Toranosuke Takagi, CART IndyCar, Fontana, 2002

Toyota, the collapse of CART and a vital lesson for Formula 1

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The CART IndyCar championship once rivalled Formula 1 with spectacular racing between legendary names such as Nigel Mansell, Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.

But 15 years ago the championship filed for bankruptcy. Already undermined by the formation of the rival Indy Racing League in the nineties, CART’s failure to keep engine manufacturer Toyota in the sport rapidly precipitated its decline.

@DieterRencken spoke to an expert in business and motor racing who explained why the case of CART and Toyota has special resonance for F1 and owners Liberty Media today.

One of the great pleasures of visiting the United States of America lies in meeting like-minded folk who understand the business of motor racing. Not only is the country known as the ‘Land of the Automobile’ – despite not inventing the car, and building its first horseless buggy almost a decade after Gottlieb Daimler frightened dogs in Mannheim – but the USA is the world’s largest economy, with a gross domestic product of $20 trillion (£15.4tn).

F1 first embraced commercial sponsorship in 1968; almost 30 years earlier the Indianapolis 500 had been won by a bestickered Maserati called the ‘Boyle Special’, named after a proprietary valve-conditioning product. For proof of how far ahead of the economic curve US racing has always been, count the number of logos on NASCAR-mobiles. Sure the logos may be a bit haphazard, but teams know how to pull brands in.

To add to F1’s ‘cowboy’ flavour, not only are F1’s commercial rights now listed on NASDAQ under the ticker ‘FWONK’, but the company’s group headquarters are located in Englewood, Colorado. Two of its three honchos are as American as AJ Foyt. Indeed, F1 has identified the USA has a major growth area, in particular targeting the east and west coasts.

Against this background, it is little wonder that a number of USA folk ‘get’ F1 from a commercial perspective and gauge the sport not so much by lap times as on share prices. Engineers converse in terms such as DRS and MGU-H; to these financial wizards BS is not a driver’s latest excuse for crashing but a balance sheet, while EPS relates to earnings per share, not Electronically Programmed Stability.

Nigel Mansell, Newman/Haas, IndyCar, Nazareth, 1993
Stars like Mansell raced in CART’s heydey
RaceFans spoke at length to one such financial boffin, who for professional reasons shall remain anonymous. A lifelong motorsport fan who covered races as a sideline whilst studying stocks and shares, his passion and profession collided in the late nineties when the CART IndyCar series listed on the stock exchange.

He studied the rise and rise of CART as it happened 20 years ago, and recalls in fine detail CART’s almost immediate demise. The series went bankrupt in 2003; its former CART.com is now listed as “may be for sale”.

Now working as a business and investment advisor, specialising in motor sport aligned business, he sees worrying signs for F1, not least that it is being run by career corporates some of whom are near or approaching corporate retirement age. True, many executives continue very successfully beyond 65 – F1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey’s age come 22nd of next month – but fact is, sooner or later he’ll look at winding down. It is not, after all, a family business he’s running.

Our source was extremely complimentary about Carey. “[He] led a very large company, while also leading initiatives to maximise individual business units and creating brand-new companies out of thin air. His skill set is very unique.” Indeed, he was equally positive about John Malone, group chairman and majority owner of Liberty Media and its sister Liberty Global, praising both the billionaire’s intellect and his moral fibre.

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But, our source wonders, “Is a succession plan in place?” If so, have stakeholders been (publicly) informed? Ditto the very capable Ross Brawn: with a personal fortune estimated at £100m, F1’s managing director of motorsport has no need to don corporate shirts, and clearly does so for the love (and personal challenge) of F1, but when will grandfatherly instincts kick-in for the 63-year-old, who celebrates his birthday a day after Carey?

The third member of F1’s executive team, commercial head Sean Bratches, is heading for 60, so, again, some form of roadmap for life after Sean – whenever that may be – is called for. It’s simply good corporate governance, and while plans may exist, surely these should be shared.

Chase Carey, Christian Horner, Paul Ricard, 2018
Carey is building connections Ecclestone already had
Or has F1 not learned from 50 years under Bernie Ecclestone, who dismissed such suggestions with glib “I’ve got no plans of dying soon” remarks?

The difference is that Bernie built (and virtually owned) the company, whereas F1’s triumvirate is a group of hired hands, only one of which has been in the business beyond two years. For the rest, they have migratory career paths, and could be parachuted into any number of Liberty Media companies at short notice should circumstances dictate. Liberty’s primary responsibility is, after all, towards itself, not sport.

Asked whether he does or would purchase the stock, our anonymous investment expert gives an emphatic “no” on the basis that it is too complex a listing, what with different classes of stock, plus debentures. Plus, he asks, “What is the overall size of the ‘balloon’ of Formula One, and what percentage does FOM (or whatever it is called) represent?”

A good question, given that FWONK consists of a variety of interests lumped in with F1, including appreciable slices of Live Nation, a ticketing/concert company, and investment company Associated Partners LP; the Drone Racing League, and lesser-known entities. Does Carey run these, he asks, or is his focus purely on F1? Liberty does not make such distinctions.

These aspects automatically lead to the next set of questions: If the former, what is Carey’s time split, particularly given the level of restructuring F1 demands; if the latter, how much do these associate companies add to (or detract from) the bottom line? In other words, is F1’s share price representative of the sport’s commercial performance? Or not?

Once, paddock folk lamented F1’s lack of transparency – save for (mis?) information strewn about by Ecclestone whenever it suited his agendas – and hoped the flow of data would improve under a public company. Instead, the current situation is very much one of “We’re a public company; we can’t disclose the requested information for fear of breaching insider trading rules, except via notes to investors.”

To what degree are non-disclosures required by Securities Exchange Commission regulations and at which point do they become a convenient veil? SEC rules require full disclosure only where public comments potentially have an effect of five per cent (or more) on gross revenues. If, for example, F1 refuses to divulge F1 TV Pro subscriber numbers, the impact is either that dramatic or they are simply highly embarrassing…

One of the biggest challenges facing Liberty, our analyst believes, lies in building the relationships with teams, broadcasters, sponsors, race promoters and trade partners such as Pirelli.

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To Ecclestone it was instinctive: he had been one of them, a blood brother; then grown into an uncle figure to incoming generations of team bosses. Carey and Co have no such relationships with team bosses/owners, and from the outside it is doubtful whether they ever will be on such terms with the likes of Christian Horner or Toto Wolff.

Dario Franchitti, CART IndyCar, Green
After losing its key rival, Honda followed Toyota out of CART
When I suggest that maybe Liberty’s executives are more foster parent than uncle or grandfather to the team bosses, another US-based student of F1 suggests the relationship to more akin to that with the latest boyfriend of a grandmother: no blood ties, and only a loose relationship that could end abruptly. A bit harsh, maybe, but not too wide of the mark.

This lack of rapport means that negotiations are extended as both parties in whatever discussion – whether governance, regulations, commercial, sporting, promoter, broadcaster, sponsor/advertiser, etc – feel each other out as they attempt to find common ground. Consider: in two years Liberty have failed to add a single race, while no new engine suppliers or teams are pending. Corporate sponsors? More losses than gains.

This is a crucial aspect, says our source, who points to Toyota’s withdrawal from CART as the start of its implosion.

By the early 2000s, Toyota and rival Honda were estimated to be providing around 60% of the financial support to the CART grid. But with each there to beat the other, once Toyota succumbed to the overtures of the rival IRL series, CART’s days were numbered.

CART underestimated the impact of losing even a single manufacturer. Toyota’s exit took with it an entire portfolio of sponsors, many of whom based whole marketing programmes around their CART and team engagement.

Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz cars is often seen in the team’s garage studying monitors, bedecked in team gear. But will his anointed successor, Ola Källenius, display the same commitment towards F1?

Naturally the team says he does and will, having run both AMG and the F1 engine company. The Swede could, though, be out-voted by the board, as happened at BMW, which overnight switched to road car-based sport, including electrified motor racing.

Markus Schäfer,Britta Seeger, Dieter Zetsche, Ola Kallenius
Change ahead? Zetsche and Källenius (right)
Consider the impact the exits of Porsche and Audi had on WEC, or the state of WRX after the recent withdrawals of Audi and Peugeot – due to a disagreement over the decision to delay e-RX – then reflect on the crucial need for Carey to lock in Mercedes (and Renault, and Honda) for the long-term.

CART’s lesson for F1 is not to underestimate the importance of keeping the manufacturers on-side. The potential ramifications of Mercedes leaving F1 make this clear. What would happen to that FWONK share price if Mercedes pulled, took its engines with it and – worst of all for F1 – star driver Lewis Hamilton? If you need a reminder of the soon-to-be five-times champion’s value to F1, take a look at his millions-strong Instagram and Twitter audiences.

Ferrari, too, needs wooing, particularly after its recent tragedy-induced restructure: Just when Carey had gotten to sit down with Sergio Marchionne to discuss the future, the Italo-Canadian’s life was cut short. Now Carey needs to do it all over again, with the commercial current deals, of which Ferrari is a disproportionate benefactor, expiring in a little over two years time.

Should any current teams leave, what would be the impact on F1’s share price? In Bernie’s day he simply cut deals here or there to pad the numbers with bargain budget outfits, but investors won’t be fooled by substituting Jim’s F1 Team for Mercedes as when, almost 10 years ago, three stragglers fronted for BMW, Renault and Toyota.

This raises several important questions for our anonymous investment expert. “How much are Mercedes, Renault, Honda, and Ferrari spending in addition to their annual subsidy to the teams and their separate engine building enterprises?” In other words, how far does their below-the-line spend on F1 by their subsidiaries, dealers, sponsors and trade partners reach?

Start, Suzuka, 2018
Manufacturers are also becoming race sponsors
Similarly, “how much is Pirelli spending overall; how much is being spent geographically, and where?” In other words, what is the true cost of a mass walk-out?

If the lesson from CART is to be truly heeded, the question which needs answering most urgently is whether there is a way to increase investment by other stakeholders so that there is less dependence upon manufacturers or – counter-intuitively – whether there needs to be an even greater emphasis upon manufacturers, because that will bring in more younger viewers and spectators?

If investors and analysts pose such questions, so surely should Liberty – and provide the answers on demand. Or will there simply be non-disclosure?

For all Liberty has managed to achieve in the two-odd years it has managed F1’s commercial rights, a long and (rocky) road lies ahead, not least in terms of understanding the business of the sport, in terms of building extended relationships, and, crucially, retaining its current bases.

Two key dates loom: On 8 November Liberty will host a 2018 Q3 earnings conference call – and already we know revenues are down – while the big one, the Liberty Media Corporation Investor Meeting during which the entire group is dissected, is scheduled for 14 November, midway between the final two grands prix of the year.

We and our source await with interest to see whether any of those questions are answered.

Follow Dieter on Twitter: @RacingLines

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 53 comments on “Toyota, the collapse of CART and a vital lesson for Formula 1”

    1. I’ve mentioned this before, and would repeat it. Liberty are hamstrung in their ability to bring about fairer financial structures and technical regulations simply because right now, F1 needs Mercedes and Ferrari more than the reverse.

      And it does seem that this article (particularly the CART/Toyota bit) underscores the risk that Liberty runs if they take a hard enough stance that makes one of those big two reconsider their presence. Particularly with Mercedes having a foot in the door at Formula E.

    2. For me, CART was the most awesome top level open wheel racing series I ever watched, much better than modern F1. mid 90s to about 2001, before it started fading. Speed, competition, drivers, great tracks – road, track, street, oval. The cars were manual shift, heavy, 900hp powerful, high revving (to 15,000 rpm), FANTASTIC looking in shape, liveries, the sound was the best ever turbo sound, v8 turbo. Montoya was my favourite driver, He was the Ayrton Senna type driver, never forget his 240mph dual with Michael Andretti in Michigan 500 in 2000. This was at a time where the lack of overtaking in F1, only 2 cars able to win in F1 during a season – all that kind of talk about F1 was finally starting up, because of the internet just starting up (still goes on)… But there was none of that frustration watching CART, it seemed like pure racing, there were 3 or 4 engine manufacturers, including German and Japanese, and the chassis were all close. CART was billed as a World Championship, and they were getting there for a while, with races in Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada, later even Germany and England. It was a shame how it died off, and the poletics of the split with IRL. Im glad IndyCar is coming to the fore again with great racing, sound, race tracks, drivers.

      1. you just made me want to watch old CART races on youtube.

        1. The 2000 Michigan 500 is one of my go to races if I want to watch some great racing on my commute home… it was an absolute classic. It’s not quite the 1992 BTCC finale at Silverstone fantastic, but pretty darn good none the less.

          I’m going to have to watch both of these on the way home now…

      2. Comment of the Month for kpcart. Exactly sums up my thoughts about that amazing period. Yes @geemac same here, and I sti find it as exciting as the first time I saw it, thanks in part to Ben Edward’s commentary – I’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT!!

        1. I actually surprise myself… by agreeing… ;)

      3. @kpcart stole the words from my mouth. I started watching motor racing on TV from 2000, and back then in India we had F1 and CART coverage, so I could contrast both of them. What attracted me to CART were the bumpier street circuits that made the cars more bouncy and exciting to watch than the F1 cars. But the major point of difference was the chassis design. CART was wide, low and smooth. F1 cars at that time appeared more like sledges, thanks to their narrow track, and the grooved tyres combined with the high nose were aesthetically revolting to say the least. Most people hate the movie Driven, but I just love it because of those attractive CART racecars. The liveries back then were also cool – you had the green Team Kool Green, the blue Players-liveried machine, the black Kmart Newman Haas machine, the yellow and white Shell-liveried one, the red with yellow lightning bolt Target Ganassi livery, and others. And the global footprint of the series was amazing. The fact that even Mercedes-Benz was one of teh engine manufacturers shows the global reach and appeal of the series. IndyCar has a long, long way to get to that level. To attract global sponsors, it needs to go global. And a single chassis manufacturer just isn’t good enough. We need more chassis and engine manufacturers, and for that IndyCar needs to go global again. Even NASCAR is thinking of having en exhibition race in Surfers’ Paradise, and IndyCar is just restricted to North America. In fact, Formula E is now emerging as the alternate championship choice for drivers and manufacturers. I know the electric powertrain is a factor, but Formula E also has a global reach. Despite all the talks of IndyCar attracting manufacturers post-2021, I don’t see anything solid happening.

    3. I think a comment in another post summed it up very well “ultimately F1 and Formula E will merge”. This is very true, if the ICE is on its way out as non relevant road technology then at the moment electric cars are the replacement. If manufacturers want to showcase their tech and sell cars as a result being in FE makes sense. The only problem with FE is that tracks (whilst scoring high on the green scale for environmentalists) are low on the thrill seeking public who crave, Monza, Sap and Imola to name but a few. If and when FE gets on par with a hybrid ICE and electrics then the jump will be made to merge the two, but for the time being F1 does need the manufacturers more than they need F1. After all it was after the first concorde agreement ended that a rival series to F1 was touted and could do again if Liberty plays hardball.

    4. Another great article, but once again I don’t understand the claim that car manufacturers are essential to Formula 1.
      The drivers and the constructors are the lifeblood of the sport, and fact that the teams are constructors who produce their own cars means that the cars are the main performance differential. Apart from recently and in the 1950s, it has never been a manufacturers championship. Sometimes a team is owned by a manufacturer, but if they leave then their team can be taken over by a independent constructor, like happened with BMW-Sauber and Honda/Brawn.
      You are suggesting that F1 would fail if a manufacturer left, and obviously there would be some negative impact, but would the loss of sponsorship etc not be offset by the other ways F1 makes money like hosting fees and TV rights? I doubt CART had similar revenues from these areas, and by the early 2000s it was basically a spec series with only two chassis manufacturers, so is F1 really in as much danger from a manufacturer walkout?

      1. The sport needs the manufacturers mostly for their engines though @olliej – that is also stipulated in the article – if they leave and take their engine supply with them, no privateer is going to be able to race. Even if they wanted, it is doubtfull the remaining manufacturers would be able to supply enough engines to have the whole field able to race. And off course it would mean those manufacturers then get even more sway …

        1. @bascb They could use spec engines like in F2, F3 etc. Obviously this would have costs, and the conservative fans would be up in arms, but if a manufacturer left and the alternative was Formula 1 collapsing completely, it might be the only option.
          This would actually be my most desirable outcome. The series would still have the fastest drivers in the world, and the teams would still build their own cars to provide variety and performance differential, so it would still be Formula 1.

          1. It would mean they have to build completely different cars @olliej. The chassis would have to have a far larger fuel tank, that would mean completely different weight distribution, different suspension, gearboxes etc. Apart from the cost, that would also be a huge leadtime to do.
            Pretty sure about half of the teams in F1 wouldn’t be up to the task.

        2. So change the formula in such a way that it doesn’t require millions of pounds/road relevance to participate?

      2. @olliej, there has been a reasonably high level of manufacturer presence throughout the history of the sport – Porsche, Honda, Aston Martin, Cooper and Matra (which was a wholly owned subsidiary of the automotive manufacturer Simca) in the 1960s, Alfa Romeo and Renault in the 1970s, whilst in the 1980s pretty much the whole grid used engines from manufacturers (Alfa Romeo, BMW, TAG-Porsche, Renault, Honda, Ford).

        The 1990s was much the same as well – Honda, Ford, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Renault and others entered the sport – and, as they withdrew, the sport saw dozens of teams collapse.

        That era also demonstrated that it might be rather optimistic to hope that independents will step in – when you look at the grid in 1990, two thirds of the teams on the grid were gone by the end of the decade, not including the teams that popped up in between and then vanished. Independents aren’t necessarily going to be that more durable than manufacturers – in the history of the sport, most of those teams have only had an average lifespan of a couple of years.

        The other aspect is that you seem to be assuming that there would be no knock on impact either in other areas, which is questionable. Circuit owners, and increasingly the governments which support them, might baulk even more at paying the historic level of fees if they feel that the series is losing prestige and interest, media organisations might refuse to offer the same level of fees they’ve paid in the past if they feel the series was downgraded in some way, drivers might start to question the series and start moving elsewhere, especially if they feel that other series are on the up – I suspect those negative impacts are going to be felt quite a bit more widely than you think they would.

    5. ”14 November, midway between the final two grands prix of the year.”
      – To be precise, the midway point between the final two GPs of the season is the 18th of November actually, which is halfway between the 11th (Brazilian GP race day) and 25th (Aby Dhabi GP race day) days of the month.

      1. @jerejj, one good pedantry deserves another; Do you not consider the possibility that the 1st. day of a GP is as good a day to calculate from as the last, or second last if you are a team member packing up on Monday ?

        1. @hohum Yes, I see your point, but still, I always consider a gap between any given two chronologically consecutive races to be the gap between the respective race days although, yes, one could also calculate it based on the gap between the respective practice days, for example. For me, the way of calculating the gap between the race days is the simpler option.

    6. Interesting article, and definitely information that F1 should heed. A few things hit me at first blush though. Liberty has entered this game likely with eyes wide open and have only just gotten started. While of course it is prudent to consider the ages of some of the key players, I would have thought they didn’t sign on for this knowing they were about to retire. I would imagine they will be around past the time when Liberty has many things sorted as they envision. It just hit me as a bit strange to already be talking about their exit when they’ve only just begun, but fair enough anyway, nothing wrong in considering that.

      I think Brawn has spoken of issues such as the importance of keeping the manufactures happy and in F1. I was surprised that he has been ignored when it is stated above that Carey and Co have no such relationships with team principals that BE had. Indeed Brawn has those kinds of relationships and Liberty were brilliant to hire him for that very reason.

      Regarding the lessons from CART, yes absolutely, points taken. Let’s also consider the huge damage that Tony George did to open wheel racing in NA when he took his Indy 500 venue and created his own series around it. I know that was a big turnoff for me. The IRL cars sounded like open wheel NASCAR cars and looked ‘cheap’ to me. And we are talking about a market size that is tiny compared to that of global F1.

      Bottom line for me, the concerns raised above via the comparison to CART’s demise don’t have me concerned for F1’s future, and I would not at all be surprised if Liberty aren’t well aware of what went on there.

      1. Good comment, @robbie , especially about Liberty quite likely already having learnt from CART.

        It just hit me as a bit strange to already be talking about their exit when they’ve only just begun, but fair enough anyway, nothing wrong in considering that.

        I think the point being made is that with them at/past 60, their continued involvement is purely out of their interest, and they are entitled to “pull a Rosberg” when they feel like it. Also, bear in mind that this point was made by Dieter’s source who is an investment advisor, so I think this point is relevant more from the perspective of investors in FWONK, and not as much to the teams/fans on the racing side.

        Indeed Brawn has those kinds of relationships and Liberty were brilliant to hire him for that very reason.

        Very nice point. I think the only counterpoint how involved (and how well received) would Brawn be in the sort of wheeling-dealing that Chase Carey is doing? Brawn’s remit is more aroudn the technical regs. Also, from a seniority standpoint, would the late Sergio Marchionne have sat down to a meeting with Brawn, or would he prefer the putative head of F1 – Chase?

      2. One thing F1 has going for it today is that there is not a rival destructive force such as Tony George employing a scorched earth winner take all war against it. Especially when TG had the crown jewels of US motorsports in his bag of dirty tricks, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500. He used this to divide and conquer US open wheel racing. Successfully, but not without considerable collateral damage from which IndyCar is still recovering.

        So, keeping or losing the interest of manufacturers is crucial regardless of the cause for F1, but at least much of outcome is up to how successful Liberty are in their stewardship of F1. If they were to lose Mercedes or Ferrari it certainly could create a negative momentum. But, at least FE is not the IRL, in intent or direct competition. If Mercedes were to opt for FE instead of doing both series it would likely be a business decision more than a result of being caught up in a war. It is difficult to imagine Mercedes opting for all electric, at least for now.

        Certainly humans can learn much from history. If, they choose to first study, then act to avoid repetition. It seems Liberty is studying their history lessons and that is a good sign.

      3. @robbie I’m not sure they actually dis come in eyes wide open. I’ve seen many instances where businesses are bought and apparent due diligence didn’t cover off any of the meat of the business but rather focussed on balance sheets.

        I can’t help get the feeling that their thought process was “If an old man in his 80s can make money from this will absolutely clean up”.

        Given that none of the senior management (pre Ross Brawn) actually knew much about F1 or motor racing in general, I’d also very much doubt that the CART experience was known to them at all.

        My guess is they’ve had a bit of a rude awakening after Ross joined and has been able to give them some education, but there’s still signs that they don’t necessarily grasp the importance of maintaining some of the marque manufacturers if they want F1 to continue. Its particularly worrying that the teams feel the need to have private meetings – that in itself suggests that “something” may not be all that well in the relationship between teams and Liberty.

        All we need now is for a few people like Ross, Ron Dennis etc to pool their funds and connections to start a breakaway series……..

        1. @dbradock Can’t say I have the same vibe at all. While I know you are right that many companies don’t do their due diligence well enough ahead of a purchase, I’d be surprised if many multi-billion dollar deals happen that way, and certainly I don’t recall any articles implying they’ve jumped in way over their head, or have been surprised and discovered this that or the other once having the reins.

          As to a breakaway series? I’d say no way, not going to happen. There’s no great strife going on, just relatively minor differences of opinion, but all seem quite on board for 2021.

    7. Well timed and well written article, there is a lot of reporting around Mercedes and their drop in profits recently. The Diesel scandal is not helping either. Given how much they have won already and waning interest in Formula 1 in Germany wonder how long would the board and the supervisory board support the money they spend in Formula 1. The 2021 regulations will play a big role in my opinion on whether Mercedes will stay in F1 or leave

      1. I agree with your comments… but… I’m not sure how important is the ‘German interest’, on its own.
        I seem to recall reading somewhere that MB’s major market is/was North America, and second is/will-be SEAsia…

    8. Brawn’s remit is more aroudn the technical regs. Also, from a seniority standpoint, would the late Sergio Marchionne have sat down to a meeting with Brawn, or would he prefer the putative head of F1 – Chase?

      But that is the point isn’t it. Ross Brawn knows at a very senior level what both Ferrari and Mercedes want out of F1 and has the ability to shape the technical regs to give both companies what they want at a board level whilst trying to level the playing field. It is Chase Carey’s job to sell that ‘vision’ along with its own commercial rights package to the teams. So what you suggest happens, happens anyway.

    9. In previous eras, regulations would be brought in to neuter a dominant team’s advantage.

      Innovations would be made illegal the following season.

      Allowing Mercedes to dictate to the sport has given us a situation where Mercedes have completely dominated the sport for 5 years and I can’t see that changing until at least 2021.

      Bernie sold Liberty a lemon.

      People are only realising now how hard a job Bernie had and how well he executed it. Incredible how he had governments paying in the region of $75 million to hold races at one point.

      1. My understanding is that it was Merc, Ferrari, RBR, and Mac who were handed the power by Bernie about ten years ago in order to placate them when they got disgruntled. Merc just happened to nail their Pu for 2014 and beyond, and the token system helped them keep that grasp on dominance.

        And in the one hand you are complimenting BE for the job he did, and yet calling what he sold Liberty a lemon. If it was a lemon, then he didn’t do a good job at all. Well at least we do know what kind of a job he was interested in over the last ten years…a big money grab for himself and CVC.

    10. “F1 has identified the USA has a major growth area, in particular targeting the east and west coasts.” Seems strange that the current F1 race is in Texas then (although, granted, Austin has a pretty good reputation among east/west coast people), and potential future races in Miami/Las Vegas, neither of which truly fit the east/west coast target demographic.

      On succession plans: “It’s simply good corporate governance, and while plans may exist, surely these should be shared.” Wouldn’t that dilute his authority?

      “[…] whether there needs to be an even greater emphasis upon manufacturers, because that will bring in more younger viewers and spectators?” Why would that be? You could just as easily make the opposite argument. No offense to Dieter, but recently in F1, I often get the feeling that “attracting younger viewers” just gets used as an excuse for whatever is currently in the self-interest of whoever is calling for it, no matter how little the two are connected.

      1. “…recently in F1, I often get the feeling that “attracting younger viewers” just gets used as an excuse…”
        It always seems to me to be a euphemism for: “We don’t know what else to do…!”

      2. @aesto Liberty inherited the location of the current US GP, and wrt the east and west coast idea, surely those venues don’t have to be right on the water so they? If you live on the US west coast or thereabouts Vegas would be extremely accessible, as would Miami be if one lived on the east coast or thereabouts. You’re splitting hairs.

        In sharing plans? I agree they should have to disclose everything they are considering until they have some pretty solid sense that said plans have some merit. That’s why everything is in discussion mode. I’ll take that over BE dictatorship any day.

        As to attracting young viewers, I’m pretty sure all sports are needing to and actively doing that as we speak. It’s not some fake catch phrase to placate people. It’s a real thing and something Liberty has said all along…they need to keep the existing hardcore audience and they need to grow interest in the youth category for future audience. Is that not just sensible and prudent?

    11. Formula 1 is a formula, i.e. a set of technical regulations. Whether or not a commercial rights holder of a championship run to that formula goes bancrupt shouldn’t matter much. Maybe it would even solve problems, such as the participation by lots of teams who aren’t there for the racing, but for the marketing-effects.
      After a bancruptcy, someone else makes a new series to those regulations, privateers and enthusiasts enter, corps like Merc (who do not belong into F1 anyway) stay away, and F1 is a lot better. Commercially smaller, yes, but a sport again, and not a show.

      1. @crammond, There are a huge number of motorsport series that were major series at the time, but have long since vanished – series such as Formula 5000 or Can-Am were as big, if not even bigger, than F1 was at the time, but they vanished entirely.

        There are dozens of series that were once pretty high profile racing series where the effect of the manufacturers pulling out was usually the fairly rapid death of the series, or at best a slightly slower and more protracted decline into that eventual collapse.

        1. That’s kinda the point, the series may die, but the sport does not. We still have open-wheel-racing, sportscar-racing, etc., nothing of that ever vanished. Whether it’ll still be called F1, someone will race the fastest open-wheelers to go around proper bends and corners, and they’ll likely prefer the already existing great old circuits.

          1. @crammond That’s my thought on it too. If F1 stops, we’d have 20 drivers, 10 teams, lots of staff, commentators, empty TV slots, trucks, wind-tunnels etc all sat there doing nothing. It wouldn’t be long before they were all in a new series except, it’s be a fresh slate without dodgy, unfair bonus payments to certain teams, long-term contracts at bad tracks and rules decided to keep manufacturers happy as opposed to creating a great formula that excites everyone.

            1. Let’s not make it sound like if F1 imploded a new series would just pop up like dandelions in the spring. So easy to say from one’s armchair, no?

    12. Mr. Tony George I want to bring more American racers to IRL ruined Cart.

    13. No doubt all these corporate-level relationships are crucial. But arguably, Formula 1 also needs fans, more of them and younger ones in particular. Not sure about others, but I have recently completed several surveys that came my way, and few were aimed at basically probing how much extra I would be willing to pay for things ranging from various F1 apps though helmet camera footage or historic footage to informed commentary. To use the very impressive term Sean Bratches used in this very space couple of weeks ago, the priority seems to be to MONETARISE everything that should really be included in the regular TV package…especially if you are serious about attracting and growing loyal fan base.

      1. This is the thing I see.

        Liberty bought F1 thinking it was a money tree, and are now focussed entirely on how much money they can screw out of the punters before it collapses.

        I too was appalled at those same surveys as the entire thread was “how much would you be prepared to pay for……”

        I’m pretty sure none of that gets shared with the teams so it’s little wonder the teams are meeting in secret.

        1. DB-C90 – Can’t disagree with any of this…

          1. Can’t agree with any of this. A survey is meant to feel people out. If the results come back overwhelmingly ‘I am not willing to pay another penny’ then that is the info with which they proceed. Perhaps we should examine all of Bratches words (I haven’t at this point) but are we sure he said literally ‘our aim is to monetarise everything.’

            1. Of course he did not say exactly that, and I did not mean to claim so either. His words were along the lines that there are unexplored opportunities to monetarise…

    14. What’s overlooked in this article is if it weren’t for Tony George starting a rival open wheel series (IRL), CART IndyCar would have still been going. Toyota wouldn’t have had anywhere to go. The financial aspect would have been resolved, and CART would have surpassed F1.

      What would happen to F1 if a rival series started and stole Ferrari? The same thing that happened during “the split” in America.

      1. Quite sure even if CART had remained intact they would not have surpassed F1. F1 is global, CART, IRL, and IndyCar are/were North American, with the odd ‘global’ race. The sizes of the markets are not comparable. Even CART which was the best form of open wheel racing in NA, was quite spec compared to F1, therefore much much less expensive to play in, and much less innovative. But no question the racing was great in CART.

      2. if it weren’t for Tony George starting a rival open wheel series (IRL), CART IndyCar would have still been going.

        I don’t agree – they were also looking to move into NASCAR at the time. They’re still there.

        Though you’re quite right and there’s no doubt that the split was a significant factor which is acknowledged in the introduction, it’s just not the focus of this piece.

    15. This is the sort of article I crave on the internet… and one of the main reasons RaceFans is now my No.1 ‘go-to’ for all F1 info…
      And also to see what Dieter is eating this week… :)

      1. …and how much legroom he enjoys. Or is that one only on twitter?

        1. I know nothing about “enjoying legroom” – and too many connotations to go into at this time of night… :-)

          1. Well, according to the pictures Dieter posts on twitter, he had some good luck with airplane seating on his travels lately… ;-D

            1. Hahaha… Well, someone has to be upgraded… unless You’re a Thai pilot… ;)

    16. I reckon F1 needs manufactures more than manufacturers need F1 simply because of the engines. I imagine a scenario where F1 doesn’t have Mercedes, Renault, Honda and Ferrari (also a manufacturer), with no other engine manufacturers willing to commit to F1 and you see the importance of these 4 to F1. It’ll be suicidal for liberty to play hardball with them as it stands right now in a bid to woo others.

      1. So it’s a good thing they aren’t playing hardball with the teams then, as they seem quite on board.

        1. Yes quite my point.

    17. Superb article!

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