Formula 1 is preparing for its toughest-ever political battle, one that could tear the sport apart, with Liberty Media pushing for a more sustainable F1 – and the power unit regulation skirmish only the tip of the iceberg.
F1’s new owners want to future-proof the sport, and their vision makes a lot of sense in returning it to the centre of the global mainstream.
SOUNDBITE (English) CHASE CAREY,
CHAIRMAN & CEO, FORMULA 1:
“We want the races to be close, [and] we'd love a surprise here and there. I mean a race like Baku [Azerbaijan] – when Lance Stroll ends up on a podium, it's great for us. So I think it is, part of what makes sports special is the unexpected, or the surprise and the underdog, and so hopefully have more of that.”
But to do that - Liberty Media is seeking to not only create the ultimate F1 car but to dramatically overhaul the unfair financial structure underpinning the sport that greatly skews success towards the top teams.
Last year, Ferrari was F1’s biggest spender – its budget $435 million US dollars – $80 million up on world champions Mercedes but incredibly $300 million more than Sauber, demonstrating the huge spread.
Not everyone agrees with making F1 more exciting, though, with the top teams seeking to protect their significant advantages.
“Ross Brawn says we need to level performance, but F1's DNA is the opposite,” said Mercedes’ non-executive director Niki Lauda.
Regardless, it’s a battle that’s expected to rage on. But there’s no doubt that Liberty Media is already a vast improvement on the sport’s previous management led by former supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
F1 is now buoyant with positive energy, and focused on far more than just the commercial deals with marketing and promotion an important part of the mix and the sport’s long-term health a priority.
SOUNDBITE (English) JENSON BUTTON,
2009 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"The new management is good and the owners. It's great to have fresh ideas. I think it's what Formula One needs for the future.”