In Depth

Mercedes F1 boss: no-deal Brexit gives Ferrari a ‘massive advantage’

Toto Wolff says F1 teams in the UK could face a nightmare scenario

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a “nightmare scenario” and a “mother of all messes” for Formula 1.

As things currently stand, the UK is set to leave the European Union on 29 March without a formal withdrawal treaty in place. Should this happen, there would be no remaining agreements between Britain and the EU on how to manage customs, trade, travel or citizens rights.

Although it’s a German brand, the Mercedes F1 team is based in the UK and has staff who come from across Europe. The team’s F1 base is in Brackley, Northamptonshire, while its F1 engine base is in Brixworth. 

When asked about a no-deal Brexit, Wolff said there were major concerns about the impact it could have for the sport and the F1 teams in the UK. The BBC reports that eight of the ten F1 teams have bases in the south-east of England.

Speaking at F1’s first pre-season test in Barcelona, the 47-year-old Austrian said: “Yes, Brexit is a major concern for us and should be a major concern for all of us who live in the UK and operate out of the UK.

“We’re Formula 1 teams that travel to tests and travel to races at least 21 times a year,” he explained, adding that F1 was reliant on being able to get parts and services into the UK at the last minute. “Any major disruption with borders or taxes would damage the F1 industry in the UK,” he said.

“Our team is an international team, a German brand, that has its F1 operations in the United Kingdom. I think we will have around 15-20 different nationalities in our team and many EU citizens. [There is] uncertainty at the moment at whether the industry will be impacted by a no-deal Brexit or a Brexit.”

This uncertainty would potentially damage “one of the outstanding industries in the UK,” said Wolff. “We have said before that it is the mother of all messes.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff speaks with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas

Getty Images

Advantage Ferrari in title race

Mercedes go into the new F1 season as favourites to win the constructors’ championship for a sixth year in a row. But they will have to hold off the challenge from title rivals Ferrari and Red Bull Racing. 

Wolff believes that a no-deal Brexit won’t just have a major impact on what happens off the track in F1 but will also affect the results on it. He says that EU-based teams such as Ferrari and Alfa Romeo Racing could benefit from no deal.

“I think it would have a major impact in terms of our operation, in terms of going to the races and [in terms of] getting our car developed and ready,” he said.

“That is a nightmare scenario that I don’t want to envisage. Everybody at Ferrari and also Sauber [now Alfa Romeo] in Switzerland will have a massive advantage over every UK-based team.” 

No-deal Brexit explained

The UK is scheduled to leave the European Union at 11pm GMT on 29 March 2019. If a formal withdrawal treaty hasn’t been signed by this point, all EU rules and regulations will instantly cease to apply to the UK.

This means there will be no remaining agreements between Britain and the EU on how to manage customs, trade, travel or citizens rights.

A no-deal Brexit also means that the transition period from March 2019 to December 2020 – designed to give businesses and organisations additional time to respond to the changes – would be off the table.

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