It’s been nearly a decade since Ferrari last drove its way to a Formula One Drivers’ Championship, but the iconic Italian brand remains one of motorsports biggest assets.
Ferrari could only look on and wonder what might have been during the 2018 season, as a combination of its own errors and the superior driving from Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton meant the individual race honors went elsewhere.
It is the only team that has been competing in Formula One continuously since the championship was launched in 1950, and it is richly rewarded for doing so.
Ferrari’s importance to Formula 1 is evident in particular through a unique “Long Standing Team” payment of more than $62 million it receives every year from the sports owners Liberty Media. That’s on top of a Constructors Championship Bonus of around $38 million, which is also given out to the teams of Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren.
That means Ferrari makes over $100 million per year, even before a single car reaches the start line. With two Grand Prix remaining in the 2018 season that has only translated into just six wins from a possible nineteen.
The Maranello-based company has never been shy is voicing its objections as part of maintaining its status on the grid, despite not winning races. Prior to his death in July 2018, the former head of Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne had been against proposals by Liberty Media to impose new car restrictions and a cost cap, even threatening on occasion to walk away from the sport.
“We go to the track to prove to ourselves and to everyone our ability to manage the power unit. If we begin to undermine this advantage, Ferrari has no intention of racing,” Marchionne said back in December 2015, when Formula One was still under the control of Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management (FOM). “I understand very well the difficulties that smaller teams face, but this is something that FOM has to solve; it is not something Ferrari has to solve.”
By winning the drivers’ title for a fifth time in 2018, Hamilton has moved into joint second on the all-time list of champions, level with Argentine driver Juan Manuel Fangio and two behind Michael Schumacher.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel (although none of those successes came with Ferrari), will be joined by the talented Monacan driver Charles LeClerc at Ferrari next season. Vettel is already looking to the future and is promising to learn from the failures of this campaign.
While congratulating Hamilton as the Briton clinched the title with a fourth place finish in Mexico, Vettel said: “Number five is something incredible. I asked him to keep pushing for next year and be at his best to fight him again.”
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