Mercedes boss Toto Wolff urges better deal to avoid breakaway series

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on Friday urged Formula One owners Liberty Media and the sport’s regulators FIA to come up with an improved deal to avoid a breakaway championship.

Formula One’s biggest teams Mercedes and Ferrari are questioning some of Liberty’s plans for the sport beyond the expiration of the Concorde Agreement – a deal which binds teams and stakeholders together until the end of 2020.

Disgruntled Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has voiced dissatisfaction with Liberty’s proposed re-distribution of prize money, and the concept of a simpler engine.

Wolff, who has overseen the Lewis Hamilton-led Mercedes’ dominance of F1 for the past four years, supports Ferrari’s stance and did not rule out the prospect of a rebel championship formed by leading teams.

“We are all carrying the torch of a great series and a great brand that was built 40-50 years ago and has tremendous value,” he told a news conference ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

“Everybody is trying to position themselves, but all the time with respect for the series and comments that have been made by the Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne show that he cares,” he added.

“We all have a vision and perspective in Formula One and how we want to see it going forward and it needs to fit that opinion and that is why these statements are being made.”

‘Here’s the deal’

F1 bosses

Wolff said the teams owe it to Formula One to get things right and they have at least three more years together before the expiration of the current agreement.

“We just need to give our support in the best possible way to this great sport, regulated by the FIA and owned by Liberty, run by competent men, so we are not devaluing it,” he said.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it was up to governing body FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) and Liberty Media to come up with a deal and present it to the teams.

“My view on this is very simple. Trying to get a consensus between teams of varying objectives and different set-ups is going to be impossible,” Horner said at a team principals news conference.

“So it’s down to the commercial rights holder and the FIA to get together, come up with a set of regulations, what is the financial framework, what is distribution that they want to have, put it on the table and it’s down to the teams whether they want to sign up to that or not.

“Of course, there will be a lot of positioning, the media will be used. It’s history repeating itself, it happens every five or six years every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.

“But my feeling is that Liberty Media along with the FIA need to get on the same page and say ‘this is what we want it to be, here’s the deal’ and hand it around to the teams.”

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Formula One's most memorable Australian Grand Prix moments

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The Australian Grand Prix marks the start of the 2018 Formula One season and if previous editions of the race are anything to go by, there should be plenty of action to sink our teeth into.

Here’s a look at some of the most memorable F1 moments from Down Under.

Up, up and away – 2002

Ralf Schumacher will always be remembered for this spectacular crash, producing some of the sport’s most iconic images.

At the very first corner of the 2002 Australian GP, he drove his Williams BMW up the back of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari and – if only for a second – F1 took to the skies. A total of eight cars suffered in the melee.

Ralf Schumacher gets airborne

Ralf Schumacher gets airborne

Brawn powers through – 2009

Brawn were facing extinction after Honda’s decision to pull out but equipped with a Mercedes engine, they secured a memorable one-two in Melbourne.

Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello dominated in qualifying and made no mistake on race day to cap an emotional few months for their team. They went on to win the Championship.

Jenson Button (C) celebrates with team-mate Rubens Barrichello (L)

Jenson Button (C) celebrates with team-mate Rubens Barrichello (L)

Fifth place makes the podium – 2002

It was a debut to remember for Mark Webber as he stunned on home soil. Having survived the first corner melee, he battled Mika Salo through the end in a struggling Minardi to take fifth place after starting 18th on the grid.

He was invited to the podium once the top three vacated it to receive the plaudits of the Melbourne crowd.

Mark Webber (r) on debut

Mark Webber (r) on debut

End of an era – 1993

The chequered flag at Adelaide in 1993 marked the end of an era. Alain Prost took second place to secure his fourth championship as he and Riccardo Patrese followed Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet into retirement.

Ayrton Senna secured what was to be his last win before his tragic accident the following season.

Alain Prost (l) and Ayrton Senna

Alain Prost (r) and Ayrton Senna

Controversy strikes – 1994

With the Championship on the line, an enthralling duel between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill was brought to an abrupt end.

The German slid off the track before reappearing ahead of his counterpart, resulting in a clash at the following turn. Both cars suffered damage and retired, controversially handing Schumacher his first title.

Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher do battle

Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher do battle

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Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and other team verdicts ahead of new Formula One season

David Cooper 22/03/2018
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With the Formula One season about to get under way, we preview the ten teams competing in the championship.

Who are you backing to win the title this year?

Let us know using Twitter or Facebook.

MERCEDES

Drivers: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas

Verdict: Winners. Strong in testing, Mercedes are reliable, the drivers believe in the car and team is considerable favourites to clinch a fifth consecutive championship. With Lewis Hamilton at the helm, they are once again the team to beat.

FERRARI

Drivers: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen

Verdict: 3rd. The Italian marquee have not moved on as far as Mercedes over the winter but retain strong balance. Have the potential to cause an upset but will be on the backfoot in Australia.

RED BULL

Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen

Verdict: 2nd. Showed they have a competitive car during testing and can expect to kick-start their season on a positive note in Melbourne. Although they are curtailed by the Renault engine, they look closer to Mercedes than Ferrari.

FORCE INDIA

Drivers: Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon

Verdict: 4th. With the improvements of Renault and McLaren, it could be a tougher battle in the midfield this season. New upgrades will dictate their competitive level in Melbourne.

WILLIAMS

Drivers: Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin

Verdict: 7th. The youngest and most inexperienced team on the grid, but Paddy Lowe’s ambitious plan has the potential to push his team to the max with development driver Robert Kubica gunning for a chance to shine.

RENAULT

Drivers: Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz

Verdict: 6th. It’s unlikely we will see signs of their improvements until the second half of the season as the team focus on reliability first with power expected in latter races. It’ll be interesting to see how far they are off the top three.

TORO ROSSO

Drivers: Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly

Verdict: 9th. If Honda can deliver expectations, it could be a big step forward for the duo who are the only F1 pair without a point. Expect them to throw in a surprise or two.

HAAS

Drivers: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen

Verdict: 8th. Showed consistent single lap times in testing and have serious potential to threaten their midfield rivals. With a car boasting pace and balance, they could be the surprise package of 2018.

McLAREN

Drivers: Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne

Verdict: 5th. With a strong engine and the promise of challenging for podiums, this should a rewarding year for both drivers. Failure to achieve formidable results will be a major negative for what is meant to be an improving side.

SAUBER

Drivers: Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc

Verdict: 10th. Although the car lacked grip and pace in Barcelona, the team is still optimistic about their season, especially with the new Ferrari engine. It’ll be exciting to see how Charles Leclerc fares on the grand stage.

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