Ferrari could be ready to lead a shock breakaway series to rival Formula One, the sport’s former supremo Bernie Ecclestone has claimed.
Ecclestone, the 87-year-old operating in his role as F1’s chairman emeritus, says Ferrari overlord Sergio Marchionne has already staged talks about forming a rebel championship.
Marchionne warned in December that Ferrari – the only team to contest every F1 season and the most successful in its history – will quit the sport unless American owners Liberty Media changes its plans for the future.
In a wide-ranging interview, Ecclestone also said that plans for a women-only motor racing series are set to get the green light, that an F1 race will soon be staged on the streets of Vietnam, before calling on the sport he once governed for four decades to become an all-electric series.
Ferrari are tied to the sport until the end of 2020, but are deeply disgruntled about Liberty’s future vision on engines and distribution of prize money. Ferrari currently receive a bonus payment as the oldest marque in the sport.
“Some people have a new series in mind,” Ecclestone said. “Sergio has spoken to other people about it.
“If Sergio got up in the morning and decided to leave, it is a difficult position he is in. But if the FIA [F1’s governing body] don’t do what he thinks is right, then he would leave.
“I don’t think he does things unless he is serious and he is not the sort of guy who doesn’t do what he says he is going to do.
“The bottom line is simple. Formula One is Ferrari and Ferrari is Formula One. If you go and speak to anyone in the world, they don’t care about Ferrari road cars. I’d hate to see F1 without them.”
Ecclestone, speaking on the eve of the opening pre-season test which gets under way in Barcelona on Monday, also claimed that a number of unhappy race promoters would support Ferrari.
“If a new series started and it had the same elements as there is now, and it was cheaper for the promoters than F1 then they would immediately say ‘yes’ [to Ferrari],” Ecclestone added.
“Some of them who are currently upset with the amount of money they have to pay to stage a race would join.”
Plans for a historic women-only championship, first revealed by Press Association Sport last year, are also close to fruition, according to Ecclestone.
Carmen Jorda, a former F1 development driver for Renault and recently appointed to the FIA’s Women in Motorsport commission, is understood to be involved.
“Carmen said to me that they guy who wants to start the series [Felix Porteiro] said it was very close to happening,” Ecclestone said. “She said they have someone behind it. The cost is £10million per car and she says they are making them.”
Meanwhile the current agreement of the Concorde Agreement – a contract signed off by the FIA, Formula One group and the teams which determines how they race and the prize money – expires at the end of 2020. Ecclestone believes the sport must then take the radical step of becoming an all-electric series from 2021.
Ecclestone added: “We still own the name Formula One, we still have contracts with promoters, so let’s make different type of cars, and let’s speak to the manufacturers and start a new all-electric F1; a Formula One for the future.
“They would need to have the balls to do it today, and I think they will have to. They should start doing it now.”