By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Formula One managing director Ross Brawn believes change at Ferrari could end the Italian team’s title drought this season and bring a breakthrough in talks over the sport’s future.
The former Ferrari technical director told reporters he thought Sebastian Vettel had a strong chance of winning a fifth championship and that the new bosses might be more sympathetic to appeals for a more equitable share of revenue among teams.
Brawn said Ferrari would always fight hard in defence of the team’s privileges but might be more open to a change in the way the sport’s revenues are distributed among the 10 teams after contracts expire at the end of 2020.
“I’m optimistic, particularly with the management there at Ferrari now,” he said after a screening of the first two parts of a Netflix documentary series on the 2018 season that is released on Friday.
“They recognise the need for Formula One to be more equitable.
“We have to recognise the importance of Ferrari, the history of Ferrari and the unique place it has in the sport. But also, we need to find a balance between that recognition of Ferrari as a very important team and having an equitable position for the rest,” he added.
Ferrari’s former chairman Sergio Marchionne, who died last year, had threatened to lead his team out of Formula One if the sport’s U.S. owners Liberty Media forced a redistribution of prize money and other changes.
The Italian sportscar maker appointed Louis Camilleri as chief executive last July with Mattia Binotto, an old colleague and friend of Brawn’s, taking over from Maurizio Arrivabene as team principal in January.
Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Red Bull receive special payments in recognition of past performance and sit permanently with the commercial rights holder and governing FIA on the sport’s six-team ‘Strategy Group’.
Brawn, who was also boss of the Mercedes team that was previously Brawn GP and Honda, said it was wrong that a team could win the championship and be paid less than another that had finished last.
He also said all teams would be involved in future governance.
“The ones that have got it all, want to keep it. The ones that haven’t got it want more,” he said.
“And it’s finding the fair balance in how we distribute the revenue, because we know if we have a more equitable distribution of revenue then we will have a better Formula One. That’s a fact.”
The Briton said talks on revenue, governance, future regulations and a proposed cost cap were taking time because it was a big challenge to get agreement among 10 teams, but much was going on behind the scenes.
“Some of you have commented there doesn’t look to be much progress, but I promise you there’s an enormous amount of progress,” he said.
“We look at the cost cap and people say nothing’s happened, it’s not true,” added the Briton, who led his own Brawn GP team — emerging from the embers of departed Honda — to unlikely titles in 2009 before selling to now-dominant Mercedes.
He said there had been ‘heavy engagement’ with teams in recent weeks.
The talks have been conducted as privately as possible, leading to some frustration at the lack of obvious developments with the clock ticking.
“We need to get going because otherwise it’s getting late in the day,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner told Reuters at last month’s launch of his team’s 2019 car.
“We have no commercial agreement, we have no technical regulations, we have…I wouldn’t say nothing for 2021, there are proposals and they are working diligently, but at some stage we need to come to an end of this.”
Brawn said talks on the technical regulations were also going well.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nick Mulvenney)