F1 risks becoming a ‘Mickey Mouse series’

Date published: February 21 2018

Michael Schumacher’s former manager, Willi Weber, has warned Liberty not to turn Formula 1 into a “Mickey Mouse series” after recent changes.

Although Liberty had no control over the introduction of the Halo, which was an FIA directive, the owners have come in for criticism after opting to remove grid girls from the races.

And Weber has criticised both governing bodies for the direction in which they are taking the sport.

“This ugly roll bar (Halo) ruins the cars,” Weber said. “Safety is important, but that was a mistake by Jean Todt.

“That there are no more grid girls is also a sin. They provided the necessary glamour.

“The new owners have to be careful not to turn Formula One into a Mickey Mouse series.”

Weber also revealed that he had heard no update with regards to Schumacher’s health, but hopes further news may not be too far away with the opening of a Schumacher car collection in Cologne in April.

“Unfortunately I have not heard from Corinna [Michael’s wife],” he added.

“Michael’s accident is four years ago now and we all know it was not a broken leg.”

“Maybe then [in April] we will learn if he is feeling better.”

Brown: F1 politics could take centre stage

Date published: February 19 2018

Zak Brown says it is only a matter of time before F1’s politics hit the headlines as the negotations over the 2021 regulations become heated.

New owners Liberty Media face a trying time over the coming months, and even years, as they look to progress Formula 1 as they see it versus what the teams want.

This has already seen one team threaten to quit with Ferrari’s Sergio Marchionne saying last year that he won’t let the Scuderia continue to play if “we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognisable sandbox.”

And that is likely to be just the start of the headlines.

Although F1 boss Chase Carey has urged the teams to keep all negotations, and their thoughts on it, behind closed doors, Brown reckons it is going to make for some “exciting headlines” in the times to come.

“Chase has repeatedly asked us in meetings if we can keep our negotiations behind the scenes but as you all know media is a powerful influence and in negotiations it can play an important part,” Brown said. 

“We probably won’t achieve this nice and quietly behind the scenes.

“People need to recognise every sport goes through this and recognise it is a politically-charged environment. 

“I think sponsors and people in the sport need to take comfort in the fact that we will get it done as we always have.

“You’d rather have channelling the great news of a new owner who is investing in the sport and we are going to have a new deal in place and they are focusing on the fans. 

“I hope people can focus on that while the noise of negotiations goes on but that will make some exciting headlines in the process.

“We’ve got great ownership moving the sport forward and that is what I hope the fans focus on over the noise of negotiations.”

Brawn: ‘Liberty are putting the fans first’

Date published: February 18 2018

F1’s managing director of motorsports, Ross Brawn, believes Liberty are bringing a change in philosophy to the sport which sees the fans put first.

Liberty have wanted to re-connect the fans with the sport ever since taking over from Bernie Ecclestone in January 2017, but have received criticism of late for the removal of grid girls and changing a logo which many felt did not need to be changed.

But, nevertheless, Brawn believes Liberty are approaching their ownership with the right mindset and warned that it would take time for the full effect to be felt.

“I think what has changed is the philosophy,” Brawn told British Airways’ Business Life magazine. “The philosophy now is that the fan comes first.

“We want to produce the greatest spectacle in sport in the world,” he added.

“It will take time to establish all the information we need. To do all the analysis and then start to complement changes that we believe will make the sport greater.

“That’s a two-, three-, even five-year cycle.”

Brawn is also in favour of Liberty taking a proactive approach to running the sport, as opposed to simply reacting once an issue arises.

“There was a tendency for there to be a very reactive style,” he added. “There’d be a drama or a problem and everyone would get together to try and solve it.

“But that’s not how you’d run a [Formula 1] team.

“You’d run a team by trying to forward plan, trying to evolve, trying to develop, making evidence-based decisions.

“F1 had never really evolved or developed around those principles,” Brawn added. “I sat there at home watching F1 thinking that there was a better way of the sport evolving.”

League table, relegation for grand prix venues?

Date published: February 16 2018

Give the huge interest in hosting F1 races, Ross Brawn would welcome a league table that could result in circuits being relegated if they fail to deliver.

Since taking over as Formula 1’s owners at the beginning of last year, Liberty Media have been looking at various ways to improve the show.

While Brawn has already spoken of potentially changing the format of grand prix weekends by doing away with a Friday practice session, it seems the race circuits may not be exempt from the shake up.

“The crucial thing is the quality of the race. There’s no value in just putting the number of races up,” Brawn told Business Life magazine.

“But if we can provide great races in great locations throughout the world, then we should consider it.

“I’d love to see in the future a league table of races, where over time we’ve got a waiting list of top-class circuits and promoters that are waiting to get into Formula 1, and then if there’s any race that is not working well, you relegate that and put a strong race in.”

‘Very active’ talks about Miami Grand Prix

Date published: February 15 2018

McLaren chief Zak Brown has revealed that Miami could well be the second race host in the US, with “very active conversations” taking place.

Liberty have made no secret of the fact that they want to extend the race calendar and further tap into the North America market with a second race in the US.

New York and Las Vegas have been named as potential destinations, but Miami could be emerging from the pack as there are plans in place to host a live event similar to the one in London last year with a view of adding a second US race further down the line.

“The festivals will be big, they are definitely happening,” Brown said.

“But I’d be surprised if we can get it done for next year just because of the infrastructure which would need to be built up.

“But l think it’s definitely a pre-cursor to another race in North America and they are definitely very active in conversations around Miami. It’s definitely warming up America and that market.”

ESPN to use Sky Sports for F1 coverage

Date published: February 14 2018

ESPN will use Sky Sports F1’s presentation of Formula 1 for viewers in the United States when the season gets underway in March.

This year ESPN replaced NBC as the US broadcaster of Formula 1 in deal that was announced last October.

Details of their coverage emerged on Wednesday with ESPN revealing that it wil carry commentary from Sky Sports F1 for all 21 grands prix through 2018.

These will be broadcast on ESPN and ABC.

“We are excited to work with the Sky Sports team,” said Kate Jackson, ESPN coordinating producer, motorsports. 

“Their coverage of F1 is second to none and we look forward to bringing their expertise and authenticity to our audiences.”

Scott Young, Head of Formula 1 at Sky Sports, added: “We are delighted to be working with ESPN and ABC, and with this partnership extend Sky Sports F1’s award-winning coverage overseas. 

“Each season we look to find new ways to improve the broadcast and entertain our viewers and this year will be no different.”

Current Azerbaijan GP deal is ‘unacceptable’

Date published: February 13 2018

Organisers of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix are hoping for a vastly improved deal if they are to extend their current contract with Formula 1.

Baku has been on the Formula 1 calendar since 2016 and provided an absolutely bonkers race last year, sparking the title rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

But, after this year’s race, negotiations will be held between the two parties, and Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sports, is seeking better terms before an extended deal is signed.

“Within three months after the Grand Prix, we must give an answer to the leadership of Formula 1 about whether we will extend the contract for another five years until 2025,” Rahimov told Tass news agency.

“Everyone understands that the contract we have now is unacceptable. I think the new leadership of Formula 1 understands that as well.

“We are talking about a number of commercial conditions, sponsorship rights and the price that we pay.

“But I think both ourselves and the leadership of Formula One have the desire to leave the race here.”