Raikkonen: ‘Too early’ to judge Liberty

Date published: December 12 2017

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen believes it is too early for an accurate assessment of Liberty Media’s time in charge of Formula 1.

Liberty are approaching their one-year anniversary since taking over from Bernie Ecclestone in January with the general consensus being that they have made a good start in modernising the coverage of the sport and getting fans more involved in the spectacle.

But some decisions such as the driver announcements in Austin and the unveiling of a new Formula 1 logo have not been too well received and neither has their blueprint for the future of Formula 1.

Raikkonen, though, says they can only be really judged when that change in direction eventually comes.

“They are trying to make it better, easier to follow and more involving the public,” Raikkonen told Auto Hebdo.

“But it will only be in a few years, when the new regulations are in force (in 2021), that we will really see the impact of their arrival.

“I think they’re putting a lot of effort in, listening to everyone and asking the right questions. I think we’ll see if it has been good when we get the new cars.”

‘Rules should not undervalue existing teams’

Date published: December 12 2017

FIA president Jean Todt has said the post-2020 regulations for Formula 1 should not be weighted in favour of attracting new engine suppliers and teams to the sport.

Potential new suppliers in the form of Ilmor, Aston Martin and Cosworth have all welcomed the initial blueprint for the future revealed by the Formula 1 owners, but Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault have all strongly criticised the framework.

And Todt, who is beginning a third and final term as FIA president after an unopposed election, is siding with those who are currently investing money into Formula 1.

“What I feel would be unfair would be to undervalue the existing engine suppliers involved, and listen to those who may think they will come,” Todt said via Motorsport.com.

“For me, it is important in light of the existing situation to see what will be the best evolution of the engine for the future, but by respecting the investments of those who have made the investments so far.”

Todt has never been the biggest fan of the current turbo hybrid engines but believes they should provide the foundation for the future rather than developing a whole new concept.

“Clearly if you ask me what I feel about the engine – it has been one interesting exercise,” he added. “I think it is too complicated.

“I think it is too expensive. But it is probably a very good first step to go to a next generation of engine, which will be one evolution from what we have now.

“I am against starting on a completely new development of engine but I think we should take what we have understood with this engine and allow the actual manufacturers who have been investing heavily to be able to enjoy what they have been investing for the next generation of engine, and also encourage newcomers to come.”

F1 attendances up eight per cent in 2017

Date published: December 9 2017

Attendances at Formula 1 grand prix weekends are on the up again with an eight per cent rise on figures from the 2016 season.

Over four million fans attended races throughout the season which was the start of a new era of Formula 1 ownership with Liberty wanting to enhance the experience for fans and bring them closer to the sport.

The biggest surge in attendance came at Baku, with figures rising from 30,000 in 2016 to 71,451 in 2017 which represents a 58 per cent rise.

However, there were five races where attendances were down from 2016: Japan (5.84 per cent decrease), Russia (5.33 per cent), USA (4.61 per cent), the British Grand Prix (1.6 per cent) and Mexico (0.87 per cent).

Managing director Sean Bratches was nevertheless encouraged by the figures and reiterated Liberty’s desire to put the fans first.

He said: “The 2017 season was a great spectacle, on and off track, thanks to drivers, teams and, most of all, fans, the beating heart of our sport.

“An attendance of more than 200,000 per event means that for 20 weekends per year, the population of a medium-sized city visits a race track to watch to a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

“Our duty is to make each of these events even more entertaining to unleash what is the greatest racing spectacle on the planet.”

Next step taken in plans for second US race

Date published: December 9 2017

Formula One Management have submitted trademark applications for merchandise and other items that related to grands prix in Las Vegas, New York and Miami.

The owners of F1 have been very keen from the outset about adding a second race in America to the calendar and the Las Vegas Review Journal has obtained documents that suggest the plans to make that a reality are well underway.

It was recently revealed that a plan for a 2020 race in Miami which incorporated the PortMiami tunnel in Florida City had been under consideration, but that radical proposal has since been ruled out.

However, Miami is still one of the leading contenders to host a second US race.

“We are exploring a number of possible venues for Formula One Grand Prix in a number of countries,” said Luca Colajanni, senior communications officer.

“We have made no secret that we are looking for destination cities, and regarding the U.S., Las Vegas has been mentioned alongside Miami and New York.

“They are part of a number of cities worldwide who have expressed their interest in hosting a Grand Prix.”

Liberty consider circuit changes to improve racing

Date published: December 6 2017

Liberty Media have “engaged” some F1 circuit bosses to discuss changes that would improve racing; that’s according to Ross Brawn.

Following the bore-fest that was the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina circuit designer Hermann Tilke conceded that tweaks may needed to be made to the layout to ensure better racing.

The Yas Marina track is not the only circuit that could do with a few changes.

Brawn, though, has warned that not all overtaking leads to better racing, adding that he feels what fans really want is to see two drivers fighting hard for a position.

“The aerodynamic programme is now starting to pick up pace, and the work on circuit development is happening,” the F1 sporting boss told Motorsport.com

“We have already got engaged with some circuits about possible modifications to improve racing.”

He added: “We have started looking in our archives.

“Were there periods of racing where there was more overtaking? Are there tracks where there is more overtaking? So you can do a statistical analysis.

“The thing you have to be careful of is that overtaking isn’t good racing.

“You have got to start to think about what is good racing, and it is two cars fighting each other.

“It may mean the guy in front stays in front but you can have some great racing going on.

“It is a little bit more complex than counting the number of overtakes.

“What we are seeing so far is the ability to take different lines through corners is quite important to help racing.

“So if you have got a hairpin and it is a narrow track, it is not that great.

“If you have a hairpin and it is a wide track, where there can be some different lines going into it, then you can get something happening.

“Austin, I think, would fall into the category of a complex of corners.

“So you take a line on one corner going in, and then you start to force the defending car to start taking different lines.

“And then eventually you come out in the right place. That is what we are looking at.”

Brawn: Merc steamroller will continue in 2018

Date published: December 6 2017

Ross Brawn admits he’s worried that the Mercedes “steamroller” will continue on next season.

This year Mercedes claimed their fourth successive championship double as Lewis Hamilton raced to the World title while Valtteri Bottas helped the team secure the Constructors’.

It wasn’t, however, an easy season for Mercedes.

The Brackley squad were on the back foot at the start as Ferrari came to the fore.

But, as they got on top of their “diva” car, Hamilton was the dominant force in the latter half of the season, wrapping up the title with two races to spare.

And Brawn fears there could be more of the same come 2018.

“They’ve got a great group of people, but my slight worry is that they will get even stronger now,” he told ESPN.

“They’ve had a change of senior management – Paddy Lowe left and James Allison came – and that was in the middle of a car [regulation] change, which is not easy.

“By their own admission, the car they had this year was a bit of a diva and I strongly suspect that’s not going to be the case next year.

“So I just see – unfortunately in many ways – a continuation of the steamroller. Let’s hope I’m wrong!”

Bratches not surprised by criticism of new logo

Date published: December 5 2017

Formula 1’s commercial boss Sean Bratches says he never thought Liberty Media would be able to introduce the new-look logo and “sneak away unscathed.”

Liberty unveiled a new logo at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and were widely criticised for it.

Both drivers and fans alike aren’t impressed, feeling the old logo was the better option.

But rather than be unhappy about the criticism, Bratches says Liberty expected it.

“These are difficult changes – as it is any time you change a corporate mark, and particularly one around a passion brand,” he told Motorsport.com.

“The incumbent mark has been around for decades and it served the sport well. But we have not gone into this light-heartedly, and we have given it a lot of thought.

“It seemed from my perspective and from the moment Chase [Carey] called me, it was one of the things I really wanted to look at.

“From my eye, it [the old logo] seemed to be dated, it seemed to not reflect where the sport could go.”

He added: “People have an opinion. And it is good people have an opinion because they care. And, as the caretakers of this sport and brand, we feel very strongly about it.

“And ultimately we will demonstrate to the marketplace that this brand will survive and thrive.

“We understand in any logo change, whether it is a small modification or wholesale, people are going to have varied opinion.

“And that is good for the sport. Everybody has got an opinion in F1. I didn’t think we would sneak away unscathed on that one.”