The new powers of F1.

Since the news struck yesterday that Mr. E isn’t our F1 supremo anymore many reports followed about how Formula One will, finally, turn a page in its long history. Ecclestone will be replaced by Chase Carey as Chairman and CEO of Formula 1.

Today the same Carey announced the appointments of Ross Brawn as ‘Managing Director of Motorsports’ and Sean Bratches as ‘Managing Director of Commercial Operations’. Both are newly created roles within F1. Effectively making Ecclestone’s “one man job” a threesome. Cary will be the one who’ll do anything on the business related side of the sport. Where as Brawn will handle anything FOM related, the more technical and sportive aspect of F1. Bratches on the other hand will be in charge of something that might benefit us at thejudge13’s towers the most. Anything media and social media related will be his job. Seeing that he has a big expertise in that field already, we can be a bit hopeful. I know I am not the only one who’ll  (happily) pay a few dollars more in order to get a quality (live) stream. Which brings us to the commercial side of Formula One. Mr Bratches will be handling that too. It’s rather impressive to look at his result in the past, how he built ESPN to the brand it now is etc. If he’ll bring that attitude to F1, this might be the change we all hoped for.

The big question of course will be ‘How will they work together, amongst the three of them, when their field of expertise crossover to each others?‘ Something which is bound to happen. And, furthermore, something in which none of them has previous experience. Which brings us to the point as to why Mr. E didn’t got the boot, but merely got a “new” job without any of his former powers.

Mr. E always believed F1 would only work if it was ruled by a dictator. It would be the way he ruled over the sport for nearly 40 years. And he would not be wrong, a one man show has certain benefits. But at a certain point the show might become too big for one man to handle. Or at least that’s what they want us to believe now. The reason why they appointed three men instead of one is just that. An effort too big for one man. An effort that should be handled by a bigger infrastructure. One with clear divisions and clear instructions. With the guideline: ‘Three men do more than one.’

For now we should certainly give them the benefit of doubt. More and more companies work this way. Look at the teams themselves, none of them has a firm leader anymore. Not like, for example, Enzo was back in his day. If he spoke, they’d listen. And his word was final! Now there are three, four or five men who have a certain position in the infrastructure of a team, the hierarchy, and they decide for their department. But for big decisions it’ll always be a “team effort”. Such is the modern way of things. So by taking that route, Formula One perhaps did just step in to the future.

However, the three of them still can do things on their own, or with just two of them if they want. Brawn won’t be the one who’ll sit around the table for TV deals or deals made by grand prix promoters. That part will be for Chase and Bratches. Brawn will have a word in which places he’d like Formula One to race, for the quality of the track/the race. But the business side of this isn’t his field. However it’s clear Brawn will be the one who will be present at Strategy Group meetings, since that’ll involve the technical and sportive interests of the sport.

The big question towards Brawn will be what he really can do before the current Concorde agreement is over. Which will only be in 2020…

Commercial contracts, money distribution and the decision process (like the Ferrari veto etc.) are regulated by the agreement until then. Will Brawn be able to do anything solid against possible crises?  According to the man himself he wants to be more than a fire fighter, jumping on anything regarded as (even the smallest) crisis. He wants to start working today on how he wants to see the sport in 2018, 2019, 2020 and so on. He has said he’ll be creating a little group of experts –I’ll put my money on the name of Stefano Domenicali btw- who’ll be able to share their ideas and proposals on ‘How to make the sport better’ with him. Such a group is something that doesn’t exist at the moment.

One thing Brawn absolutely wants to do is to preserve historic venues. Because some races are the DNA of Formula One. Cutting them would mean to cut in F1 itself. Grand prix such as the one in Germany or the one in Britain should always be on the calendar.-Naturally Germany doesn’t have to expect a miracle for 2017, since the calendar is final. But 2018 should be doable.- Whether it means to give certain benefits to some or to have a look at how the venues earn their money.

Carey on the other hand wants to talk to the teams about a budget cap. –Talk about aiming for the stars.- As we all know Max Mosley couldn’t do it. This is something that requires all teams on-board. But Carey feels up until now people always said it won’t work before trying anything serious. And by serious he means that it should be a well prepared plan, with actual rules. Something that has been researched, tested and, not least of all, talked through with everyone involved. –I’ll say this: if he pulls it off, I feel he’d get the respect of a lot of people. This is a big one that won’t come easy. For me, at this moment, he might have overdone it on his promise talk. Like many political parties do all the time.

The big thing is that teams want to win races but the FIA wants a sustainable series. Meanwhile we, the fans, want good races. That is the only thing we ask. Will the three men be able to combine these factors? They won be able to make any half decisions like the qualification debacle we had this year. And if they make a change they’ll need to have the balls to stick with it. I still believe the qualification format could have been something great. If it could have been worked out properly, that is. 

Furthermore we’ll be having radical changes on car design in 2017. Will they actually bring the change in racing we hope for? Many of us think not. What will Brawn do then? This will be a massive challenge for him, if you ask me. Of course I hope it’ll make things more exciting (and I’m trying to be hopeful) but I’m a cynical person. But I won’t make this article too dark. I really hope Brawn can pull it off! I really hope Carey can pull it off! I really hope Bratches can pull it off! F1 can’t afford to fail anymore.

6 responses to “The new powers of F1.

  1. By separating roles, more people get involved, also on the teams’ side. This means less room for ego which in turn means more room for reasoning and chances of succes for new ideas.
    It could just work.

      • I hope your correct El Heffay.
        The flip side to your comment is that too many cooks spoil the broth.
        It’s a common problem in modern democratic governments and big business which is crippling many of them at board level due to no positive outcomes from more and more meetings, arguments of defiance, expensive junkets and opinionated egos. All of them have a view to meet certain personal and business agendas.
        When you factor in these 3 guy’s appointed Deputies, their Personal Assistants, Admin staff, consultants etc, F1 is now going to have approx 10 people at the top being privy to, and having input into, making the big decisions. Let’s hope they all get along famously and have tight lips that can keep things in-house until the issues at hand are resolved and passed as solid new plans, rules and regulations.
        Strategically leaking things to media and outsiders in the digital age is rife. If it happens, it will be the death of this regime very quickly because F1 has always revolved around well guarded secrets and clever white lies to keep the ravenous wolves at bay.
        Having many bosses means a democratic, slow process where you can only ever please some of them sometimes … never all of them every time. This creates far too much discussion, indecision, tension, divided allegiances and ultimately, despair at not having fixed the problem at hand or implemented changes in a timely manner.
        That’s why Bernie’s dictatorial reign worked for as long as it did. One man, one decision, instant action … NEXT! Ever since he was forced to relinquish some of that power, we have seen first hand what has F1 turned into. It’s a tangled, over-regulated, procrastinating mess!
        I, like everybody, hope this is the REVOLUTION F1 needs … not just another EVOLUTION that provides 100 temporary little bandaids to patch up gaping long-term wounds!

        • “too many cooks spoil the broth”: that is a real danger too. But they sould all be convinced F1 needs to be exciting to watch.

          Revolution: I am always up for a good revolution, you could even support mine 😉

  2. I find myself largely disagreeing with this article. Sean Bratches didn’t build ESPN to what it is today, ABC / Disney’s power did. And once streaming and alternative rights models appeared, ESPN started bleeding subscribers and from what the people I know at ABC have told me – money as well.

    What most people who comment on the Liberty purchase seem to forget or not understand, is that Liberty have bought the commercial rights and nothing else. They didn’t buy F1 because you can’t buy it. F1 is regulated by the FIA not Liberty. This isn’t NASCAR where the France family do own the series and can change whatever they want. Liberty can’t mandate any technical changes such as changing the engine spec. Nor can they stop the FIA from aggressively promoting what are in effect competition to F1 such as Formula E.

    Two of the three people now running F1 have zero experience in any form of motor sport. They also have no experience knocking heads with company’s like M-B, FIAT and Renault who collectively have revenues over $200B per year, and who if they really wanted could easily break Liberty. The third, Brawn, was a once highly respected F1 engineer, who honestly seems to have been selected for his name and is really low man on the totem pole. He’s not the honest broker attempting to fix the technical aspect of F1 but trying to get the teams to adopt Liberty’s vision.

    I’m not hopeful that Liberty change much. Management doesn’t impress me. They have the same motivation as CVC -which is making as much money as they can. And I have a sneaking suspicion the model they think will work is NASCAR. Good luck trying to get Ferrari / M-B / RB / McLaren to give up their side deals, because I don’t think Liberty can. And focusing almost exclusively on Ferrari’s payments isn’t what I would call a smart move. Marchionne knows the value Ferrari are to F1 and if you try and corner him he could easily walk, turning Liberty into a penny stock.

    We’ll see, but I think in a couple of years F1 will be no better or worse than it is today.

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