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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.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.