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’
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.