By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Former supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes any attempt to make Formula One more competitive by imposing a budget cap is doomed to fail because the big teams will still find a way to stay on top.
The 87-year-old Briton, who moved aside in January when U.S.-based Liberty Media took control, also warned on Monday that a threat by Ferrari to walk away after 2020 should be taken seriously.
Liberty and the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) are due to present cost control proposals to teams on Tuesday.
While there has been talk of the sport heading towards a high-stakes showdown over the future distribution of revenues, the sport’s Strategy Group meeting in Geneva is not expected to discuss that thorny subject.
A possible budget cap has been mooted, however, despite Formula One struggling in the past to find a way of policing such a measure when manufacturer teams are part of much bigger business entities.
Ecclestone was skeptical about the outcome.
“Most of the people down the field, if there was a budget cap, probably wouldn’t do any better than they are doing now,” he told Reuters before heading to Brazil for this weekend’s penultimate race of the season.
“Whatever cap you put on Mercedes and Ferrari and Red Bull, it doesn’t make any difference. They’ll do a much better job and will find ways of spending the money,” he added.
“If we’re talking about reality, then it ain’t going to happen.”
Liberty is keen to make Formula One sustainable for all teams and the meeting will look at general ideas rather than detailed figures.
It comes after Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne last week warned that his team could walk away after 2020, when current contracts expire, if they disagreed with the direction the sport was taking.
“If we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognizable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore,” he told financial analysts.
Marchionne promised to go into Tuesday’s meeting “with the best of intentions”, however.
Ferrari have threatened to quit before, usually around contract renewal time, but Ecclestone said Marchionne was a very different character to former head Luca di Montezemolo.
“The difference is that Sergio wasn’t the guy in control before,” he said. “If he decides that’s what he’s going to do, that’s what he’ll do.
“The world is changing an awful lot. So things that you would say would never happen, may happen.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Ken Ferris)