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Big teams baulk at suggestion to sacrifice prize money

ESPN Staff
November 3, 2014 « Kaltenborn critical of Ferrari attitude towards F1 cost crisis | Small teams closing on better deal »
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Formula One's top teams are not willing to sacrifice their share of the sport's revenues in order to see it redistributed among the smaller teams, as has been suggested by Bernie Ecclestone.

F1's unequal revenue sharing

  • Five of Formula One's 11 teams - Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Williams - took 63% of the sport's underlying revenues in 2013.
  • This means there was just 37% to share between six teams, only one of which (Lotus) sits on the F1 Strategy Group - giving that group little democratic input in the body which frames regulations.

The realities of F1's financial situation hit home over the US Grand Prix when Marussia and Caterham failed to make the trip after going into administration in recent weeks. The mid-grid teams made clear that something needed to change, with talks of a boycott being leaked to the media in an attempt to underline the severity of the situation.

Ecclestone responded by saying it was up to the sport's biggest teams to sacrifice some of the prize money they receive under their contracts with the sport's commercial rights holder. However, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes have hit back saying they are not willing to budge.

Ferrari, which receives additional bonuses for its history of success in the sport, believes the amount of prize money should be made bigger by the commercial rights holder rather than redistributing the current funds.

"Ferrari is very focused on making the cake bigger, not on changing the way of how to slice the actual cake," team principal Marco Mattiacci said. "We don't have to overreact, we need to look at first how to increase revenues - that's priority No. 1 - and second to make sure who comes in Formula One is very aware of the challenge of Formula One. This sport is innovation and innovation costs money, a lot of investment and long-term investment.

"We keep investing in Formula One, we have been here since decades, we will be for [a] long [time]. We are contributing to the sport and supporting the teams that are working with us and we are ready to do our part as we always said. I don't think that even if you redistribute the revenues the way you think, I don't think those teams probably will survive or be competitive."

When Ecclestone's proposal was put to Red Bull boss Christian Horner, he responded: "That is awfully nice of Bernie to suggest that. Every team has negotiated his deal with the commercial rights holder and I think it is an issue that needs to be asked of him about the distribution of money.

"We have signed agreements, and I am not convinced that even if you double the money to Caterham and Marussia it would have solved their issues. Their issues are more fundamental on what are the cost-drivers rather than what is the income.

"We have huge budget pressures, and I have to operate within our budget. If the commercial rights holder wants to put in place more money to the smaller teams then that is their choice and their responsibility. Teams are here to compete, not sponsor each other."

Although Mercedes has won the constructors' championship this year, it is not entitled to some of the bonuses enjoyed by Ferrari because of its history and Red Bull because of its success in recent years. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff does not agree with the idea of redistributing the prize pot, but would at least be willing to hold discussions on how the bigger outfits can help the smaller teams.

"We know why we ended up here. It was important for Bernie to re-sign the big teams who are the main cast of Formula One. Today we find ourselves in a situation which is not good as two of the smaller new teams have left and some of others are struggling.

"It is a matter for the teams to discuss it with Bernie, it his call and if the so-called bigger teams can do something then I think we should sit around a table and discussing it. As Mercedes I don't feel we are the primary target because we are far away from what some of the other teams get, so let's see what Bernie comes up with."

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