Brawn among key F1 hires announced by Liberty

2017 F1 season

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Ross Brawn has been confirmed as Formula One’s managing director for motor sports following the departure of Bernie Ecclestone.

The 62-year-old’s appointment is immediate and comes as the sport’s new owners also confirmed long-time ESPN executive Sean Bratches as managing director for commercial operations.

“It’s fantastic to be returning to the world of Formula One,” said Brawn. “I’ve enjoyed consulting with Liberty Media these last few months and I’m looking forward to working with Chase, Sean and the rest of the Formula One team to help the evolution of the sport.

“We have an almost unprecedented opportunity to work together with the teams and promoters for a better F1 for them and, most importantly, for the fans.”

New F1 CEO Chase Carey said Brawn “brought his magic touch to every team with which he has worked, has almost unparalleled technical knowledge, experience and relationships, and I have already benefitted greatly from his advice and expertise”.

Brawn last appeared in Formula One with Mercedes, who he left in 2013. He previously guided Ferrari to a string of world championship successes between 1999 and 2004, and won the championship again with his eponymous Brawn GP team in 2009. He had led a management buy-out of Honda’s F1 team when the Japanese manufacturer withdrew from F1 at the end of 2008.

He arrived in Formula One with Williams in 1976 and was with the team until the early eighties. He joined a new F1 team run by Carl Haas in the mid-eighties but the project was abandoned within two years and Brawn left before the end of it.

After a spell at Arrows, Brawn left F1 to work for Tom Walkinshaw’s Jaguar sportscar team. He designed the hugely successful Jaguar XJR14, which swept the 1991 championship. From there he joined Benetton where he built the team up into a championship-winning operation and took titles in 1994 and 1995 with Michael Schumacher. He followed Schumacher to Ferrari at the end of the following year, to continue one of the most successful technical partnerships F1 has ever seen.

Bratches, who spent 27 years at ESPN before stepping down in 2015, was described as “a driving force in building ESPN into one of the world’s leading sports franchises” by Carey.

“His expertise and experience in sales, marketing, digital media, and distribution will be invaluable as we grow Formula One.”

Carey also confirmed Sacha Woodward Hill, previously one of Ecclestone’s lawyers, will remain with Formula One in the position of general counsel.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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53 comments on “Brawn among key F1 hires announced by Liberty”

  1. Brawn is back!!!!

    Let the good times flow once again!!!

    1. You say that now, what happens when golden boy Brawn has a bad day and a decision the ‘fans’ don’t like, then call him out to be a witch? It’s bound to happen. CVC got away with murder, everyone just blamed Bernie. Brawn is next up in the firing line, I think Ross is an outstanding talent, I just hope, for his sake, he doesn’t taint the great image he has now by being No.1 in F1, and the focus of every move he makes.

      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        24th January 2017, 8:16

        They’ve employed the best man for the job, there are only positives to take from that. I’ve just read Ross’ book and he touches on what his opinion of the future of F1 should be and I’m so excited to see if he can achieve it. There won’t be any knee jerk reactions though, Ross is all about long term plans.

      2. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
        24th January 2017, 10:41

        The 2nd comment and we’re already into the pessimism. Really just goes to show that some people will complain about anything.

    2. Trump who?

    3. Let’s hope Liberty doesn’t ruin the sport with their US views, huh Chris?

      1. Ruin it?? It’s already been ruined thanks to Bernie’s “European views”.
        It will take no less than a miracle for Liberty to revive it.

  2. Any news on Ron Dennis?

    1. Last thing I’ve heard of was a petty dispute with the Beckhams over who has the biggest … table.
      I honestly can’t think of a reason why they should consider hiring him.

    2. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      24th January 2017, 8:18

      Yeah he apologised to David and everything’s okay now. Joking aside this is a new dawn for F1 and I don’t think there’s a place for old school dinosaurs like Ron anymore. We need people to build relationships, not dictators that ruin them.

      1. @rdotquestionmark
        “We need people to build relationships, not dictators that ruin them.”

        Well said. More or less what I was thinking.

    3. Last I heard, he was possibly talking to Manor. Ron can’t really run a team and F1 at the same time, as he wouldn’t consider it acceptable to do so (contrast Bernie Ecclestone).

  3. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
    23rd January 2017, 22:30

    Ross, do whatever is needed.

  4. Bernie’s gone, Brawn is back….this is a good day!

  5. Gosh! Chief Rocka! This is the best pre-season I can remember.

    1. How many can you remember?

      1. @psyrng I’ve seen 24 pre-seasons and not a single one has seen Bernie toppled! So is it the best? It’s down to the individual. What was the best pre-season I’ve seen since 1993? Well, that’s such a boring question I can’t even be bothered to answer! Alright then, pre 2009 was pretty cool with Brawn surprising everyone.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          24th January 2017, 13:09

          @psynrg @unicron2002 – Nevermind pre-seasons… For me, this is the single best thing that has happened to F1 in my lifetime.

  6. With all the signs we had since a few months all this was a question of when not if. I’m glad it’s now.

    1. i was a bit surprised by how quickly they moved @maciek, but as you mention, there was no surprise in the change happening. Let’s hope they get to work on building something almost everyone can look forward to for the future.

      1. I think we’ve all got our fingers crossed!

  7. Can’t wait to see how the technical side of the sport changes over the years. I’ve definitely enjoyed his ideas presented the interviews over the last few months. I think he said he’d be looking 5 years ahead if I remember right so I’m not imagining there’ll be a rush to make massive changes.

    1. Hopefully the first thing Mr. Brawn does, is establish that the FIA makes the (technical) regulations. The teams and whatever company holds the commercial rights may offer an opinion or advice, but that’s were it should stop.

  8. Subtitle error Keith.

    Keep up the great work, my favourite website.

    1. At first I thought you were telling me I’d made a ‘subtle’ error! Fixed it, thanks.

  9. So they’ve retained Ecclestone’s counsel. I wonder if his pet journalist will stay on task too or whether he’ll be quickly shown the door.

    1. Bernie is not the guy to be silent. He will want to make sure his councelling is heard @optimaximal. Either by Liberty, or when he feels they aren’t listening by “leaking” it.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        24th January 2017, 13:21

        @bascb – I don’t think he’ll do anything. I think they’ve kept him on in a pretend role in order to keep him quiet. They offer him a decent wage to effectively do nothing and if he does speak up, he’ll get the boot which will result in Bernie Ecclestone losing out on money (DUM DUM DUUUUUUUUUMMMMM!!!!!)

        This is Bernie Ecclestone so keeping quiet doesn’t come naturally to him. The thing is, I’ve never seen him do anything that wasn’t designed to make him richer. Speaking up against F1 now won’t make him richer….

        1. exactly @petebaldwin, Bernie will be blabbering whenever he feels ignored too much.

        2. “The thing is, I’ve never seen him do anything that wasn’t designed to make him richer.”

          He got married and divorced and made two daughters.

  10. Better watch your back, Toto!

    1. What goes around comes around:)

  11. After this last Friday, I really needed this Monday.

  12. Pretty much the best F1 news in a long, long time. Welcome back, Mr. Brawn!

  13. Finally. F1 is getting back some well needed Brawn as well as brains.

  14. I hope Brawn is able to force Liberty to always pursue what’s best to f1. I think that regardless of all critics Bernie did employ a sane strategy to grow and maintain f1. Brawn needs to be resilient, I think we all know that he’s smart enough to know what’s best for f1 rather than give in to manufacturer pressures. The immediate risk these days, is the same as the world faces, media. Media companies are gigantic and immensely powerful, these preach freedom of speech whilst they manipulate public opinion and the world at will. Tv is f1’s new threat, they may deface the sport.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      24th January 2017, 13:26

      “Bernie did employ a sane strategy to grow and maintain f1.”

      Did he? He employed a sane strategy to make himself very rich and you could argue, to “maintain” the sport. He certainly hasn’t grown it recently though – I’d say the opposite. He’s restricted it from growing severely.

      The work he did do growing it initially has been mirrored across any other top-class professional sport so if it wasn’t him, someone else would have done it. The difference is that other sports have always continued to grow – F1 stopped over a decade ago.

  15. At last, Liberty has hired someone who actually knows something about F1.

    Hopefully Ross will be able to be the voice of reason that will be so badly needed to counter some of the “ideas” that Liberty has floated and prevent the sport from becoming a circus.

  16. Ross is back with a bang to kick Toto and Niki’s a** 👏👏👏👏

  17. Seems like Liberty was reading a page out of F1Fanatic book.

    1. Remove Bernie
    2. Introduce Brawn as technical director
    3. Rewamp Media portfolio, focus on new media
    4. Get more people in the marketing department

    Just what Uncle F1Fanatic perscribed.

    1. I’m feeling optimistic.

      Let’s hope they work well as a team. First, make it a good racing series and exploit the new media to spread the word and get more viewers and fanatics.

  18. is it too optimistic to expect F1 free-to-air again?

    1. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that is the last thing you should expect. Liberty are in it for the money, not the sport. And the money is in Pay-TV.

      I would expect F1 to vanish from free-to-air TV within the next 5 years, or whenever current contracts expire.

      1. @barkun, @dh1996

        Oli, I hope that you’re being overly pessimistic but I fear you may be right :-(

        On the other hand, *is* the money in pay TV? I don’t know how the numbers stack up, but I think that a lot of it comes from sponsors, i.e. advertisers. Sponsors want to reach the largest possible audience, so I’d think that if TV audiences continue to shrink, the sponsors will want to pay less. And if (as many people have said before me) you have to pay to see F1 how are they going to grow their audience?

        I’m not sure that soccer/American football/ice hockey/basketball/baseball models will work for F1. Those sports have much more mass appeal because kids grow up playing them and have local teams to support at many levels from Sunday leagues up to the Premier League/NFL/whatever. They have a pervasiveness and momentum that F1 just doesn’t have, pubs full of people watching matches together and talking about it at work the next day. F1 just doesn’t have that reach and in the long term I think that paywalling it would kill it.

        It all depends on the vision that Liberty Group has: are they going to extract all the revenue they can until F1 collapses, or take the long view and turn it into a sustainable sport that will make them money for years to come?

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          24th January 2017, 13:30

          It won’t go back to free-to-air. Once the current pay-tv deals end, we’ll see subscription services start to take over.

          It won’t be but imagine if it was a full motorsports subscription service online – F1, Indycar, WEC, Formula E, GP2 etc. All races on-demand with historical races included… I don’t know how you’d put a price on it but I’d pay whatever they wanted for something like that!

          1. You might pay it but thousands of potential new fan will not. Only a fool would pay for an unknown. Take boxing. Very few people pay to watch boxing because the common man knows nothing about boxing. Yet in the 70s everyone knew who the champ was, because you could see it on TV. I wish F1 luck but I won’t be paying subs for sport. I’ll just do something else instead.

          2. If a free-to-air element remained to act as an introduction (which I believe would need to be all of the races – perhaps with some delayed in the case of awkward timezones – but not necessarily anything else), I could see an all-services, all-platform model working well for F1.

  19. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    24th January 2017, 8:10

    This is the best news the sport could have possibly had. Cannot wait to see where the sport is at in 5 years time.

  20. Going to miss Bernie, but great hire by Liberty! No matter what, it will be exciting to see what happens now

  21. Fishing sucks..
    F1 RULES!

  22. Good luck to Ross Brawn. Chase Carey needed an experienced bloke as the F1 paddock is full of sharks. Ross has the knowledge and the experience. Now he needs the teams backing him.

  23. Bernie was pretty much advising and nothing else for the last few months already (since the Liberty takeover became a formality rather than a possibility). Not sure how long Liberty can keep him to advising rather than manipulating and/or deal-making, but having someone who can help them avoid the rocks in the river is a good thing. (This is F1 – there are always rocks in the river).

    It does mean we will be seeing Bernie for the foreseeable future, though not necessarily as prominently as before. It also means that, in conjunction with the stewarding situation, Liberty is starting to establish a pattern of promoting things are are in fact rather less than they seem. That pattern bears watching.

  24. I think there are many problems with F1 at the moment, while I didn’t think they would be solved with Ecclestone in charge, at this stage we have no idea if the new leadership will sort them out either.

    There are many different opinions on what F1 should be like and even if Liberty’s vision for F1 matches the majority of fans it will be a quite a while before they can make a real difference.

    For example, one of the issues I have is F1 moving to pay TV, as Ecclestone signed that deal with Sky last year so they have exclusive UK rights from 2019, even if Liberty wanted F1 on free to air TV, something I don’t think they have said, they would have to wait for that contract to end.

    Liberty are still a business and considering the amount they have paid for F1 they will still need to make money from the sport, they may have a different model to CVC, in that they may actually invest in the long term future of the sport or even promote it, but they will still need a return on their investment.

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