McLaren Racing chief Zak Brown has opened up to several changes in F1, which ranges from calendar to testing to governance and more.
In a long column on the McLaren website, Brown had opened up on multiple topics. He reflects on the past year, where the sport and the world was challenged hugely. He feels, they managed it well in the end, with F1 staging 17 rounds in all.
But going forward, Brown has multiple changes he would like to see. Apart from talking about the sustainable steps and opening up the market through Netflix, the American talks about opening up the calendar to various new markets in the world.
In fact, Brown feels that the calendar should have about 15 fixed venues, while the remaining to be altered accordingly. Additionally, he wants testing to be held at different venues and made open for larger crowd and media, so that they can sell F1 more.
Additionally, he wishes more testing for youngsters and region-based drivers, which will help F1 grow and touch the market too. “As Formula 1 strives to increase its fanbase, it’s important to focus our energies on key growth markets: USA and China. That’s why I’m delighted with the recent news that a second Grand Prix in America will take place next year on the streets of Miami,” wrote Brown.
“Being from the US originally and spending time with our Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team, I have seen first-hand the passion of the fans in the US for motor sport, so it’s imperative we build our foothold in the United States – the biggest market for sport anywhere in the world. While it’s vital that Formula 1 retains its European roots and traditions, the impact of the pandemic last year proved that a shake-up of the calendar had a positive impact with the fans. We need to look at opportunities for expanding F1’s reach across the globe, in particular in Asia and the Americas, but limit the number of rounds we compete in.
“The intensity of a 25-race global schedule, designed to add in more race locations around the world, places a challenging physical and mental strain on travelling personnel. A better way to race across 25 markets would be to have an F1 season of, say, 20 races, of which 15 or so would be fixed annual events and the remaining five shared between different venues, on a rotational basis each year.
“It’s important we have variety in our race venues and allow new countries the opportunity to host a grand prix, while maintaining a level of scarcity value in our sport. By comparison, NFL teams play only 17 regular season games across a four-month period, but the sport boasts some of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. So volume doesn’t automatically equate to success. Back in March we had one test session comprising three days at the Bahrain International Circuit.
“The condensed track time made it a viable product for television and while the Covid-19 pandemic prevented spectators from attending, it was the perfect blueprint for how testing should be held in the future. However, I think we should go further. After the winter break, the fans, media and drivers can’t wait to get back on track as new cars are put through their paces for the first time. I strongly believe these should be promoted events with a strong fan presence and interaction.
“We should be driving awareness into new markets with a different circuit hosting testing each year. Without the intensity of competition of a grand prix weekend, testing provides a golden opportunity to sell our sport at a local and international level. We also need to have more opportunities to test throughout a season to help young drivers. Modern Formula 1 cars are extremely complex and without real-world participation, it is very difficult for up-and-coming racers to experience the rigours of an F1 car.
“I welcome F1’s new 2022 rule to mandate that each team must run drivers with no more than two F1 races in their careers in two practice sessions each season. But this needs to expand. We can then also encourage drivers from the region we are racing in to participate and grow awareness for the sport in that territory. Young, up-and-coming racers bring dynamism to the sport which the fans love. They shake-up the established order, breathe fresh energy onto the grid and can revitalise a team.
“Drivers are key performance differentiators, so as teams continue to reduce costs across their operations, it’s prudent that driver salaries, along with the top three highest-paid employee salaries, must ultimately move under a defined allowance. Expanding the budget cap to include a defined and regulated allocation for driver costs and the top three salaries in each team will include all key performance elements and truly put the sport on a level playing field.
“Any team would be free to exceed the driver and top three allowance but at the penalty of reducing their racing operations budget cap by the excess amount. This is F1 at its very best: a strategic balancing act to find the most efficient way to spend finite resources and extract the best overall performance to win. To safeguard our future, across all areas, we must continue to drive down the costs of our sport,” summed up Brown.
Apart from the above change, one bold opinion from Brown comes to light in the governance and team affiliations situation. Over the past few seasons, the ‘unofficial’ partnership between several F1 outfits, based on them taking parts or engine, has risen dramatically. Often, decisions on certain aspects are swayed by that.
Brown feels it is not right, considering F1 is always a constructors sport. The American, thus, proposes to have secret ballot, where chances of a customer team voting in favour of its seller, to please them, even though the rule will not favour their own outfit. He wishes to eliminate that with secret voting, which may deter them from symbolic vote.
“The rise of team affiliations has become unhealthy for our sport. It is not in the best interests of competition if two rivals, or even three, share assets and align strategically,” wrote Brown. “One of the fundamental principles of Formula 1, as opposed to other one-make racing series, is an open competition between constructors. I do not wish to see the number of teams in F1 reduce, but team affiliations remain an issue because they do not promote a level playing field.
“This is where further changes need to be made to the governance of Formula 1. There have always been conflicts of interest in Formula 1 and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon, so it’s even more important that F1 and the FIA, who have no other agenda than the whole sport’s success, call the shots in the best interests in F1 and not be blocked and slowed at every turn. Currently, decisions about the future of the sport can be halted by a minority, rather than majority, and they are further skewed by some teams’ voting power being in favour of their affiliated team partner.
“There have even been instances when an affiliated team, to satisfy its bigger partner, has voted in favour of a clear disadvantage to itself. This isn’t sport. This isn’t putting the fans first. It is a situation that must be addressed and so we call for secret ballot voting to be implemented in all F1 Commission meetings with immediate effect. In other sports the regulatory body has the power of governance because they always focus on what is in the best interests of the sport overall, which should be the key consideration in Formula 1.
“With a change in the voting procedures, it could lead to more agile decision-making that would ultimately benefit the interests of the fans and in doing so the sport at large, including the participants. In summary, Formula 1 is in robust health despite the challenges of the past 12 months. And the future of the sport is bright. Positive action has been taken on a budget cap to help set a more level-playing field. There is progression on key issues such as sustainability, diversity, equality and inclusion and we are reaching new fans, while continuing to appeal to our core audience.
“But we must make greater efforts to be less insular. We’re so busy running the sport and competing, that it’s easy for us to look no further than the next few races or season. F1 can benefit from seeking advice from world-class experts in areas such events, sustainability, digital marketing and fan engagement. At present, recommendations and even decisions on these strategic imperatives are being taken by racing people who know a lot about racing but aren’t subject matter experts and specialists in these key areas. The sport would benefit from outside perspectives through a marketing council that can address, advise and help innovate new directions to grow Formula 1,” summed up Brown.
Here’s the full column by Zak Brown: https://www.mclaren.com/racing/team/zak-brown-we-must-continue-change/
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