It was in late September 2016 that Formula 1’s newest moustache made its first appearance on a grand prix grid, under the bright lights of Singapore. The naked glare of TV cameras followed every move made by the owner of said luxurious upper lip strip as he snaked between rows of F1 cars, each an unknown monster to the US America, each tended by groups working in perfect harmony.
A scathing assessment of CVC’s tenure in charge was provided by then-Force India team boss Robert Fernley in 2013. “They have raped the sport,” he said. “CVC have done an absolutely awful job. They are the worst thing that has ever happened to Formula 1.”
In many ways – and to many fans – Liberty’s acquisition of the rights proved F1’s salvation, although rebuilding the sport after CVC’s cynical ownership proved a tougher nut to crack than even the most optimistic Liberty board member could have foreseen at the time.
Consider: thanks to CVC’s revenue structure, which paid obscene bonuses to four teams simply to commit to F1 and didn’t give a hoot about independents, and an inequitable governance structure that permitted the majors to veto rules unless these played to their best interests, every independent team that signed up to CVC’s eight-year agreements in 2013 changed ownership under distressed circumstances during that period.
The net effect was that for 100-plus grands prix not a single team from outside this privileged minority managed to win a grand prix, a situation that prevailed for over six years. There can be no bigger indictment of CVC’s ‘custodianship’ of the sport, nor a better illustration of the mess F1 found itself on that humid evening in Singapore. “Is he up to it”, we asked ourselves as we traipsed along, intently observing Carey’s every twitch.
Rumours that a deal was in the offing surfaced during the Belgian Grand Prix a month earlier, then intensified during the subsequent round in Italy – where CVC’s head honcho Donald Mackenzie was, for a change, much in evidence. The reason for his presence soon became clear: to put about the story that Liberty was not the only bidder for the rights; that there was another syndicate in the running.
The word was that sports entrepreneur Steven Ross had put in a belated bid, in turn boosting the price. A source with knowledge of the process later told me that the owner of the Miami Dolphins withdrew after cutting a deal with Liberty, one that included the granting of rights to a Miami Grand Prix.
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
When this scenario was put to Tom Garfinkel, promoter with Ross of the upcoming Miami race in the Dolphins stadium, he said flatly, “That’s not accurate,” but would not elaborate. Either way, Liberty went to enormous lengths to make the race a reality, as outlined here previously, a scenario a Liberty insider described as “accurate”.
With its opponent side-lined, Liberty pressed on, and in late November it emerged that subsidiary Liberty Media Corporation had filed a Schedule 14A return, as required by the US Securities and Exchange whenever major changes to a listed entity are planned. The filing confirmed Liberty as the buyers of all shares in Delta Topco, which was effectively CVC’s F1 operating company.
Simultaneously Greg Maffei, Liberty’s president and CEO and thus Carey’s ‘boss’, wrote a letter to shareholders outlining the advantages of the acquisition. “The Formula 1 acquisition will enable Liberty Media to leverage its long-term perspective gained from investing in media and sports assets to help Formula 1 to continue to develop and grow the popular global sport that is Formula 1 racing and to take advantage of new opportunities created by increasing demand from broadcasters, advertisers and sponsors with access to mass live audiences,” he wrote.
“These new opportunities include additional commercial sponsorship partners, increases in promotion and marketing of Formula 1 as a sport and a brand, enhanced content distribution and expansion to new media.”
Through it all Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s diminutive master who ruled F1 with an iron fist wrapped in fire-proof gloves – first for his own account, then for CVC – put about that he had been offered a five-year deal to stay on, with others suggesting marketing entrepreneur Zak Brown was in the running. The latter, though, denied the story, telling me he was joining McLaren as CEO – which he did a month later.
At the time a US sports marketing consultant with close links to both Liberty and F1 doubted that Ecclestone would survive the take-over, offering this assessment of the operating style of John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media and its sister Liberty Global, and the largest private landowner in the US.
“There will be no sacred cows,” he told me in an interview for another publication. “Liberty will look at every aspect, from broadcast deals to weekend format, with the teams likely to benefit the most. They’ll look at it from an American perspective, which means NFL-type treatment of franchises [teams] and salary [cost] caps. All in it’s very good news for us teams, so for the fans as well,” he added.
He also predicted that Fiat and Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne and Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche would “stand no chance [against Carey], and Bernie will meet his match when push comes to shove.” In fact, he opined that Ecclestone would be gone by the  year’s end such would be the power struggle…
In the event he was out by three weeks, with Liberty on 23 January 2017 announcing completion of the deal, plus the executive structure of what was listed as the Formula One Group (FWONK) after Delta Topco was reversed into Liberty Media Corporation – with Ross Brawn taking on the managing director (sport) role, supported by Sean Bratches as MD (marketing), both reporting to Carey, then CEO and executive of FOG.
On his first official day in office Carey had taken the toughest decision of all by side-lining Ecclestone, effectively booting him upstairs by appointing the octogenarian as ‘chairman emeritus’ and adviser to the board – both being ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ roles. “If Chase could do that to Bernie without a backward glance the team bosses stand no chance,” the source said later.
Five years on, how has Liberty fared as custodian of a sport that thrives on passion? For starters, there are no doubts that F1 fared substantially better than predicted by cynics at the timer of the acquisition – but then CVC had set the lowest of low bars – but on numerous metrics Liberty still falls well short of (mainly its own) projections. Indeed, the perception lingers that Liberty was oversold F1’s short-term potential by CVC.
That said, Covid affected two of the five years to date, and one wonders whether CVC and Ecclestone could have salvaged the 2020 season to the same extent if at all. The pandemic also delayed some of F1’s plans, including the introduction of ‘new era’ regulations. In order to properly analyse Liberty’s performance since 2017 it is necessary to divide the F1 business into its constituent parts:
Although the FIA is the sport’s regulator, Liberty provided data-led input and concepts to the governing body and as such had a major hand in the processes for technical, sporting and financial regulations. Liberty cannot, after all, commercially exploit a product it has no faith in.
Covid delayed the new cars, so it is too early to judge their performance and potential for closer racing definitively, but the regulations were signed-off by the time Covid hit, so full marks on that front. The acid test will be 2022 on the chassis front, while power units have been largely carried over despite early promises to revamp them for 2021, with 2026 projected as switch over date.
Although on-track action is closer this year that is arguably a by-product of Red Bull-Honda’s improved performance.
Liberty promised to revamp weekend formats and has done so for 2022 – reducing the timetable to three days (even in Monaco!) and introducing sprint events, seven of which are forecast for next year. Parc ferme regulations have been tightened although along the way there were numerous hiccups – think reverse grids.
While sprint events may work for certain promoters and broadcasters and theoretically enables F1 to eventually schedule fewer race weekends there are no doubts, though, that the concept has not found universal favour, particularly among RaceFans readers.
Signing Aramco at the beginning of last year is a big-buck deal but F1 has fallen far short of projections in this regard, having initially touted advertising as low-hanging fruit and a major growth area. Crypto was signed this year as sprint sponsor, but for the rest it’s been lean pickings apart from regional partner Workday and, of course AWS as computing provider.
While Covid affected hospitality, this particular product in any event needs a total overhaul, as do licensing and merchandising activities.
Liberty managed to salvage a 17-race season and is on track to hit 22 rounds this year despite Covid but has failed to add new events apart from returning oldies (France and the Netherlands) plus a few that recently stepped into the breach. Headline addition Vietnam dropped out, expansion in Asia is stagnant, an African race is far off despite constant discussions – the latest this week – and Miami took four years to get across the line.
Arguably Liberty’s biggest achievement was the Netflix deal – ironically sealed by Bratches, who left thereafter – which opened doors across the globe, provided additional exposure for sponsors and teams, and attracted new audiences – many of whom became converts. Off the back of this, interest in the USA has rocketed. Equally, the quality of presentation of the global feed has improved massively.
Against this some of the AWS data seems an excuse to flash a logo. F1 TV Pro is a massive disappointment despite improvements in this area. Once projected as Liberty’s big revenue spinner, the fact that numbers are not disclosed is telling. Broadcast contracts have been renewed lucratively or alternatives signed, but Liberty needs to bag Sky TV at the same (or better) rate come 2024 to maintain credibility in this area.
Another massive achievement was the signing of the 2021-25 Concorde Agreement last August despite the machinations of Mercedes (in particular), which in turn introduced a more equitable financial and regulatory playing field for all. Although the ills of the past are likely to take three to four years to wash out of the system, the significance of the agreement should not be underestimated – save for one aspect (below).
If there is a negative to the Concorde it is the $200m ‘anti-dilution’ fee, which effectively precludes new teams from entering. What was Carey thinking when he accepted this proposal from the major teams? Ironically the sport is now bending over backwards to attract VW Group as engine supplier yet does everything in its power to dissuade teams from joining.
Having driven the signing of the Concorde Agreement, Carey handed over his CEO role to Stefano Domenicali. This marked a high point as F1 again has an F1 ‘guy’ in charge, one who is undoubtedly right for arguably the toughest job in sport The American, though, continues to oversee FOG as non-executive chairman.
Telling, though, a number of high-level heads recruited during the early years departed, including Bratches and heads of department in marketing, broadcasting and research. It seems that F1 was not for them. Against that, most F1 ‘lifers’ have remained (or transferred from elsewhere in the sport), suggesting that F1 should look internally rather than recruiting on the basis of impressive curriculum vitae.
There was some cosmetic changes such as the introduction a new logo and creation of an official anthem. Grid girls were replaced with Future Stars and the We Race as One campaign created in response to drivers’ concerns over, among other things, the lack of diversity in the sport. How far will the effects of these changes endure?
A significant shift in the sport’s future direction was prompted by sustainability studies which led to F1’s pledge to go carbon neutral by 2030. These are all steps in the right direction and one wonders whether CVC and Ecclestone would have introduced similar projects
Liberty has done an admirable job under trying circumstances, and F1 could undoubtedly have fared better but for Covid. The commercial rights holder laid a solid foundation for a new era despite coming into the business cold. It is all too easy to overlook that too Liberty F1’s culture was foreign and its global fan base most unlike that of US sport franchises such as the Atlanta Braves – another of Liberty’s assets.
It has built a solid base for the future, and that is in itself praiseworthy. Roll on the next five years – the end of which coincides with the sport’s next new formula.
- The year of sprints, ‘the show’ – and rising stock: A political review of the 2021 F1 season
- The problems of perception the FIA must address after the Abu Dhabi row
- Why the budget cap could be F1’s next battleground between Mercedes and Red Bull
- Todt defied expectations as president – now he plans to “disappear” from FIA
- Sir Frank Williams: A personal appreciation of a true racer
37 comments on “What has Liberty achieved in the five years since it arrived in Formula 1?”
6th October 2021, 12:25
F1TV Pro is much, much better this year (as written), but still have some major issues:
– Stability: Sometimes, it just crashes. Especially when using ChromeCast.
– Controls: It might seems like a small thing, but not copying the “double-tap to go x seconds back/forward” is incredibly annoying when you just want to quickly see what happened. It’s pretty damn hard to go back a bit on a hour-long timeline.
– Sky Sports commentators. It’s not that they’re bad (okay, they are), but mostly that they’re often doing and showing their own things not shown on the feed, which can be annoying. Especially when it’s blocking important broadcasts. Good thing the Pitlane Channel exists.
Oh well. For ChromeCast and controls, both are a case of “At least it’s possible now”. ChromeCast support is new, and seeking in a live stream wasn’t possible before. So it’s going in the right direction, but I don’t understand why it took so long, it’s not like any of these things are new technologies.
6th October 2021, 13:26
@losd I can’t speak about F1TV Pro as we don’t get it in the UK (If we did i’d immediately cancel my Sky subscription as F1 is the only reason I still have it) but we do get F1TV Access & that for me has been really disappointing.
The archive content that is there is good but given how much footage they have going back to 1981 & the fact they made a big deal over buying access to the Brunswick archive there should be much more there.
The way they update it is also disappointing as they rarely add to it (Last update to the archive was I think in May) & when they do they don’t let you know. There’s no ‘recently added’ section, There’s no routine schedule so you know when to expect new content & there’s no mention from official channels. It’s left upto fans to spot new updates & add it to shared spreadsheets and twitter feeds. I think Indycar have added more classic races for free on Youtube this year than F1 has added classic content to it’s paid for subscription service & that’s wrong in my view.
I don’t necessarily expect everything to be added immediately but a more regular stream of archive content (Be it full races, Extended highlights, Reviews, Documentaries or other special programs) would be much appreciated.
7th October 2021, 18:52
Its actually a lot better when using Race Control. Ive had no issues at all, you can run multiple windows and the quality is fantastic!
6th October 2021, 17:56
@losd The lack of more controls F1TV is a huge pain, but luckily somebody has made a fix for it with a front end called RaceControl: https://github.com/robvdpol/RaceControl
6th October 2021, 22:17
@balue That is cool!
Unfortunately, I mostly watch by streaming to ChromeCast from my phone, so it won’t really help me, although I’ll definitely install it for those rare cases when I watch from my PC.
Here’s to hoping F1TV gets around to implementing standard controls for next year.
7th October 2021, 13:02
Yeah, I almost always watch on the Pitlane channel too for the commentary team there @losd.
6th October 2021, 13:01
The first few years of Bernies ownership was pretty well received as well. The jury is still out on what Liberty plans and the ‘Americanization’ of F1 I think is a mistake and will shrink the audience. The rules concerning design and engineering freedom is of concern as well. They’ve already shown that they will deal with anybody so a Kabul GP is probably on the cards :))
Liberty’s next test the new PU deal and it’s approach to 2030.
6th October 2021, 21:06
F1 was going the way of the dodo, now it is going the way of the tik tok. F1 is not better, the new rules are the ultimate test.
6th October 2021, 13:04
I will contend that when you are usually required to wear a branded dress shirt with your name embroidered on it, you’re not even in charge of your own wardrobe, much less Formula 1.
6th October 2021, 20:15
Excellent observation. I’m yet to meet a real leader that has a dress code.
6th October 2021, 13:14
I’m very torn on Liberty because while I do agree that they have done some positive things including many which were listed in this article, But on the other hand as i’ve said before recently they have a vision for F1 that i’m mostly not onboard with & it’s starting to increasingly feel to me that the direction F1 is heading in isn’t one I want to follow it down.
I’m broadly in favour of the budget cap, Was when Max Mosley proposed it in 2008/2009 & still am today. However I strongly dislike the way it’s been introduced along with more restrictive regulations & less technical freedom. I always preferred what Max Mosley once suggested which was a budget cap with more open regulations.
I’m strongly against the sprint format, Not just the sprint race itself but also the sprint weekend format (I went into more detail on why a few days ago). I think 23+ races is a few too many & I dislike the amount of double & triple headers the increased number of races has brought about.
It’s things like them pushing so hard for reverse grids, Apparently seriously discussing success ballast which was also a question is a recent survey they put up on F1FanVoice. I don’t like how much more restrictive the ’22 regs appear to be, I don’t like the engine freeze, I’d rather engine development be more open with different configurations & ideas allowed, i’m not keen on the sliding scale wind tunnel time & I also dislike the idea of them shutting concepts which they don’t like down as quickly as possible. A lot of that stuff is for me simply not F1, It’s taking a lot of things I like about F1 & stripping the out or scaling them back & that concerns me.
I said not too long that i’m more down on F1 than I ever have been before. I still enjoy watching the cars, I still enjoy the racing but i’m just super down on everything else & with the dislikes for me now starting to outweigh the likes I can honestly see myself starting to disengage from F1 in the next year or so.
F1 frog (@f1frog)
6th October 2021, 14:00
@stefmeister I agree with you on almost all of this. I like the budget cap, because I think winning in F1 should be less about having the most money and more about having the most skilled people in the team (obviously then the richest teams could buy the best engineers, designers etc. but the budget cap still reduces the domination of money). I also think F1 has become more exciting in the last few seasons, but I’m not sure that is necessarily down to Liberty. For me, the biggest positive of Liberty’s takeover has been the scrapping of grid girls, as we would definitely still have them if Bernie was in charge.
But I agree that they seem to have a vision for F1 that is not a good one. The entire introduction of the sprint races has been done in an utterly disgraceful way (claiming it’s just a trial, then bringing in a massive sponsor even before the first one, then claiming it had ‘overwhelmingly positive feedback’ when in fact I believe around 70% of fans were against it. And now having effectively declared it a success and announced more for next year when the trial hasn’t even finished yet, and has so far not been shown to be a success). I too am fearful that reversed grids and success ballast will soon be introduced in a similar way, as it seems Liberty are more keen on having a wider, more casual fanbase than having fewer, more dedicated fans as F1 has had in the past. These things would definitely end F1’s title as the ‘pinnacle of motorsport,’ which is something they really should be looking to protect. You mentioned the survey on F1FanVoice. For me the worst part of that survey was the question, ‘does F1 have spectacular crashes?’ If F1 ever tries to increase the number of spectacular crashes to please a few sadistic ‘fans’ who we’d be better off without in the fanbase anyway, that will truly be the end. Unlike you, I am not at all close to giving up on F1, but I certainly think it may start to be overtaken by other motorsports if Liberty do indeed take it in the direction of reversed grids etc.
Right now, we are in a golden era of the sport and most of the issues are with things that have not yet been introduced, so if Liberty adopted an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset I would be very happy indeed. But it just doesn’t look as though they will.
F1 frog (@f1frog)
6th October 2021, 14:07
I should mention that I do think Liberty have been very positive so far (apart from the sprints, of course), and as I said, we are currently in a golden era. Almost all my objections come from what appears to be coming in the future, so if I am wrong and Liberty do not mess with perfection (almost – the dirty air effect still needs changing, hopefully the 2022 cars will solve this) then I will say they have been extremely positive.
7th October 2021, 1:14
@stefmeister I too agree with what you’ve said and I’m reassessing my subscription and indeed my attendance at races each year.
I’m prepared to give it another year or so but fear that things are definitely turning away from the things that I find exciting and interesting about F1.
Having said that I can’t pour too much anger at Liberty – they bought a white elephant for a ridiculous price – Bernie’s final “up yours” in getting that price was probably his finest moment. Prior to that I thought that a company I used to work getting conned into paying a huge price for a supposed cash cow (it wasn’t even close) was the best I’d seen but the price paid for F1 as a cash cow completely eclipsed that. Stuck with an overpriced product, they had to turn to bean counters to get them out of their mess and that’s never going to get their best result.
Liberty have done one great thing – the cost cap, something that should have been brought about years ago, but the complete dumbing down of the ability to innovate worries me almost as much as the heavy push for more races, the spring abomination(s) and this idea that things needed “spicing up”.
The link up to netflix – definitely has added more “interest” from some sectors but I’m not sure that will drag in more true fans to actually watch/participate – I suspect they’ll be the sort of fan that’ll maybe have a look at a highlights package at best but more likely wait for the next season of DTS for their fix.
I suspect that it will survive in 1 form or another but whether that form will be something for me or you remains to be seen.
Aussie Rod (@aussierod)
6th October 2021, 13:34
Interesting article. I agree with the sentiment that Liberty’s ownership has been largely positive in trying circumstances. I cannot begin to fathom the mess that CVC and Bernie left behind.
The new revenue distribution and salary cap will dramatically alter the sporting aspect for the better in the years to come and is probably their biggest achievement.
Drive to Survive has been a huge hit and a massive shot in the arm for the sport. Their youtube content and highlights packages are of the highest quality and connect with both the history of the sport as well as millions of new or casual fans.
The biggest negative is the constant desire to ‘improve the show’ and quite radical changes to the traditional ‘Grand Prix’ format.
They should simply let the salary cap and revenue system play out to level the field a bit more, let the drivers be the stars that they are, let the new cars do their thing and ultimately the new engines too. A bit more grass and gravel on the side of track would be nice.
There’s dozens and dozens of small things I would love to change if I were gifted the power of Bernie, but all in all I’m quite happy with Liberty’s first five years.
6th October 2021, 13:46
This article – with a few minor exceptions – reads a lot like an advertisement for Liberty…
6th October 2021, 14:00
Red Pill (@redpill)
7th October 2021, 2:24
6th October 2021, 14:15
The things I appreciate about Liberty – better equity between teams, move towards online streaming + Youtube highlights, more engagement in setting the rules – are more reflective of CVC/Bernie’s failures than of Liberty themselves. When it comes to their future vision, I’m concerned that F1’s uniqueness and historical value will be steamrolled to make a more marketable product.
Sprint races, more street tracks in “glamorous” locations, and extending the calendar beyond 20 races all point towards Liberty’s willingness to forsake traditions in order to transform the sport. To an extent we shouldn’t revere traditions just for the sake of it – if someone proposed champagne with silly music on the podium for the first time in 2021 they’d be laughed at! But of all sports I’ve engaged with, F1 has the most illustrious and enjoyable heritage, and I fear that’d be changed irreparably if Liberty’s long-term vision was implemented.
Then again, when have we ever not feared this?
Andy Bunting (@wildbiker)
6th October 2021, 14:24
Any chance Race fans could make a vote poll for Sprint race format?
F1 now run by bean counters is a recipe for decline in fans.
No free to air, especially in UK decimated the fan base. Return that & win thousands of F1 fans back.
6th October 2021, 18:58
Hard to picture FTA coming back.. not for the commercial agreements with Sky but the technology is dated and costly, I can sooner see a free “F1TV app” becoming available with the ability to watch last week’s race on demand with the option to upgrade to F1TV Pro and watch all past races + live coverage.
6th October 2021, 14:37
An interesting post.
My view is similar to others. LM has fared decently well since the takeover. Some things they could’ve/could handle better. Hopefully, things go in the right direction moving on.
6th October 2021, 15:10
It’s difficult to judge them fairly at the moment. Things like putting highlights on Youtube and creating documentaries about the sport are great but it’s really what anyone who understands how life works these days would do. They’re replacing someone who said “I don’t care if kids watch F1 because they can’t afford Rolex watches….”
Therefore, I’m trying to ignore the idea that they’re an improvement on what we had before. It’s like saying a slap in the face is better than a kick in the balls.
It’s very clear that they want to increase the viewing figures and it doesn’t matter to them how that’s done. Like it or not, the total number of views across a weekend with a Sprint race will be higher than one without so they’re calling that a success. Time will tell whether these changes get accepted by fans or whether it remains as something fans hate.
Overall, I think the lack of a decent competitor to F1 will ensure that whatever changes Liberty make, it’ll end up remaining as a successful sport that they can make huge amounts of money out of. If the next gen cars are as good as they are hoping, they’ll be able to change whatever they want and retain fans. If we get another era of easy domination and processional races, they’ll have to focus a bit more on the long-term fans to keep hold of them but either way, it would be hard to not grow the sport from how it was being run before they came in. Better to judge them in another 5 years.
John H (@john-h)
6th October 2021, 15:22
Personally, for many of the reasons given in the article, I think they’ve done an admirable job in the circumstances. The handling of the pandemic was excellent imho, they managed to get the 2020 season going when many were calling for the year to be axed. I have to admit at the time to thinking it might be.
However the honeymoon period is over. The sprint races and quest for short term Americanised solutions is troubling my soul I must admit. Maybe it means that I’m getting old, not sure, however some of the contracts they have signed recently are troubling – it’s not only the sporting side. Only time will tell.
6th October 2021, 15:32
I shudder to imagine what F1 would have been had Bernie still been in charge. Whatever one might think of Liberty, and what justified criticism there might be. We can all be glad Ecclestone is gone.
One of the most positive changes Liberty has actually made compared to Bernie is allowing drivers and teams to actually have an online presence in the paddock. Not just FOM’s own social media pressence, but things like McLaren Unfiltered and it’s like, drivers on Instagram, the sheer amount of personal insight into the operation of the teams has made it a much more entertaining sport with personalities you can root for.
I also think the sport greatly benefits from having stable leadership that didn’t dance to the whim of the day for all these years. Yes, there have been minor rule changes, even sprint races, but nothing close to randomly changing qualifying to an eliminator style at the last minute, only to have to revert back two races later and being left with nothing but mockery.
6th October 2021, 15:37
Tried hard to come up with a clear, outstanding positive, but can’t really come up with anything, sorry. So, I’m not too positive.
Annoying music and completely useless or even plain wrong info metrics on screen during the broadcasts, the impossibility to go to the official F1 site without having to accept cookies and/or without individually clicking page after page of those apparently ‘ligitimately’ interested in your being there, are just a couple of the simplest things I could do without.
Ecclestone always just did as he liked, but Liberties is exactly the same, with this sprint thing. And I have zero doubt they’ll introduce reverse grid as well. As a test at first, ofcourse. In Ecclestones favour, he was a lot more honest about things.
The number of teams, the rule changes during seasons, the engine format, the engine suppliers, the gadgets and gimmicks, (fan-boost, anyone?) well, we’ll see how it turns out, but I’m fully prepared to turn away from the sport that I’ve been following for so many years. And it was fun, but if it will stay fun? Change happens, and that’s ok. I’m blessed with an abundance of other things I can do with my time, should I choose to not stay on board.
Roger Ayles (@roger-ayles)
6th October 2021, 15:47
I think that by making F1 more prescriptive, Development & innovative thinking more limited & going down a pseudo spec Indycar+ model it’s going to end up doing a lot of harm for the sport.
Take WRC’s Group B, Sportscars Group C, Touring Cars Group A, DTM & CART/Indycar as examples.
Each of those categories grew to the most popular periods in their respective histories when regulations were more open, Competition between manufacturer’s & other suppliers encouraged & when things were for lack of a better term at there most extreme because that is what drew the interest.
Each of those categories then declined when for differing reasons those elements were taken away, restricted & marginalised because the ‘extremes’ that drew crowds in were gone & what was left was less of a spectacle.
F1 got to where it is based off many elements that are like those categories I listed been restricted or taken away. If you take away much of the development, Much of the innovation, Much of the ‘extreme’ element to the overall spectacle then it’s no longer F1 & becomes something closer to the Indycar+ label I have opted to give it & at that point if stops standing out above everything else, It stops been viewed as the pinnacle & it starts to decline in popularity.
The closeness & competitiveness of the racing or how possible overtaking is isn’t what draws people into F1 & it isn’t what retains them. If that were indeed the case then why are the many other categories that may be more competitive & may feature ‘better racing’ more popular than they are? Because the racing & ‘entertainment’ alone isn’t the primary hook, It never has been & likely never will be. Yes of course having competitive racing where genuine overtaking is possible without gimmicks is a great thing, But again it isn’t the primary hook.
I think back to my introduction to F1, To the sport as a whole. I didn’t become hooked because i’d seen some really competitive race with tons of overtaking (It was actually quite a static race), I got hooked & became enthralled because of the speed of the cars, How different they all looked & how spectacular the visual of watching the cars going around Brands hatch was. That was the hook & it was that along with the design, development, competition & constant push for the extremes that kept me hooked for nearly 50 years & it’s that element which also hooked my kids & some of their kids.
I love F1, I love the SPORT but the push not just in F1 but in the sport overall towards performance equality, Towards removing competition & going towards spec components with little/no development on cookie cutter modern circuits that all share the same design traits, Which all look largely the same is really testing that love of the sport because it’s starting to feel like more like a show than a sport which is stripping away virtually every element of it I have loved over the years.
Roger Ayles (@roger-ayles)
6th October 2021, 15:59
One more thing regarding the sprints.
I saw Stefano give an interview on Sky where he went on about how great 23 races would be & he wants 7 sprint weekends next year.
I then saw all of the key Sky on-air talent tweet about it using virtually identical wording & all praising every part of everything Stefano had said. The only one who moved away to a degree was Karun who said he thought 23 races was too many & they should cut back to 18/19.
There are no alternative voices anymore as it almost seems like Liberty get all broadcasters to just tow the party line publicly.
The Motorsport Broadcasting blog even brought it up.
John H (@john-h)
6th October 2021, 16:30
Top notch comment @roger-ayles. Agree with everything you’ve said here, very well put. Pretty much sums up my own feelings on the subject and how F1 is valued. Everything I see that AWS graphic stating “overtake probability” a part of my soul is lost.
Green Flag (@greenflag)
6th October 2021, 16:14
F1 has regressed under Liberty. The cars have become too similar, and too heavy, with worse to come next year. Rules and stewarding are much too uneven, and sprint races make a mockery of qualifying and racing points. On the plus side, the F1 logo is a distinct improvement.
6th October 2021, 16:31
“each an unknown monster to the US America”… Easy on the hyperbole there, Dieter. Let’s not pretend F1 descended on Austin in 2012 like some extraterrestrial invasion…
6th October 2021, 16:34
This certainly does feel like Liberty’s order of priorities. Sprint qualifying (not a race) is but the latest example of this – I have yet to meet a fan who thinks it is a worthwhile replacement for the purity of a single fast lap on the very edge or a casual viewer who isn’t entirely confused as to what it is, but the broadcasters, advertisers and sponsors presumably get more value out of it and want more for next year.
6th October 2021, 20:01
Five years already!!!
7th October 2021, 1:03
I’m sorry, but I can’t take the no benefiting a particular team part seriously whatsoever. I never thought I’d say this, but to some extent I miss Bernie although he wasn’t great. The main aspect that I wish they kept from him was the hands on aspect to ensure better competition. I’m not sure how much of a hand in the 2017 regulations that Liberty had, but they were the dumbest changes ever made up until the 2019 ones which made the racing even worse while removing most of Mercedes weaknesses. Also, certain teams getting paid more hasn’t changed either so I don’t understand why they talked about that as if it would be changed?
They’re philosophy of not changing the rules to let the best team is inherently flawed since each rules will significantly advantage certain teams and by not changing them you’ll let 1 team dominate for years as we’ve seen with Mercedes. One of the only good things about Bernie is that at least he changed the regulations up to stop one team from having a sustained advantage. He also didn’t care about how the cars looked or how fast they were (given they were faster then other series) and gave the teams design freedoms. Implement these factors and I’m sure a lot of fans will be happier. They’re at least not corrupt or biased to certain teams which is a huge bonus and why I think they’re better then Bernie, but they should look at how he made F1 a lot more entertaining to watch. Ironically by trying so hard to not benefit any teams, they’ve done exactly that and it’s led to Mercedes having the longest sustained dominance. Hopefully, they learn from these mistakes.
7th October 2021, 11:06
Thanks again Dieter for explaining the F1 cluster of sport, money and marketing, of which you seem to have an unusual understanding.
7th October 2021, 18:50
In my opinion Liberty didn’t do a to bad job up to now. The cost cap and online presence being the most positive parts for me. And hopefully the new technical regulations for next year are an improvement as well.
But let’s not be naive. Liberty are in it for the money. They overpaid for a basket case and now desperately need to improve the figures before they can sell it on to the next CVC/Liberty…
For that they need the mainstream viewer, not the RaceFans geeks. Reverse grids and fan boost are on its way…
8th October 2021, 9:58
Even if I had not read the byline, I would have known that this was a Dieter Rencken article. “It was in late September 2016 that Formula 1’s newest moustache made its first appearance on a grand prix grid, under the bright lights of Singapore. The naked glare of TV cameras followed every move made by the owner of said luxurious upper lip strip as he snaked between rows of F1 cars”… Only Dieter can begin an article so poetically. Bravo Dieter!
Comments are closed.