The F1 teams feel the upcoming regulations set for 2021 season and beyond will be a litmus test for the new owners Liberty Media.
There has been some rampant changes put in by Liberty Media so far in the sport – especially in the marketing side of things but come 2021, it will be their first time for an all-round change whether technical or commercial.
While the technical side of things gets dictated by the engine manufacturers, the commercial side is political with the finances involved. A key factor is the disparity between a top and a midfield team in terms of their budgets.
For years, F1 has tried to push for a set budget but it has failed thus far to implement it. Liberty Media though sounds confident of pushing it through but in pockets rather than get it in the sport straight up and disrupt the functioning.
The teams as well think that the regulations beyond 2020 will be a key test to understand where Liberty Media stands with the sport. “I think Liberty have obviously gone through a learning process,” said Red Bull Racing’s Christian Horner.
“They’ve had to understand what they’ve bought, what is Formula 1 and I think that there are many aspects that are easier than previously. They’ve invested heavily in marketing the sport, they’ve put on promotions, roadshows.
“They’ve opened up digital platforms, social networks etc to bring new eyeballs into the sport. They’ve introduced e-sports, so they’re exploring new territories with Formula 1 [which wasn’t before].
“[But] I think the key element for them going forward is not so much the promotion, which they are proving to be well-equipped with, it’s what the product is and I think that’s what the key part now to the success moving forwards is, what are those regulations for 2021 going to be?
“What does Formula One look like over the next ten years? And obviously there’s a responsibility on Liberty and the FIA to get that right.” His sister team Toro Rosso’s boss Franz Tost agreed to Horner’s sentiments.
“Their decisive job is, as already said, to create the new regulations and to bring Formula One into this new period and then we will see how good they are working from 2022, 2023 onwards when the new regulations are really on top,” he said.
“They are quite well organised, they are very experienced people within FOM and together with the FIA they should be in a position to sort out all the smaller problems which Formula One, especially on the starting field that everything is more on an equal level and also on the money distribution and of course, also that the revenues stay on the level which was the case in Bernie’s time.”
For the teams, the main goal is to make the drivers heroes again and they feel that the technology should be a supporting act rather than play a key role. “F1 ultimately is a show, it’s an entertainment, and to be entertaining the racing has to be good.
“The drivers have to be the heroes and I think we need to improve the spectacle of what we currently have. I know a lot of work is going into trying to create cars that are easier to follow or promote better racing.
“Of course technology has a role to play in that but it shouldn’t be the predominant factor, it should be a complimenting factor, and I think if you get the ground rules and the shape of what the product should be and then the other elements will fit in with that.
“So, we’re relying very heavily on Ross Brawn and his group and the experience that he has, together with the FIA, to come up with a set of regulations, both technical and sporting, that deliver the product, that deliver the spectacle and obviously the commercial terms that are allied with that will follow.”
Tost insisted that the gap between the top and the midfield pack has to be trimmed down and allow more drivers in the mix for the fight to be on the podium. It is something Sauber’s Frederic Vassuer agreed as well.
“For sure it’s quite obvious that we need to improve to improve the show,” he said. “That Sochi was a race with less than five overtaking, if I don’t consider the two Red Bulls, but you won’t start from the back very single weekend,” he said.
“And now for the target for the second part of the grid is to avoid to be lapped, more or less. Even when you are the first of the second pack, success is when you are not lapped. I think that we would have to find a solution to allow talented drivers in a small team to be not too far away from the podium in exceptional circumstances.
“We are far away from this. We saw in Russia that even though Ricciardo and Verstappen started from the back, after 25 laps they were five and six or something like this. We are not racing in the same competition.”