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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

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Tom Firth

    Hmmm interesting.

    It’s not all that long ago that a space existed between the FIA and its motorsport management mandate, which Mosley dissolved in ’91 with the end of FISA. Are we going to see another level re-introduced which separates the FIA from direct management of its racing series, and is that level going to closer to MotoGP’s model, whereby the MSMA and IRTA and Dorna hold substantial levels of control and the FIM plays a more oversight approach?

    As Liberty seem to be following Dorna and motoGP’s model in most everything else thus far. This may be what is going to happen.

  • peter riva

    Barn door about to shut – but the (hybrid) horse has already bolted.

  • charlie white

    2020 will be a benchmark year in the sport’s history. Liberty, the FIA and the teams must come to terms on some type of agreement on so many issues.

  • Schmorbraten

    If anyone can bridge this gap to Monsieur Jean Todt, it’s Ross Brawn. They’ve been through a lot together, and Todt must know how smart and how professional Brawn is.

    • Salvu Borg

      yes, if there is a man that can, its Brawn, but in real effect it is just a lot of drum beating that is going on/being done, (1) in real terms, very little can be changed before 2020, (2) most of the changes being signaled by all this drum beating, will need the agreement of those on the grid/those that matter.

  • Junipero Mariano

    Since it’s Ross Brawn, I think he would not often find himself in the situation where the FIA and the teams were unified against whatever change initiative he’d like to bring about. All he would need is one faction or the other to agree with his proposals, and we could see signifigant changes in 2018.

  • Zachary Noepe

    why the confusion of engine cost and engine architecture? The V6 hybrids havent been a problem because theyre v6 hybrids its rather because they’re too expensive. I have to think cost could be managed without running environmentally unpopular 12 cylinders. Living in the past isnt the only path forward, in fact its not a path forward at all. And the US isnt the whole world, it’s less so that now than ever. The rest of the world isnt making asses of itself trying to relive its coal fired past and F1 can’t either. Note that even here our only race is in Austin, not Houston. This isn’t Nascar. I do really respect this site and its sense of history but there is a difference between respecting history and being unwilling to let it go. I hear more about Ron Dennis, Bernie Ecclestone and V12s on this site sometimes its a bit like 80s at 8 on the radio. Change is hard but the alternative is what museums are for.

    • MIE

      Martin Brundle made a valid point on the Autosport pre-season podcast. His objection to the current power units was the extra 100kg that the cars have to carry around for the ERS. Racing engines should be lightweight.

      It would start a further development war, but maybe if the minimum weight of the power unit was reduced we would eventually get improved racing. Teams would have to trade off power for weight.