Wealth divide between Ferrari and the rest threatens to cause Formula One more problems

The news Ferrari were last year handed an exorbitantly greater amount of money from Formula One than even world champions Mercedes-GP should not be lost amid the fallout of the crucial Strategy Group meeting.

Despite receiving fare greater 'heritage' payments than Mercedes-GP, Ferrari are no match for their rivals on the track. Clive Mason / Getty Images
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It arrived without surprise, but the news Ferrari were last year handed an exorbitantly greater amount of money from Formula One than even world champions Mercedes-GP should not be lost amid the fallout of Thursday’s crucial Strategy Group meeting.

It has been known for some time that the more illustrious and storied teams — of which the Maranello-based marque are the oldest in the sport — receive bonus payments or, as they have come to be known, “heritage” awards.

With the precise figures revealed, the gulf in the 10 teams’ financial landscapes has been powerfully driven home.

According to documents published by Autosport.com, Ferrari claimed £104 million (Dh602m) last season, despite finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship.

A little more than £42m came courtesy of performance with the remaining £62m arriving as a bonus recognising the Italian manufacturers’ loyalty and indispensability to the series.

Extraordinarily, champions Mercedes — home to drivers’ title winner Lewis Hamilton — earned £16m more in prize money but received £40m less than Ferrari in heritage. Even Red Bull Racing finished the season with a bigger slice of the pie than the Silver Arrows.

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Undoubtedly, with Ferrari competing in the world championship, F1 is a stronger brand and, this season at least, a stronger sport.

For that reason, their involvement is imperative and the heritage payment helps address this.

It also ensures the field retains its lustre and links to history, and then there are the team’s legions of big-spending tifosi.

Yet even before wondering just how the Italians have underperformed so drastically, given their now obvious financial advantage over their rivals, the question must be asked how the smaller, newer teams are ever going to survive long enough to become storied should they continue to compete in a championship so stacked against them.

McLaren, who laboured last season to finish just 26 points ahead of Force India, received £24m more than Vijay Mallya’s marque.

Sauber, who have contested motorsports’ elite series for 22 years, received no extra payment last season. On the same day it was confirmed Philip Morris has extended its sponsorship deal with Ferrari until 2018, F1’s decision makers met at Bernie Ecclestone’s offices at Biggin Hill to discuss how to make the sport more appealing from 2017 and how to reduce operating costs.

Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt were joined by Donald MacKenzie, the chairman of F1 owners CVC, and a selection of representatives from the major race teams.

Despite the agenda including an exploration into fan engagement, critics pointed out that only one of the men attending the meeting — Eric Boullier, the McLaren racing director — is active on social media.

Therein lies the rub: the Strategy Group is made up of people who critics believe do not, and arguably cannot, make decisions for the benefit of anybody but themselves.

There is no incentive for the representatives of Ferrari and Red Bull to push for change that will provide Force India and Sauber with more money if it means their own teams resultantly receive less.

Likewise, while the quieter V6 engines might not be to Ecclestone’s liking, Mercedes are unlikely to back a change to a format that has seen them win more than 80 per cent of races since the new engines were implemented at the start of 2014.

The result is, until such decisions are made by one or all, F1 will remain filled with infighting, financial disparities and smaller teams fighting for their lives, while Ferrari will, presumably, remain richer than the rest.

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