Chase Carey, Sochi Autodrom, 2017

Beginners’ luck? Liberty Media’s 100-day honeymoon


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At some point we’re going to have to get used to referring to Formula One’s new owners Liberty Media simply as ‘F1’.

But 100 days on from the news that Bernie Ecclestone had finally relinquished his grasp on the sport, the sense of optimism which greeted this seismic change in the sport has barely dissipated.

The installation of Ross Brawn in charge of sporting matters gave immediate credibility to Liberty’s plans. His comments about weeding out gimmicks like DRS and promoting competition between a greater number of teams stand in sharp contrast to Ecclestone’s practices.

Bernie Ecclestone, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017
F1 hasn’t missed Ecclestone’s negativity
Brawn’s opposite number on the commercial side, Sean Bratches, was an unfamiliar name to many. But he’s made the right noises about taking F1 into significant markets while respecting the sport’s heritage giving the calendar a more coherent and cost-effective structure.

Already the sport has felt some changes for the better. Refreshingly, the start of the new season was not overshadowed by the most powerful person in the sport slagging it off in public.

The loosening of social media restrictions on the teams and drivers is long overdue. Teams are being allowed to bring more people into the paddock and paying spectators will soon get the chance to enter the ‘inner sanctum’ as well. Circuit promoters have also welcome the relaxing of Ecclestone-era restrictions on how they could promote their races.

Subtler changes are evident, too. Lower camera angles are being used to enhance the sensation of speed from the cars in place of some of the high, wide shots which served only to frame sponsors’ logos.

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But surely the most positive change in Formula One this season can’t be attributed to Liberty. On the strength of the first four races it seems that, for the first time in five years, we have more than one team capable of fighting for the championship.

The excitement around a genuine struggle for supremacy has done F1 a lot of good. Even Mercedes have welcomed the fact they have serious competition from outside their team, something which wasn’t the case in the previous three seasons.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017
Liberty are lucky to have a real fight on their hands
This may be a consequence of the changes to the technical rules introduced for 2017. But it’s only good fortune that is has worked out that way.

For evidence of that, look at the gap between the top two teams and the rest of the field. Over a 90-second lap Red Bull are on average 1.3 seconds off the pace and the rest are more than half a second behind them. If Ferrari hadn’t made a huge leap forward over the winter we could very easily be watching a repeat of the last three years.

Of course Ferrari deserve credit for the progress they’ve made. But the goal of their development was to win races.

The fact they’ve ended up almost level with Mercedes is a fortunate coincidence for Formula One in general, and its new owners in particular. It’s even served as a distraction from another side-effect of F1’s new rules, that passing has become much more difficult.

It’s been an encouraging first 100 days for Liberty Media. They’ve made some good moves, and luck has been on their side. Whether they continue on this upward trend will come down to whether their medium and long-term plans will prove as popular as their initial short-term fixes.


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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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  • 28 comments on “Beginners’ luck? Liberty Media’s 100-day honeymoon”

    1. I really love that the practice higlights and driver interviews are now put on youtube. I never have time to watch practice unless I’m at the GP :-)

      1. me too, even the race highlights with sky f1 content are on there. About flipping time too.

        1. time is coming for a live virtual reality camera HD with Dolby sound!

    2. Lower camera angles are being used to enhance the sensation of speed from the cars in place of some of the high, wide shots which served only to frame sponsors’ logos.

      Those make for good (mainly side) shots, but I’m not too crazy about them, especially as we have some camera positions now when they have a low angle showing the cars approaching a corner head on – you don’t really sense how far away are they as the cameras are zoomed in, too.

      I like to have a wider angle during both qualifying and race, too see how and where the drivers put the car on track, and to sense the difference between each other.

      To show the sensation of speed, I like the fixed cameras that are planted very close to the track (built in the kerbs or put on a close wall).

      1. @hunocsi I’ve always thought the best way to do camera angles is have the biggest variety possible. That includes low, high, wide, static, those which can swivel and move, as well as having the helicopter. I like the use of the cranes that they have in Spa, and the zip-wire style cameras that they have occasionally used over sections of different tracks.

        The problem is looking at the same thing all the time gets repetitive. If there is a greater variety of angles, the chances of capturing something that looks impressive are much higher

      2. @hunocsi That effect you’re describing where the cars don’t appear to be moving quickly when they approach the corners is down to the type of camera lenses – the big telescopic zoom lenses have a long focal length which has the effect of ‘flattening’ the image – objects in the distance appear larger relative to those in the foreground than they would using a lens with a short focal length. It’s a consequence of moving all the cameras far from the track unfortunately, and also presumably one deliberately to maximise the size of the advertising boards in the background when you see them on the screen.

      3. @hunocsi For me personally, not sure about how the others feel about this, my favorite camera angle in the onboard T-cam for the drivers. You really get a sense of the speed and can see every little mistake from the driver. I feel as if they’ve shied away from the T-cam in recent years, especially in battle. I always love to see battles from the perspective of the car behind.

    3. They certainly appear to have put the best interests of the sport at the heart of their plans for the future, which is a significant improvement on CVC’s philosophy of squeezing every penny they could get in the short term, regardless of the long term impact on the sport.
      The harsh reality though is that, at least in the UK, there’s going to be a lot of fans who will be giving up on F1 once it goes to Pay TV only next season. I love F1 and have been following it for over 30 years, but there’s no way I’m paying Murdoch £hundreds a year just to watch F1.
      This may be a problem they’ve inherited from the previous owners, but if Liberty don’t find a solution the sport will be taking another big hit in viewing figures next year.

      1. @beneboy spot on. I wouldn’t pay a penny to watch on Sky, and I won’t be doing so.

        How many people will be prepared to stream it? With Internet on the rise, I imagine quite a few, but not enough. There’s absolutely no doubt that viewing figures will be hit badly

        1. I’m about to cut my cable cord here in the US and will be losing my only legal way to watch F1 races live. It’s insane that I must choose to break the law or pay $1500 a year in cable bills (in order for F1 to get how much of that money exactly?) for a bunch of channels I don’t want, and in fact specifically do NOT want to send a dime, when I’d be perfectly happy paying F1 directly to watch live events, a scenario in which they pocket nearly 100% of the $s.

      2. …there’s going to be a lot of fans who will be giving up on F1 once it goes to Pay TV only next season.

        Where I live there is a legal option. The F1 rights holder has a contract with a company called NeuLion based in New York, and they stream the Sports Channels content for them, which allows me to watch the races at about the price of a sports magazine. Would you be prepared to pay that sort of price to watch F1?
        As I see it, if the TV rights holder where I live can get a contract with NeuLion and have their sports channels streamed via a local website, there isn’t any reason the TV rights holders in other countries can’t do this as well.

        1. Just stream it via Kodi.
          There are heaps of HD quality feeds and totally free.
          Just need a good internet connection, it’s a no brainer for me.
          I won’t ever get Pay TV, screw them.

        2. Not possible in the UK from 2019 as Sky has an exclusive contract. This gives them, and only them, the right to broadcast anything in that area. Even NeuLion could only work with Sky in that area, as any other UK broadcaster working with them would be breaking the monopoly Sky paid for.

        3. Recently I received an email from my local PayTV provider to tell me the price of watching their online sports channel has gone up, and the old 24 hour and 7 day packages have been cancelled. The price of their one month package has increased, and you have to pay the first 6 months in advance, although if you are already on the one month package the price you pay won’t increase until February, 2018.

    4. Ecclestone looks more and more like an irrelevant artefact every time I see him.

      1. Agreed. Every comment he makes, portrays him more senile and deluded than the previous time. I think most are laughing at him nowadays, because he hasn’t gotten the hint yet.

        It’s amusing.

    5. Neil (@neilosjames)
      3rd May 2017, 13:22

      I really hope the positive feelings I have towards Liberty aren’t just down to me disliking the old regime so much.

      A bit like when you get a new girlfriend, and everything about her is absolutely wonderfully perfectly amazing until you realise you’re only feeling that way because she isn’t your old girlfriend.

      Hope hope hope…

      1. Fair point… To be honest, I don’t think Liberty have done a good or bad job yet. They have only made a few minor changes to bring F1 vaguely in line with modern day sports.

        It feels like if someone else took over from Honda and managed to get a McLaren 10 laps into the race without it breaking down. That’s be much better but in reality, it’s still not “good”.

        1. One of the companies I rep for is in a tailspin because under new ownership starting a few years ago, and after saying there wouldn’t be drastic changes and ‘we’re a family here’, they’ve done the opposite, made big changes that have almost all had to have been reversed, all the while losing customers by the day with far poorer performance than under the previous ownership.

          My point…if Liberty is being accused of taking baby steps, that’s only a good thing. Stop the knee-jerk reactions, focus on what they want to be and how to get there that is best for everyone collectively. And once the necessary changes are agreed upon, do them right. And frankly that’s what Brawn has said.

          I’m very optimistic and excited about the future of F1. And very willing to be patient and give the new owners their day in the sun. I WANT them to take their time and do it right.

          1. @Robbie – I support Birmingham City and your first paragraph is almost word for word what has happened at our club this season.

        2. Totally agree. They haven’t really done anything yet to judge their performance. The only things they seemed to have changed so far is just removing a couple of Bernie’s stupid rules.

          The one thing you can certainly say about Liberty is, they have lucked into having 2 teams fighting at the top. It could have so easily been the worse season of F1 in decades.

          They still have a lot to do to prove to me that F1 is in good hands.

    6. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      3rd May 2017, 14:04

      Not beginner’s luck, no, just indicative of the easy wins that can result from a paddock starved of common sense. Carey’s assurances on European stalwart Grands Prix, Bratches’ liberalization of social media content controls and Brawn’s nascent commitment to longitudinal, strategic thinking; these are not so much triumphs, but merely a painfully long-awaited injection of common sense.

      The so-called ‘three wise men’ have yet to scratch the surface of F1’s entrenched problems, of declining audiences in formerly fruitful markets like Germany, of the perpetual financial instability of the smaller teams and of the need create a cutting-edge yet affordable technical formula. Whilst there will be significant moments in the mean-time, such as the success, or otherwise, of the 2018 German Grand Prix, and Brawn’s success in overcoming team recalcitrance in formulating his technical reforms, because Liberty Media’s challenges are predominantly long-term ones, I will try to avoid any kind of reflective discussion of their input until at least 2019.

      1. Well said.

    7. Michael Brown (@)
      3rd May 2017, 22:45

      My personal favourite addition is that the pole lap is uploaded to the YouTube channel and Facebook page within a few hours of qualifying ending. The only negative is that the telemetry usually doesn’t stay on the screen for the whole lap.

      Can we go back to the telemetry of 2011-2013? I’m sick of the faded green bar for throttle input we have now.

    8. What we’ve seen so far this season far out-shines anything we’ve seen in the last 3 years. Whether luck or not, it wouldn’t have occurred without the rules shake-up. Sooner or later people are just going to have to admit that taking the formula away from one which has been so engine dominant over the last 3 years has been a good move.

    9. I don’t really get why everyone is so optimistic. This season the races have been dreadful, with very little on-track actions and huge gaps between the cars. Also, the cars are not as fast as expected. It’s just Mercedes having lost their advantage that made the first four races look half-decent.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        4th May 2017, 22:36


        As some people almost always have something to complain about in f1, if the cars were as fast as we thought they may have been, then all the races will have been several minutes shorter! Some may think that was a disadvantage considering how much people have been complaining about other things this year :D

    10. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      4th May 2017, 22:32

      I’m not quite sure if this is to do with Leberty Media but I find the on screen graphics during the races really irritating this year. They are extremely unreliable and inaccurate a lot of the time too.

      What really annoys me is how the drivers positions and split times are shown. There is a huge box on the left of the screen which is always there. It rather ruins the view IMO as the cars keep driving behind it! It also doesn’t seem to have the drivers split times far too often. This is poor. The old graphics had a thin, narrow box at the bottom of the screen in the middle. This was far smaller and didn’t get in the way, yet it told us the drivers split times and positions the whole time it was on. Yes, it did only show 5 at a time, but at leased the screen wasn’t blocked with a huge box. It seemed that the old graphics were more reliable and accurate too. I really wish they would come back. It seems that the coverage of F1 is just getting more lacking with these things slowly to make it force you to pay money for apps that do a better job at showing you these things. But I want to look at the racing, not another screen!

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