Ferrari President Marchionne ‘Encouraged by Change in Attitude’ Regarding F1 Engine Future

Ferrari hasn't withdrawn its quit-threat—in fact, it's restated it—but its chief executive now sees a basis for 'meaningful discussions.'

Ferrari has been a very outspoken opponent of Formula 1’s new engine formula ever since the sport’s owner Liberty Media and regulatory body FIA presented an outline for 2021, and has been equally critical of other post-2020 ideas, including the introduction of a budget cap. Marchionne has even gone so far as to threaten Ferrari might withdraw, and consider partaking in or starting a competing series.

Talks have been ongoing behind the scenes, however, and Marchionne—CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and president of Ferrari—recently told Reuters that he’s “encouraged by the change in the attitude that we are seeing from Liberty in terms of the changes they’re forecasting in 2021.”

Ferrari’s chairman seems particularly happy with what he calls “the recognition of the fact that the engine regulations need to reflect sort of the nature of the sport.” This is in line with his earlier comments that engine manufacturing and development should remain crucial performance differentiators—and thus a way for Ferrari to showcase its strength and expertise.

Although a recent brief on the 2021 regulations stated that power units should indeed be, among other things, “cheaper, simpler, louder” and be “attractive for new entrants” as Liberty Media has long argued, Formula 1’s future vision also stated the 2021 power units should be: “road relevant, hybrid, and allow manufacturers to build unique and original PU [power units].”

Speaking to Reuters, Marchionne said it’s a good starting point. “I think we now have enough of a basis to try to start having meaningful discussions.” That is, then, on the engine side and certain cost-cutting measures, as Formula 1’s mooted and rumored budget cap and redistribution of wealth are instead “something that we need to go back to Liberty with.”

Overall, however, Marchionne sees enough common ground to try and negotiate an acceptable compromise. That doesn’t mean the quit-threat of the series’ oldest and arguably most prestigious brand doesn’t still linger over Formula 1’s head, however. If no agreement is found, “we’ll just pull out”, warned Marchionne. “We’re not there today,” he added. “I think we owe the sport a phenomenal effort to try and bring about closure of these items.”