New own­ers pledge closer rac­ing… and it’ll be in Europe For­mula 1’s new owner, Lib­erty Me­dia, has promised to make the sport more com­pet­i­tive, more ex­cit­ing to watch, and also to help pre­serve races in Europe.

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Rob Lad­brook

Lib­erty’s Chase Carey and F1 vet­eran Ross Brawn will head-up F1’s new man­age­ment team, which aims to tackle a host of is­sues fac­ing the sport. The board­room shake-up comes at the cost of F1 tsar Bernie Ec­cle­stone, who was re­moved from his role as CEO last week.

Carey said: “For­mula 1 needs a fresh start, and that’s what we’ll pro­vide. We have no agenda. We sim­ply want to make this sport as good as it can be for the fans.”

For­mula 1’s new own­ers have be­gun to out­line their vi­sion for the fu­ture of the sport, which in­cludes plans for closer rac­ing, bet­ter fan ex­pe­ri­ence and a push to­wards re­in­forc­ing Euro­pean races, in­clud­ing the Bri­tish Grand Prix.

Lib­erty Me­dia’s takeover of F1’s com­mer­cial rights was com­pleted last week, with the firm tak­ing over own­er­ship of F1’s par­ent com­pany Delta Topco Lim­ited from for­mer com­mer­cial rights holder CVC Cap­i­tal Part­ners in a deal worth $8bn (£6.4 bil­lion).

Lib­erty wasted lit­tle time in mak­ing waves upon the com­ple­tion of the deal, with its first act be­ing the re­moval of F1 founder Bernie Ec­cle­stone from his CEO role ( see Rac­ing News spe­cial, pages 4-5).

Amer­i­can Chase Carey re­places Ec­cle­stone as CEO, with Ec­cle­stone tak­ing on a ‘chair­man emer­i­tus’ role – usu­ally used to de­note di­rec­tors who have since re­tired and no longer hold di­rec­tive power.

Carey will run For­mula 1 along­side Ross Brawn, who has been re­cruited as manag­ing di­rec­tor, and Sean Bratches, who be­comes manag­ing di­rec­tor of com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions af­ter join­ing from sports net­work ESPN.

The trio will now go about cre­at­ing a fu­ture plan for F1, with a push to­ward over­haul­ing both the com­mer­cial and sport­ing sides of the busi­ness.

“For­mula 1 needs a fresh start, and we can pro­vide that,” Carey told the BBC. “We don’t have an agenda, we just want to make this sport great for its fans.

“Across the last four or five years, For­mula 1 hasn’t grown like it should have, for what­ever rea­son. In many ways, F1 has said ‘no’ too much, and we have to start say­ing ‘yes’ – not by gim­mick­ing the sport up, but by find­ing ways to do new and ex­cit­ing things to have the sport con­tinue to grow and in­ter­est and ex­cite peo­ple.”

Sport­ing spec­ta­cle

The ap­point­ment of Brawn as manag­ing di­rec­tor is a key one for Lib­erty Me­dia, as he brings the nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence of the in­ner workings of the sport to ad­vise and make change.

Brawn has amassed 22 FIA world championship ti­tles dur­ing his 40-year ca­reer, with his last com­ing with his own Brawngp pri­va­teer team back in 2009.

Part of Brawn’s job will be to re­fresh the way F1 works on-track. He said one of the big­gest is­sues the sport faces at the mo­ment is the fi­nan­cial struc­ture skewed to­ward the big­ger teams. Brawn said he wants to “nar­row the gap be­tween the top and the bot­tom” of the field and drew com­par­isons with the Premier League foot­ball model.

“I have ideas we should study and per­haps use in 2018 or ’19,” said Brawn. “We all know the anal­ogy of Le­ices­ter City – that would be ideal in F1, when a good team on a great year with a great driver could re­ally mount a chal­lenge for the world championship. But at the mo­ment, that’s not pos­si­ble.

“The level of re­source the top teams are us­ing has made an enor­mous gap. My nir­vana would be that you get slightly odd cir­cum­stances and sud­denly a team from the back wins. But at the mo­ment you have two or three teams only that can win, and we need to spread that.

“We have to see if we can de­velop the rules to re­ward in­no­va­tion less. Be­cause as it is now in­no­va­tion is heav­ily re­warded and if you can af­ford it, the slope is quite steep – more money, faster cars.

“If we can flat­ten that off with the reg­u­la­tions that would go in the right di­rec­tion.”

Carey agrees that evening out the play­ing field should be a pri­or­ity in the way the sport moves for­ward.

He added: “Every­body be­lieves that a healthy sport needs to be com­pet­i­tive, with chances for the un­der­dog to win, hav­ing those el­e­ments and sto­ries is what makes sport spe­cial.

“I hear that the races are too pre­dictable, they need to be more com­pet­i­tive and the rules have got­ten too com­pli­cated. I hear the en­gines have got to be faster and louder and cheaper. I hear that en­gi­neers have over­taken the driv­ers.

“There’s clearly a num­ber of is­sues out there and hav­ing some­body like Ross here brings the abil­ity to un­der­stand them, as they’re com­pli­cated is­sues. Our job is to wade in and make those bet­ter.”

Lib­erty’s new man­age­ment is also ex­pected to bring with it sweep­ing changes to F1’s de­ci­sion­mak­ing process. The con­tro­ver­sial

team-led Strat­egy Group is ex­pected to be dis­solved.

“F1 has a load of his­tory, and his­tory is great, so long as you don’t get bogged down in it,” added Carey. “I don’t know if the de­ci­sion mak­ing be­fore was de­layed due to his­tory or what­ever, but we bring the fresh start.

“We want to cre­ate more of a part­ner­ship, where every­body has a shared vi­sion of where we want to go so we can align and move for­ward as one. We have to change things in the spirit of part­ner­ship too, work­ing with part­ners like the FIA and the teams and pro­mot­ers. I think that spirit of part­ner­ship has been lack­ing in re­cent years.”

Push for Europe

A ma­jor crit­i­cism among F1’s fan­base dur­ing the Ec­cle­stone era was the ap­par­ent re­luc­tance to so­lid­ify the sport’s heritage in West­ern Europe, in­stead look­ing to run races in new, of­ten oil-rich, coun­tries in­stead.

As a re­sult many of F1’s ‘tra­di­tional’ races in Europe – such as the French, Ger­man, Bel­gian, Ital­ian and even Bri­tish Grands Prix – have all ex­pe­ri­enced test­ing times, with some even fall­ing off the cal­en­dar com­pletely.

De­spite the Bri­tish GP at Sil­ver­stone be­ing one of the best-at­tended races of the year, Sil­ver­stone’s owner, the Bri­tish Rac­ing Driv­ers’ Club, has re­cently ex­pressed con­cern over the cost of stag­ing the race.

Be­fore Christ­mas, BRDC chair­man John Grant spoke of the “po­ten­tially ru­inous cost” of host­ing the race an­nu­ally, due to con­stantly ris­ing fees from For­mula One Man­age­ment.

Carey said the Euro­pean races, and par­tic­u­larly the Bri­tish GP, must be re­tained at all costs.

“At this point, mak­ing the 21 races we have on the cal­en­dar as good as they can be must be the pri­or­ity,” said Carey.

“We want to strengthen the sport in its core mar­ket, which is West­ern Europe. So we must fo­cus on our ex­ist­ing races, and then look at ways we can ex­pand the sport to new ar­eas, like in the USA.

“We’re go­ing to have a Bri­tish Grand Prix. We’ve been very clear that the foun­da­tion of this sport is West­ern Europe. We want it to grow glob­ally, yes, but we want to make the Euro­pean foun­da­tion here stronger than ever and build on that. I think there are lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties to make the sport bet­ter than it has been. I haven’t spent enough time yet with them [the Bri­tish GP or­gan­is­ers and the BRDC] and there’s a negotiating dy­namic to these things where pro­moter X will want cer­tain some­thing Z and so on.

“The re­al­ity is that we want a healthy re­la­tion­ship with our pro­mot­ers. [The race at] Sil­ver­stone is a great event, and we want to help make it an even big­ger event. We’ll look at ways to make the cur­rent races we have ev­ery­where big­ger and bet­ter.”

Bernie sym­pa­thy

Carey also added that Ec­cle­stone would al­ways form part of the F1 fam­ily, even with­out his di­rec­to­rial pow­ers.

“I ex­pect this [the takeover] is dif­fi­cult for Bernie,” Carey added. “It’s a dif­fi­cult change and we dealt with him with the re­spect he is due. I value his ad­vice and help as we go for­ward. He’s run this sport his en­tire adult life, he’s been a one-man dic­ta­tor, and he calls him­self a dic­ta­tor. But the sport needs a fresh per­spec­tive.”

Carey is new CEO

Lib­erty wants races to be big­ger and bet­ter

Bri­tish GP to be a main­stay

Lib­erty’s F1 team (l-r): Sean Bratches, Chase Carey and Ross Brawn Brawn has en­vi­able tro­phy haul, in­clud­ing 2009 world ti­tle with Brawngp

F1 events will have an over­haul in the next few years, with new me­dia strat­egy

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