative strategy to try and replace it. A more rational one, too.

I’m attending this meeting on strategy because it’s important and it matters a lot to this business.

The financial implications of the wrong choice for the moment going forward are pretty significant to Ferrari.”

Ferrari is currently committed to race in F1 until the end of 2020 under the Concorde Agreement – the commercial contract between the teams and the sport’s bosses – that was drawn up in 2013 three years prior to Liberty’s takeover.

Column: Contrasting Michael Schumacher’s and Robert Wickens’ situations

(Photo: Tony Gentile / Reuters)
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As much of the world looks forward to Christmas and New Years Day in the next few weeks, a dark anniversary is also on the near horizon.

It’s hard to believe that December 29 will mark five years since seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher was critically injured in a skiing accident, suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Schumacher and his family were on holiday in the French Alps when he fell and struck his head on a boulder. The impact was so severe that it cracked the helmet he was wearing straight through.

One can only imagine the damage the impact did to Schumacher’s skull and brain.

While chronologically the accident occurred a half-decade ago, for many of “Schu’s” most ardent fans, it seems like it was just yesterday when the earth-shattering news broke.

In the following days and weeks after his accident, Schumacher was placed in a medically induced coma, as well as had at least two surgeries on his brain.

Since then the world has waited for news about the racing legend’s condition, only to receive very little in terms of updates over the subsequent five years.

That’s the way his family wants it, having repeatedly requested privacy when it comes to details about Michael’s condition. That request for privacy should be respected.

Schumacher’s wife, Corrina, issued a rare statement late last month that didn’t really say much about her husband’s condition or recovery, but she did thank fans and well-wishers for their continued prayers and concern about her husband, adding, “We all know Michael is a fighter and will not give up.”

In the meantime, Schumacher’s fans have been able to stay somewhat close to his legacy by watching as his 19-year-old son, Mick, has showed significant achievement in his own budding racing career.

So much so that rumors have already popped up that the younger Schu may soon follow in his father’s F1 footsteps, perhaps as early as 2020.

That, of course, remains to be seen.

What makes the Schumacher situation so difficult for many to still understand is how, while enjoying a simple skiing excursion with his family, he suffered a life-changing accident while having survived some wicked crashes during his racing career that barely affected him.

We still don’t know if Schumacher can walk, talk, is conscious and lucid or not – and many of his fans have already accepted that we may never, ever know any of those details. But if that’s the way he and/or his family want it, again, then we need to respect their wishes.

At the same time, there’s another race car driver who suffered a horrendous injury at Pocono Raceway this past August, namely IndyCar driver Robert Wickens.

Wickens suffered a devastating spinal cord injury that has left him a paraplegic – although there remains a great deal of hope that he will one day walk again.

While both suffered serious injuries, there’s a significant contrast between Schumacher and Wickens. The former (or his family) is keeping all details about his condition private, while the latter keeps his fans and supporters regularly updated on social media on how he’s doing.

That includes Wickens posting a number of videos, including some rather humorous ones where he has a mischievous look in his eyes or a good-natured smirk on his face — like bringing in a Christmas tree to his rehab facility, or “racing” teammate James Hinchcliffe in wheelchairs in a Days of Thunder homage of sorts.

Watching each new Wickens video or reading his most recent online messages, it’s very clear that expressing himself and reaching out to the world is indeed good therapy and medicine of sorts for the Canadian driver.

He needs those social media posts and videos as much as we need them from him.

And it also helps fans better understand where Wickens is at in his recovery and rehab.

If Schumacher or his family wish to still remain private about his condition, we must respect that. But perhaps they could see the good will and good tidings that Wickens’ videos and posts offer. They’re as good for Wickens’ own well-being as they are for his fans — and they could be equally as good for Schumacher, his family and his fans.

Follow @JerryBonkowski