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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.

IMSA’s Bill Auberlen joins NASCAR America to discuss this weekend’s race at Lime Rock

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Turner Motorsport GTD driver Bill Auberlen joined NBC Sports’ Marty Snyder on NASCAR America Presents the Motorsports Hour Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race at Lime Rock Park.

Auberlen, alongside co-driver Robby Foley, enters Lime Rock with a great amount of momentum after finishing on the GTD podium at Watkins Glen and taking the GTD class honors in the most recent IMSA race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

There’s also an extra incentive for the duo to win this weekend as well, as Auberlen is one win away from tying Scott Pruett for the most IMSA victories all-time.

Both drivers will have to be on their A-game this weekend, however, as Auberlen stated that Lime Rock is one of the tougher circuits on the IMSA calendar and compared the 1.5-mile Connecticut road course to a short track.

“It’s what we call the bullring of our season,” Auberlen said. “It is a 54-second lap and we’re going to go around it a million times before the end of the day. It’s going to be a hot one, and I think whoever survives this is going to be on the podium.”

Luckily for the GTD and GTLM teams, with no Protoype and LMP2 entries competing at Lime Rock this weekend, the worry of having to yield to entries from the faster classes is gone.

“These Protoypes are so fast now, that interacting with them, you can’t imagine,” Auberlen said. “We have radars in our car that can alert us when they are coming.

“They get on you so fast that if you’re not always looking or something is not telling you they’re coming, you could have a problem and catch into them. That’s gone. Now it’s going to be focus-forward. You’re going to be focused on everything ahead of you. You got GLTM in there at the same time, but they’re virtually the same speed as us – just a little bit faster.

“It’s going to be nice. When you stand on that podium you might be able to go for an overall victory.”

Live race coverage of IMSA’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCsports.com and the NBC Sports app with an encore presentation of the race airing later in the evening at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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