Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has hit back at Bernie Ecclestone after the Formula One CEO accused the sport's biggest teams as acting like a "cartel".
Ahead of the start of the season, Ecclestone used an interview with the Daily Mail to take aim at the power he believes F1's engine manufacturers now have in the sport. Ecclestone argues that by supplying powertrains to smaller teams, the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes have created voting blocks that are able to swing decisions in F1's rule-making process.
When Ecclestone's quote was put to Arrivabene at the opening round of the season, the Ferrari boss scoffed at the suggestion of a cartel.
"I think this talk of a cartel is simply ridiculous," Arrivabene said. "Everybody, they are doing their job, they try to do their best. We are talking here about brands who have a long story. They are not going to throw out of the window their story, their reputation for this comment that doesn't deserve even one word.
"I have to say, it's strange because in this world you have to be careful sometimes because, if you are talking a bit more with somebody, if I'm going to go to the dinner with Toto [Wolff] or Cyril [Abiteboul], I do a cartel? It's simply a dinner!
"We have to learn something from rugby, that when you are in the field, you play very hard, you punch, whatever you have to do. And then afterwards, they go to the dinner and no-one is talking about having a cartel or creating some mismatch during the match. It's simply ridiculous."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suspects Ecclestone was trying to create controversy ahead of the start of the year.
"I don't think there is any cartel around here, nor is the sport run as a cartel. Bernie is always good for controversy and throwing one in. If that were to run like a cartel we wouldn't be sitting here. Some of us are part of multi-national global companies and we're taking compliance very seriously. So... it just causes headlines but nothing else."
However, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said Ecclestone's frustrations were understandable.
"Look, I think you can understand that Bernie's frustrated and his comments are borne out of frustration of being unable to influence change. You've got a dynamic in Formula One at the moment where the manufacturers collectively have a lot of strength. That primarily is through the technical regulations and the current situation regarding the power unit. I think Bernie's frustration as a promoter is that he can't influence that at this point in time.
"His comments obviously I think have come off the back of that. Our situation is different to that of a manufacturer team. As an independent team we rely on the manufacturers for the supply of an engine and, of course, there's been great debate as to what price that engine should be, what format it should be and, of course, you have a divergence of performance as well. So, there's some key issues that do need to be addressed. Hopefully consensus and agreement can be found on that in the near future."