By Alan Baldwin
SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) – Formula One’s future prize money structure should do away with special bonuses for top teams and instead be based on past and present performance, Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff said on Thursday.
Speaking after talks at the Austrian Grand Prix with commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, Wolff told reporters that the sport was making more money than ever and all teams should be guaranteed a basic amount.
Revenues above that should reflect performance.
“We had a long discussion … one topic was how to redistribute the prize fund going forward. I think it’s in everybody’s interest to have stability long-term and we discussed the various models,” said the Austrian.
“The prize fund is growing so we are talking about upside, how the upside can be distributed in a way that is more fair and equitable.”
Formula One’s current commercial agreements with teams expire in 2020 and Ecclestone has suggested introducing a Premier League-style system.
Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull receive tens of millions of dollars to reflect past success and their importance to the sport, money that is paid regardless of current performance.
That means that McLaren, the second most successful team but without a win since 2012, receive substantially more than some teams above them in the standings.
Smaller outfits, like Force India and Sauber, have argued that the payments only stretch the gap between the big four and the rest, making it harder to compete.
Ferrari, the oldest and most successful team, receive far more than others including a special bonus of around $70 million in addition to other payments.
Ecclestone said the top teams had made a long-term commitment to stay in the sport and were rewarded for that.
Asked whether he now wanted to get rid of such payments, the Briton told reporters: “Yes. No bonus. Everyone’s in the same boat.”
However, the 85-year-old added that “Ferrari has been with us since F1 started, so they should get something for that”.
Wolff said the Italian team should still be rewarded for their contribution in a system based on three pillars — a base payment, current performance and historical achievements.
“I would think the three elements are probably the right way going forward,” said the Austrian, who has a 30 percent stake in champions Mercedes.
There was no immediate comment from Ferrari. Red Bull principal Christian Horner told reporters that it should be more a question of increasing payments to all than taking money away from any team.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Neville Dalton)