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Formula One CEO Warns Ferrari: ‘The Fans Come First’

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2017 Chinese Grand Prix - Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari

Chase Carey, CEO of Liberty Media and of Formula One, says that that Ferrari will no longer receive preferential treatment as the sport moves forward.

Understandably, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne was not pleased and responded by threatening to quit F1 if Liberty Media’s decisions continued to be at odds with the brand’s interests.

The preferential treatment of Ferrari is a controversial topic among those involved in the sport. Each year, the Italian scuderia receives $100 million in prize money on top of all other bonuses and payments. This is more than some teams, such as the Honda-powered Toro Rosso, would hope to receive in total.

On the surface of it, and for the simple sake of parity in competitive sports, this seems grossly unfair to the other teams. But it is not without reason.

Ferrari is by far the oldest team in the sport—16 years older than the next, McLaren—and the only one that has been there, without fail, since the debut season in 1950. Ferrari stuck with F1 even throughout periods of financial uncertainty and helped keep it alive.

More importantly, Ferrari is believed to be responsible for at least half of today’s F1’s viewership. In other words, without Ferrari, F1 may lose far more than the $100 million “historical payment” it grants the team.

Carey, however, is likely looking to put an end to that arrangement. “Ferrari has a unique importance and is a legend, but it must be treated like all the other teams,” he told Italy’s Corriere della Sera. “We want them to remain part of the category—we want to change the sport for the better, not change the teams. Agreements can be reached, but the main objective is non-negotiable: the interest of the fans comes first.”

That last bit is interesting, given that many of the sport’s long-time fans are skeptical of the direction Liberty Media is taking Formula 1, particularly with regards to its Americanization.