The acquisition of F1 by Liberty Media has provided renewed hope for fans far and wide that the sport can be drastically overhauled and improved. Yet many fans of other sports have also perceived a bright new dawn with new owners only to be disappointed when all their talk proves to be cheap.
Liberty media are currently in danger of talking up a storm of ideas for F1’s renewal but delivering little or nothing in the short, medium and possibly even the long term.
For the racing purists, Ross Brawn brings hope that DRS will be abandoned and bring an end to ‘fake overtaking’. In an interview with ESPN Brawn said that DRS “artificially solved a problem that we didn’t want to tackle head on.”
This is all well and good, but given many of the drivers said during Barcelona winter testing that this year’s cars now are harder to follow, a design solution needs to be agreed quickly because the technical regulations for 2018 will be cast in a matter of weeks.
A more typical polemic from Brawn and F1’s new CEO Chase Carey, is the suggestion the fixes for F1 will only be longer term. “I know from experience that F1 tends to be reactive,” Brawn told the BBC. “It has a problem, it reacts and tries to find a solution, but very rarely has the vision of looking forward three-to-five years and deciding where it wants to be”.
This is predominately the sentiment expressed over the topic of F1’s funding of the teams, given the contracts drawn up by Bernie only cease at the end of 2020. But is this drawn out timescale really a good enough aspiration form Liberty Media, particularly as the sport has recently been losing a team each year?
Brawn told La Gazetta during winter testing that he feared that “acting quickly could be counterproductive”.
In reality, were Liberty Media minded so, they could exert pressure on the bigger teams to relinquish their arrangements with the commercial rights holder early – using an old fashioned Bernie negotiating trick – by offering a new deal that will be better than the one they get if they wait.
The problem for modern Formula One is that the base cost of building a car, attending 21 races and being competitive has risen with a massive disproportion to the amount of money the teams can raise independently of their FOM prize money.
This is clearly why teams keep going bust.
Manor F1 were hardly extravagant and wasteful with their resources. The car would appear race weekend after race weekend with little or no noticeable modifications because the team couldn’t afford the cost of the raw material carbon fibre.
The entire monies CVC paid to the teams in 2016 was £965m according to Autosport. So were Liberty Media to suggest that the next commercial arrangement with the teams will grant all 10 an annual payment reflecting the ‘cost to compete’ – this will leave little or nothing for ‘historic team’ payments or performance prize money.
Now that may wake up the living dead – and force them to smell the roses.
In the meantime, the 2018 regulations are set to be agreed in the coming weeks. What is to stop Liberty Media and the FIA agreeing for example a front wing design restriction similar to the engine number rule? Each team can only use say 5 front wing designs for the entire 2018 season.
With majority voting applicable before the 30th April, the FIA and the commercial rights holder can start to curb the excess in F1 team spending – if of course they have the will power to do so.