PARIS • Ferrari were handed US$21 million (S$29 million) more in prize money than Mercedes, the runaway world champions, last year as Formula One's unfair payments system is laid bare.
With the European Union competitions commission on the verge of announcing an investigation into F1's finances and governance, details of the payments system that favours some teams over others is back in the spotlight.
Ferrari, the oldest team in the world championship, is thought to have been paid US$192 million by Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One organisation. Most of that is made up of bonus payments, plus a fee as an "historic team" for the Scuderia's involvement in the F1 World Championship since its inception in 1950.
But the bizarre system meant that Ferrari - second in the championship last year with three wins - still made more than Mercedes, who won 16 of 19 Grands Prix, with Lewis Hamilton finishing as world champion and the team taking the top prize as champion constructor. Mercedes were paid US$171 million.
Mercedes may feel aggrieved, but the bitterness over the figures, disclosed by Autosport magazine, is farther down F1's food chain, where the smaller teams are being squeezed by higher costs driven by technical changes decided by the biggest teams.
McLaren, also paid an historic fee, took US$82 million back to their headquarters in Woking, England, after suffering their worst season and finishing ninth in the constructors' table.
Yet, that was still US$15 million more than what fifth-placed Force India got and US$28 million more than the amount paid to Sauber, who finished one place ahead of the British team.
Red Bull, who finished fourth, were paid US$144 million.
It was US$57 million more than the sum given out to Williams, who were third. The difference between Ferrari and Manor, the 10th-placed team in F1, was US$145 million.
The timing of the revelations could not be more sensitive, with the teams pitted head to head against Ecclestone and Jean Todt, president of the International Automobile Federation, the sport's governing body.
The animosity between the three sides was set to be played out late yesterday, when the 12 teams would vote on another new qualifying system for this season.
THE TIMES, LONDON