According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Mercedes is extremely unhappy with terms being offered by Bernie Ecclestone and could leave F1 – or possibly take Bernie to court.
The root of the argument is the belief that Bernie is offering big incentives to the three top teams – Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren to stay in the sport, and these incentives are being denied to others.
The eligibility rules for the incentives are carefully worded (e.g. the team must not have changed its name since 2000), so that they can be presented as objective, but the three top teams just happen to meet all the criteria. According to a document leaked to Sky, other incentives would include cash bonuses for teams who had won the constructors' title since 2000 and an annual 'Double Champions' payment for teams who had won titles 'in any two or more consecutive seasons including or after the 2008 season'.
Other alleged sweeteners really do push the boundaries – apparently both Red Bull and Ferrari could be offered seats on the board of Formula One's holding company and Ferrari could allegedly be offered shares in the sport. The latter idea seems outlandish – Ferrari having a shareholding in the operation that governs how it competes with other teams seems very strange indeed.
Old Formula One watchers are familiar with the amount of influence Ferrari already wields – in 1994 Formula One brought back refuelling during races largely, some felt, because Ferrari's V12 was powerful, but particularly thirsty. The idea of its position being institutionalised could well send Mercedes into a spin – or into the courts.
Mercedes sources have suggested that Articles 101 and 102 of EU competition law, relating to the restriction of competition and abuse of a dominant position, could be invoked. We are not lawyers, but we can see why the Germans might feel they have a case.