Stefano Domenicali opens up on various topics on the Beyond The Grid podcast, from his F1 hiring to number of teams, Max Verstappen and more.

Having been with Ferrari in F1, Domenicali moved to Lamborghini before returning to Formula 1. But this time, he wasn’t with a team. He joined as the boss of the sport in place of Chase Carey, who had succeeded long-time chief Bernie Ecclestone.

Its few years now as the F1 boss and on Beyond the Grid podcast, Domenicali talks about the process as he was hired for the job. He even discusses how he stands amid Ecclestone and Carey as he elaborates on his style of working.

Domenicali also talks about teams wanting to join the grid along with several countries wanting to join the F1 calendar. The Italian shares his views on ideal number for both. The discussions then takes the route of the current season and Red Bull’s dominance.

They also talk about Max Verstappen and his opinions, which has been on the against side especially with regards to the sprint races and weekend format. He talks about the relationship between F1 and the FIA before ending the podcast.

Here’s some of the things they discussed –

Stefano, we have so much to talk about, but can we throw it back five years? Because that’s when you were last on Beyond The Grid and a lot has happened in that time. Back then, you were running Lamborghini. But interestingly, at the time, you didn’t rule out a return to Formula 1. And here you are as President and CEO of Formula 1. Is the job what you expected it to be?

Domenciali: “I think at that time, honestly, I didn’t rule it out but I was very happy with my job. It was very exciting. A lot of things were happening and when I received the call from Chase Carey and from Greg Maffei, it was really a sort of ‘wow’. And as always in life, there are some trains that if you don’t catch, you will not get back. I decided to take that new adventure in a territory that I knew. I knew the business, I knew what was going on. And you need to consider these in the context of the pandemic, post-pandemic, political evolution, team involvement, media broadcaster, and so on. All these things are very exciting.”

Can you remember where you were when Chase Carey rang you about the job?

Domenicali: “I remember very well because it was in our house in Monza, and it was the week after the Italian Grand Prix. That’s when I received the call and I was not expecting that I need to give an answer in a very short time. So I need to collect the family and discuss with them. In one week, we had to give the answer back, which I did.”

And what did your wife and children say?

Domenicali: “I’m so grateful to them because they were saying ‘that’s your life, that’s your decision.’ We took the approach of opportunity instead of a problem. We had the privilege of moving to London and giving the chance to our kids to move and study in the UK. Changing the scholarship system, changing the friendships and changing the way, but it’s just an opportunity to grow and to live an experience of a new life. That was really good. Of course, with my wife, we shared that because she had to move, she had to follow the family business and to follow a normal life. I’m really very, very grateful to her and to them because they understood and now they are with me and embracing this new opportunity of life in a great way.”

Formula 1 has only had three bosses. Bernie Ecclestone, Chase Carey, and Stefano Domenicali. How are you doing it differently to the other two?

Domenicali: “Well, I think that it would be wrong to say that I’m doing things differently. What I can say is that I’m doing things my own way, having huge respect for what Bernie did. He created this in a period that was impossible to think that he would be able to deliver such incredible growth. Then we had four years of Chase, who had the very difficult task, after more than 60 years of Bernie’s era, to take Formula 1 to a different step. He did an incredible job. There was a lot of scepticism because he was coming from a different world and I think that he delivered something very important. Now it’s me that has to keep growing this business, knowing that I know the sport because I was born in this sport. But I also have the responsibility of understanding how the world is evolving in terms of sport, entertainment and business. I’m doing this with my style. I love to share things, I love to try to engage with the people. But of course there are certain moments when you have to take the decisions. I hope that the legacy will stay and that my commitment up to the moment where I will not be in this position, will be total.”

And now that you have a macro view of Formula 1, do you have a hierarchy of teams in your mind or do you feel obliged to treat all ten teams equally?

Domenicali: “In my role I need to consider that the sport can grow, only if the majority of all the teams can grow. That was one of the fundamentals of the budget cap, to give a credible financial stability to the value of the franchise or the team. The more you are able to have a competitive field, the more interest you have in races and the more you can create interest in the sport. There are situations where the influence in Formula 1 of some teams is bigger because they are investing and believing that this is the real project on which to develop other things. Therefore it is important that we give sustainable financial stability to each of them to make sure that everyone can do that. Two years ago, when the new Concorde Agreement was signed, when there was the talk about what is the value of a team that has to come in, there was a number put on the Concorde Agreement that was 200 million, which seems unreachable, because there were teams in the past that were sold for £1. Now the market is offering almost billions to teams and they are refusing that. That gives you the perspective of what we are building as an ecosystem. We are building important structure, important dynamics. The more everyone is growing, the stronger the business platform that we are all working in.”

How many teams do you think should be on a Formula 1 grid?

Domenicali: “This is a very interesting question, Tom, because there are legal implications of what we can say. I think that ten teams are more than enough to create the show and the attention that we want to see on the track. There is an evaluation going on today that involves the FIA and us to make the right call for the future. This is something that is also connected to the future discussion that will happen with the renewal of the Concorde Agreement that is expiring by the end of 2025. In the past, there were teams that were coming in, getting out with a zero value. Now the teams are stable, very profitable and capable of being competitive on the track. In the next months it will be a very important point of discussion that we need to tackle. Do we stick with 10, do we need to have more teams?”

But with your promoters’ hat on, would you like to see more than 20 cars?

Domenicali: “No, I don’t think so. You see, if you have two cars or two drivers fighting, the level of attention is mega. So if you already have two teams fighting, it’s just incredible. Can you imagine 20 cars, ten teams, at the level where there is a competition on the track? It would be impressive. I would say let’s wait and see. My ‘no’ is not against someone who wants to come in. I need to clarify that, because otherwise it seems that I want to be protectionist. That is not the case. I want to see the right one and I need to also respect the ones that have invested in the last period because we forget too quickly, the respect, and now everyone wants to jump in the coach that is very fast. But we need to be prudent, we need to take the right decisions.”

Has changing the regulations mid-season crossed your mind to slow Red Bull down?

Domenicali: “I think it is not fair to say that, because we cannot be seen as a sport of manipulation. This is not correct and this is not fair. I’m not envisioning at all, this kind of approach.”

The best thing you can do is just leave the regulations the same and allow everyone to converge at the top?

Domenicali: “I think that’s the right approach, because the rules have been changed not many years ago and, therefore, this will happen for sure.”

Could more be done to help the teams at the back? Could you give them even more wind tunnel time?

Domenicali: “This is something that is a change of framework on the sporting dimension, which is not fair. F1 has always been a sport where there have been cycles, where teams were very dominant and then some others came into the equation. Our objective should be to make sure that these cycles in the future will be shorter. This is what I would say, as a commercial rights holder but also as a lover of sport, I would like to see.”

Let’s talk drivers. Max Verstappen has already won more races for Red Bull than any driver in their history. You’ve worked with many great drivers yourself. How good is Max?

Domenicali: “I would say the numbers are speaking by themself. I don’t like to compare drivers of different generations because things are different, but in terms of driving skills, in terms of approach to the races, it’s impressive. Of course he has an incredible car that highlights his value, but for sure he is one of the best drivers ever. There’s no doubt.”

Is Max a difficult driver to manage because he’s happy to speak his mind and his mind isn’t always positive about this sport? He’s said some negative things about Sprint races and about his long-term future. Does that concern you?

Domenicali: “No, honestly, I’m not concerned at all because it would be wrong to not cover the personality of the driver. You can have different opinions, but at the end of the day, we have to take responsibility of having the bigger picture. You need to consider that every one of us has a bigger role to play and the growth of the sport, the growth of this business, is connected to this vision sometimes. Our sport is the leader on how we engage our heroes that are the 20 drivers in the sport. No other platform is engaging with the fans, or with the sponsors, or with the media, or with everyone, so close with the race. It’s a great recognition on how everyone is involved in the growth of the sport. I’m not worried because I think that I have a very good relationship in this case with Max. We talk and I would never interfere in the choice of his future. But if there is something that for the benefit of the sport I have to take, and Max doesn’t like, I will try to explain. If he doesn’t agree, it’s okay. That’s part of the game.”

Well, let’s talk about races. What is the ideal number of races for you?

Domenicali: “What we want to do next year is 24 and I think 24 is the right number. It’s the number that is required within the market. I would say it’s the right balance between that, the complexity of the logistics and of the people that are working. I would say this is the number which we should target to be stable for a long time.”

How are things between Formula 1 and the FIA at the moment?

Domenicali: “I think they’re very good. It has always been clear to me that everyone has to do their own job and we need to be complimentary. We need to make sure that the common vision for a better sport, that we need to grow and need to push, is there. It is not easy today because we have also added one element on top of the traditional ones. That is the financial one. Before, it was just sporting, technical, safety. Now, the financial regulation is a massive task and this is giving credibility to the system we are putting in place with the financial regulations. They have hands on this and it’s very important that they are doing the best job that they can, now they need to perform in a very, very complex dynamic and context.”

Here’s Stefano Domenicali on F1 Beyond the Grid podcast:

Here’s Drive to Survive producer on the F1 show

Here’s auction for Emila Romagna

Here’s the decision from FIA on Guenther Steiner

Here’s Singapore with new lighting system

Here’s news on new F1 drama series