While I have been relatively vocal about the impact the F1 Strategy group and individual team agendas have had on the sport of Formula 1, I will admit that the appointment of Ross Brawn as a technical delegate for the commercial rights holder side of the equation has me somewhat perplexed.
The FIA is the regulatory body of F1 and I am intrigued as to how they see this new task force that Brawn is assembling. There is no doubt that fans will appreciate the efforts of Brawn, the mission of the group he is gathering and the potential outcomes but where is the FIA in all of this? Brawn told Autosport:
“We’ll have some experts, industry recognized people, working within FOM, who I think people will respect,” Brawn said.
“It won’t be a big team, just five or six people, but there will be enough capacity with my experience and knowledge to be able to create and get a proper reasoned argument for what we want to do and have an input into the process.
“What I want to make sure is that, over time, there is always a consideration for the quality of the show and the racing and its cost.
“So there are some boxes that need ticking every time we make a decision in Formula 1.
“There may be a very strong sporting consideration where, for the integrity of the sport, it’s a decision that has to be made and I understand that.
“But there will be other decisions where someone holds up a flag saying, ‘Have you thought about what the fans will think, how much it will cost or if there’s been a thought about the impact on racing?”
As I say, there is no doubt that Ross has the right intention and the overall goal is to safeguard Liberty Media’s investment by improving the series for the fan and entertainment value. There are probably few fans who don’t see this as a big plus.
On the flip side of the coin, the FIA have the F1 Strategy Group in which they have six votes as well as FOM (Liberty Media) in which to move the sport forward. The issue here is that the teams have had too much impact on the direction of the sport and it has all been done under the guise of self-preservation and road relevancy—both of which haven’t produced the most exciting racing or cars.
There is also another beast lurking under the calm waters of the F1 Strategy Group. It’s easy to see where the teams have had a heavy hand in the direction of the sport but the FIA itself, and in particular, Jean Todt, has ushered in an agenda of sustainability, hybrid power and road relevancy formulas intended to lure and keep manufacturers in the sport. Whether you agree or disagree with the agenda, it has had a negative impact on the sport.
Brawn seems to be looking for a simplified way of improving racing at an affordable price and increase the entertainment value while Todt says that the mobocracy will not accept going back to a normally aspirated V8 or V10 engine and says that hydrogen is way forward. That sounds very expensive.
While Brawn says the initial task is overtaking, I think he would do well to be heavily involved in the conversations about the formula and regulations for 2020 and in particular, the engine format.
The V6 turbo hybrid has been an engineering marvel and outrageously expensive to create. Three teams lost their lives over the very notion of making road relevant hybrid engines a centerpiece of Formula 1. Serious consideration will have to be given for 2020 and beyond but with Todt at the helm, I suspect a strong push for hydrogen or a modified V6 turbo hybrid solution will be his goal and this will be supported by Manufacturers so how will FOM and Brawn handle the elephant in the room?
Perhaps much of this is being crafted behind the scenes as we speak. Perhaps Chase Carey is authoring a new Concorde Agreement for 2020 that will abolish the F1 Strategy Group, tie FOM more closely to the regulation creation of the sport and remove the heavy hand of hidden agendas via teams as well as the FIA. With Ferrari already on board as a shareholder, they may have a very powerful ally in which to usher in serious changes.
The FIA have been very quiet about their thoughts on Brawn’s role and what their feelings may be about the commercial rights holder getting entrenched in the regulatory oversight of the sport. I think Brawn’s words have been carefully crafted to suggest that his efforts are purely from a commercial standpoint but in time, Liberty Media know that attaching the health of their investment to a group of teams and an independent regulatory body is not a safe harbor and knee-jerk reactions only dilute their asset further.
If I were Liberty Media and I spent $8b on a racing series, I’ll be damned if I would risk my investment by allowing a group of teams with agendas and a Frenchman at the head of an independent regulatory body decide the fate of my investment. Liberty Media is making the right moves and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Hat Tip: Autosport