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Mercedes makes u-turn over F1 deal

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Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff said on Friday the champions had changed their mind and were now ready to sign Formula One’s binding commercial agreement.

Wolff’s intervention comes a week after the German constructor said they would not sign the draft Concorde Agreement for 2021 and beyond.

Speaking at a video news conference at the Spanish Grand Prix, the Mercedes team chief suggested he had accepted that it was impossible for the teams to be united – and, for Mercedes, a pragmatic and singular approach would be best.

“I’ve been pretty vocal after the meetings that we had, within the team, to say ‘this is what we need and this is the clarifications we need in order to move forward’.

“But I’ve changed my opinion from Silverstone for the exact reason I have told you before — I don’t think the teams will ever be united.

“Everybody tries to achieve some little deals outside. There’s a blame culture in the media so we’ve decided to move forward with Liberty.”

Wolff made clear that he had sought a form of collective bargaining that would ensure the teams were united, but this had failed. As a result, he had started to work on arrangements designed to suit Mercedes alone.

“I’ve had some very constructive discussions with Chase (Carey, F1 chief executive) over the last weekend and most of the clarifications that we wanted to achieve have been discussed…

“I feel we’re at a good point to sign the Concorde Agreement and move on.”

Mercedes refused to sign the agreement ahead of the original deadline of August 13, but are likely to do so before August 18, the extended deadline date.

If not, there is a final deadline of August 31.

The agreement – named after the Place de la Concorde in Paris where the first deal between the teams, the sport and its ruling body was completed in 1981 – is a commercial contract that binds the team to the sport for five years from 2021-26.

Mercedes explained that they were unhappy with several clauses that had been agreed by most of the other teams, allowing Ferrari to gain more prize money because they are the longest-serving and most historic team and giving the Italian outfit a right to veto rule changes.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff

Wolff said at Silverstone that Mercedes had “not been treated as they should have been”, adding that the teams were ‘up the arse’ of Liberty Media in public, but less compliant in private.

“What frustrated me was that we, as the teams, are not capable of really joining up in order to have a common standpoint,” he explained.

“Not in a way that goes against Liberty or FOM (Formula One Management), not at all, but we’re having these meetings and everybody seems to be interested in the same clarifications and the same kind of mark-up for contracts that are necessary.

“Then we leave the meetings and, on air, I hear opinions that differ very much from what was said within the meeting. That is a certain frustration. I don’t know why that happens.

“I have clarified my position very clearly with the ones that I think pick up the phone immediately once the meeting is finished.

“I have come to a point that, if we are not capable of us, as the teams, to have a joint stand-point for the benefits of the teams, then we’ll have to go back and have our own.”

(AFP)

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