Let there be light!

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

The driv­ers’ words will have come as a great re­lief to F1’s ‘three wise men’ charged with tak­ing hold of this too-fat cash cow of a sport and mak­ing it spec­tac­u­lar, fan-friendly and nan­cially sane. Both Sean Bratches, who’ll head up me­dia and mar­ket­ing for the re­struc­tured For­mula 1 Group and Ross Brawn, its sport­ing MD, were in Barcelona to start ex­plain­ing their vi­sion.

This in it­self was a novel and wel­come step and its signicance should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. For decades, Bernie Ecclestone’s F1 op­er­ated un­der a cloud of fear. Wary of reprisals, few would speak out about the sport’s short­com­ings, while the out­go­ing FOM op­er­ated a pol­icy of ob­struc­tion and ob­fus­ca­tion. The tootrue gag about FOM’s modus operandi was: “The an­swer’s no, what’s the ques­tion?”

This tyran­ni­cal ap­proach worked bril­liantly for a very long time, en­rich­ing and em­pow­er­ing Ecclestone, his acolytes and his CVC ven­ture cap­i­tal over­lords – even when Bernie was adopt­ing the Rat­ner-es­que tac­tic of rub­bish­ing his own prod­uct, or speak­ing pub­licly in praise of Hitler. These hand grenades got F1 no­ticed, while di­vert­ing the at­ten­tion of the main­stream me­dia away from dis­cus­sion of races in ques­tion­able regimes, bribery tri­als or dwin­dling TV au­di­ences.

Thing is, with the grow­ing power and inuence in F1 of mo­tor in­dus­try ti­tans such as Mercedes chair­man Di­eter Zetsche, FIAT Chrysler CEO Ser­gio Mar­chionne, and Re­nault-Nis­san Chair­man-CEO Carlos Ghosn, not to men­tion the in­volve­ment of blue-chip back­ers such as Rolex, San­tander, Pirelli, Shell, BP, Petronas (and on and on and on), a more cor­po­rate and, yes, con­ven­tional ap­proach to busi­ness was re­quired if F1 was to our­ish.

Ecclestone’s el­e­va­tion to the po­si­tion of ‘chair­man emer­i­tus’ marks the end of F1’s en­tre­pre­neur­ial era, and some will mourn the loss of the edgy pi­o­neer­ing spirit he em­bod­ied. But it also her­alds the ad­vent of some­thing more ‘nor­mal’, bring­ing wel­come mo­ments of san­ity, such as the ap­point­ment of a global comms di­rec­tor, Nor­man How­ell; of be­ing able to book a time and place to meet Bratches and be condent that he’ll ac­tu­ally be there; of teams and driv­ers now al­lowed to – shock! – take ve-sec­ond iPhone clips of them­selves be­ing bril­liant in their daily busi­ness and post them for the en­joy­ment of their fol­low­ers on so­cial me­dia.

This is the stuff of a mod­ern global sport­ing fran­chise, and while there’s so much still to be done to make F1 a sport of which ev­ery­one can be truly proud, Lib­erty have taken the rst baby steps in the right di­rec­tion. Your next job, Ross, Chase, Sean – ad­mit­tedly tricker – is to get Alonso in a de­cent car. Then ev­ery­one’s a win­ner.

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