SPIELBERG (Austria) • Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff has confirmed that Formula One commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone has discussed reforms to the structure and distribution of the sport's prize money.
Wolff said he met the Briton on Thursday and talked about "various models" for the future as the sport prepares to move to a fairer and more even distribution of its growing income and wealth.
He said the key factor was to add more value to teams' performance and to place less emphasis on a team's history in the sport.
"I think it's in everybody's interests to have stability long-term and we discussed various models," Wolff said yesterday when torrential rain interrupted the Austrian Grand Prix's second practice.
"I think we can build it on various pillars. We can build it on a base payment, which is important, to know what you have, on a performance-based payment and on historical performance.
"So I would say three elements are the right way, going forward."
Wolff added that he believed Formula One's income is growing.
"Bernie's business is profitable and is going up every year and the income we're able to generate out of TV, sponsorship and sanction fees is growing every year," he said.
"When I was at Williams, in 2009, a fifth-placed team would get US$35 million to US$40 million (S$47-53.7 million). Today, a fifth-placed team probably generates 30 or 40 per cent more."
Wolff also welcomed the approach that Ecclestone was taking for reforming the payments structure. "You need to take the variables and put them together and ask what multiple is applied - historic value, for example, historic performance and current performance."
He conceded that Ferrari were the most important team and should retain their special position that has enabled them to enjoy extra payments.
"I think it's very clear that Ferrari are the most iconic team and they will have no problem to argue that they had historic performance and have tremendous value to the sport," he explained. "I don't see any issue there."
He added that there was no prospect of any of the leading teams, including Mercedes, rushing into a new deal on prize-money distribution. He stressed, instead, that it was important that the growing wealth was more evenly distributed to enable stability.
"Times are different," he said. "The world is more transparent. We are all stakeholders in the sport."
On the track yesterday, championship leader Nico Rosberg clocked the fastest-ever lap at the Red Bull Ring as he topped the times in the opening free practice.
The German, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Monday, recorded a lap in 1min 7.373sec to outpace nearest rival and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton - the defending three-time world champion - by nearly four-tenths of a second.
Rosberg topped the second free practice too, timing 1:07.967, with Hamilton second at 1:07.986.
F1 AUSTRIAN GP
Practice 3 & qualifying Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 4.55pm & 7.30pm