MELBOURNE • Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has warned that a breakaway series to rival Formula One is a "realistic" possibility if the championship's stakeholders fail to placate Ferrari in their long-term vision for the sport.
Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has threatened his team could quit if F1's American owners, Liberty Media, follow through on plans for simpler engines and a redistribution of prize money after contracts expire in 2020.
Days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Wolff said he hoped the sport's major players could build consensus on a way forward but cautioned that Ferrari should not be provoked.
"The perspective of doing something else is a realistic one, and it could happen if we don't achieve to align our vision," the Austrian said ahead of this weekend's race in Melbourne.
"Marchionne has a clear vision of what Formula One should represent for Ferrari, which is a purist sport that isn't a shopping channel. I would strongly encourage all of the sport's stakeholders not to try and provoke him.
"I agree with most of the things Sergio says because Formula One has a certain DNA and it is a sport that needs to stick to its roots.
DANGER OF BREAKAWAY MOVE
(Ferrari boss Sergio) Marchionne has a clear vision of what Formula One should represent for Ferrari, which is a purist sport that isn't a shopping channel.
TOTO WOLFF, Mercedes team principal, exhorting Liberty Media to retain the DNA of Formula One.
"So, don't mess with Sergio Marchionne. Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One."
Although fierce rivals on the track, Ferrari and champions Mercedes are closely aligned off it on financial matters and engines - supplying six of the 10 teams.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said last month that Ferrari and Mercedes were "working as one team" to shape F1's landscape in their favour.
"Sometimes it is difficult to tell which is which. For the last couple of years, there has been a very tight relationship between Ferrari and Mercedes," Horner told British media during pre-season testing.
On the track, though, it is a different story.
A refreshed and hungry Lewis Hamilton has declared he is ready to take the new season by the scruff of the neck - which is bad news for his long-suffering rivals.
The Mercedes driver is the man they all have to beat again but, at 33, it seems that the four-time world champion and now a veteran of the sport wants to speed up rather than slow down.
Hamilton, who has Juan Manuel Fangio's five F1 titles in his sights, gave a glimpse into his mindset when he revealed that even after a record 72 pole positions, he feels he has never driven the perfect lap.
"The perfect lap? No, and that is what is so great about this sport: you never get perfect," he told Sky Sports.
"You get close, maybe. But imagine if in those 30,000-odd laps, I did 1,000 or 10,000 perfect laps. That would really be boring.
"If you played the perfect game time and time again, you would lose motivation because it is easy. You always have to move on to something more difficult.
"But there is no other class better than Formula 1 so if I were to perfect it, it would suck."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE