Ferrari says it will only consider investing in Formula One if new owners Liberty Media can provide clarity on the direction of the sport beyond 2020.
Liberty Media has set aside roughly 19 million shares until June for the teams to invest in, but so far interest in purchasing a stake has been low. The commercial agreements that bind the sport and teams together come to an end in 2020, and Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne said he would not be willing to invest in F1 until he knows how it will change in 2021.
"We're in discussions with Liberty and I just recently had a meeting with Chase [Carey, F1 CEO]," Marchionne said on an investor conference call. "The issue is not just the question of the financial investment. This is something that we do for living in a very serious way. The Concorde Agreement expires in 2020, so becoming a non-voting shareholder in an entity, which would effectively keep us trapped in without knowledge of what 2021 and the later world will look like, is something I consider unwise.
"One of the things that I tabled with Chase is clarity on what the post-2020 world looks like, and what Ferrari may be able to get from its involvement in Formula One activities. Once we have clarity, then I think it becomes a lot easier to decide whether we want to participate in this venture. I think that there's a huge amount of upside left in F1, which if properly managed, can deliver rewards for everybody who is an investor in this business. We need clarity and we're not there yet."
One of the biggest areas of debate for future commercial agreements is likely to be the split of central revenues between F1's teams. Ferrari currently receives more of F1's revenues than any other team thanks to a payment that recognises its historic standing in the championship and bonuses linked to its title successes in the 2000s.
Some of F1's smaller teams, which receive far less in central payments from the sport, consider Ferrari's bonuses to be unfair, and Sauber recently called on the sport's new owners to address the imbalance as soon as possible. But in response to speculation that the current contracts could be altered or torn up, Marchionne made clear that he is not willing to make any changes to Ferrari's existing commercial agreements with F1.
"There's going to be no changes to the contractual agreements until 2020 with F1 and Ferrari," he added. "The topic has not even been brought to the table, and I think it will be fairly unwise to raise it as a discussion topic."
However, Marchionne is confident Liberty's arrival will be positive for F1 and hopes the new owners can boost the sport's popularity.
"What I do expect, to be honest, is the sport itself to do better in 2017. And I think there would be a great basis for us to continue and to continue our commitment to Formula One, and to really set the basis for a post-2020 world.
"I would expect that Liberty and Chase, in particular, would have very clear understanding that the entertainment side of this needs to come back to play. We cannot keep on committing to a sport that has decreasing audiences for a variety of reasons. And so we need to re-popularize the sport and we need to make it more accessible.