Sergio Marchionne

Marchionne: If they think we are bluffing they are playing with fire

Sergio Marchionne

Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could lead other Formula 1 teams into an alternative championship if the sport becomes too much like NASCAR but hope it does not come to that and warned that the legendary team’s quit threats should be taken seriously.

Speaking to reporters at the Italian team’s pre-Christmas lunch in Maranello, the Fiat Chrysler chief executive said his previous threats to take Ferrari out of the sport after 2020 should not be taken lightly.

Marchionne said Liberty Media, which took over Formula 1 in January and sidelined former commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, was learning the ropes.

He took issue, however, with the approach taken by former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, the Formula 1 motorsport director who also won titles with his own Brawn GP in 2009 before serving as Mercedes F1 team boss.

Marchionne said, “The thing that most annoys me is that there is an experienced man like Ross Brawn there who is looking for ways that go against the DNA of Formula 1.”

“Making cars all the same with simpler and cheaper engines is like NASCAR, it doesn’t interest us,” he added. “We need to find a balanced solution for the future that satisfies everyone and I think we will do it in time.”

“Otherwise Ferrari will leave. If they think we are bluffing, they are playing with fire,” warned Marchionne.

Formula 1 teams have contracts with Liberty Media that expire at the end of 2020 and Marchionne said Ferrari would be able to walk away as well as attract other teams to do the same.

“I think that Ferrari has the strength to drag others as well to an alternative championship,” he added.

There have been similar threats in the past from Ferrari, before Marchionne’s time, without any of them coming to anything.

Marchionne is a very different character to former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, however, and Ecclestone told Reuters in November that he did not consider it an empty threat.

Big Question: How serious is Sergio’s Ferrari quit threat?