MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Mercedes boss 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 prizemoney 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 told British media.
"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.
"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 in the series.
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.