Can you imagine Formula 1 without Ferrari? Neither can I, which is why this threat by Sergio Marchionne is chilling. According to Reuters, the Scuderia could quit F1 after 2020 if the sport’s new owners take it in a direction contrary to the Italian carmaker’s interests.

The Ferrari chairman told analysts in a conference call that while he supported cost-cutting, as pushed by F1’s new owners Liberty Media, there were other strategic issues under discussion that could force Ferrari to relocate.

“It (F1) has been part of our DNA since the day we were born. But if we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognisable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore,” Marchionne said.

To a question on how he would feel about being the man who led Ferrari away from F1, Marchionne said: “Like a million bucks because I’ll be working on an alternative strategy to try and replace it. More rational one, too.”

By the way, Ferrari is the only team to have been in F1 since the first world championship season in 1950. It is also the most successful team on the grid despite Mercedes-Benz dominating recent seasons – the Scuderia has in its bag a record 228 race wins, 16 constructors’ championships and 15 drivers’ titles.

Along with the Monaco GP, Ferrari is considered as one of the central pillars of the sport’s success, the newswire’s report rightly points out, and their existing share of F1 revenues reflects that special status. However, Liberty Media, which ousted long-time ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone to be F1’s commercial rights owner since January, wants to change the status quo.

The US-based outfit is seeking to level the playing field and rebalance revenues once the current agreement with teams expires at the end of 2020. Marchionne’s threat comes as discussions on the future of F1 are ongoing. A cheaper and simpler engine has been proposed, and there’s another meeting of the sport’s Strategy Group next week to discuss other changes.

“Liberty has got a couple of good intentions in all of this, one of which is to reduce the cost of execution for the team, which I think is good,” Marchionne said, although he added that Ferrari and Liberty appeared to be “somewhat at odds in terms of the strategic development” after 2020.

“I think you need to be absolutely clear that unless we find a set of circumstances, the results of which are beneficial to the maintenance of the brand in the marketplace and to the strengthening of the unique position for Ferrari, Ferrari will not play,” the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reiterated.

If it sounds like the end of the world for F1, it’s not. Not yet anyway. “We’re walking into this meeting next Tuesday with the best of intentions, we’ll see where it takes us. I’m attending those meetings on strategy because it’s important, because it matters a lot to this business. The financial implications of the wrong choice for the moment going forward are pretty significant to Ferrari,” he added.