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Australian Grand Prix: Mercedes boss Toto Wolff tells F1 bosses not to “mess” with Ferrari’s Sergio Marchionne

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Mercedes have warned Formula 1’s bosses not to “provoke” Ferrari in what promise to be difficult negotiations over the sport’s future.

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has said they might quit F1 if they do not agree with changes proposed.

“Marchionne has a clear vision of what F1 should represent for Ferrari, which is a purist sport that isn’t a shopping channel,” said Mercedes’ Toto Wolff.

“I would strongly encourage the sport’s stakeholders not to provoke him.”

The teams are beginning talks over new contracts for the period after 2020, when their current deals run out.

The negotiations are likely to be complex and antagonistic, as they revolve around the amount of money teams receive, a new engine formula and attempts by F1 to introduce cost limitations.

Dear F1: Please, please, PLEASE be more unpredictable

Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault have already expressed their concern about proposals to change the engine rules put forward by F1 and governing body the FIA.

Wolff, Mercedes’ F1 boss who is perceived to be closely aligned with Ferrari on many political issues, said: “I agree with most of the things Sergio says because F1 has a certain DNA and it is a sport that needs to stick to its roots.

“So, don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne. F1 needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs F1.

“I will give it everything to align the vision among us by seeking consensus and accepting compromise.”

And Wolff said there was no guarantee Mercedes would stick around post-2020 if they were unhappy with the way the sport was going.

“The prospect of doing something else is a realistic one, and it could happen if we don’t achieve to align our vision,” he said.

Mercedes begin their campaign for a record-equalling fifth consecutive double of drivers’ and constructors’ championships when the 2018 season starts in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

Wolff is in negotiations with star driver Lewis Hamilton over a new contract, to keep him at the team beyond this season, but says he is confident the Briton will have another impressive year after winning three of the last four titles.

“Lewis came back strong from the winter and in a good frame of mind,” Wolff said. “He is looking forward to the start of the season and he even enjoyed driving at the tests in Barcelona, so that was a novelty. For me, all the signs are positive.

“What makes you happy are the key objectives, and Lewis is at a stage in his life where he is settled in the team and well accepted.

“He is a strong pillar for Mercedes and gets on with Valtteri (Bottas) as well as you can with a team-mate. Their relationship is intact and he can achieve another record-breaking year.”

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