Ross Brawn, Chase Carey

F1 and Liberty braced for Bloody Friday presentation

(L to R): Ross Brawn (GBR) Managing Director, Motor Sports with Chase Carey (USA) Formula One Group Chairman. 08.10.2017. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com - copy of publication required for printed pictures. Every used picture is fee-liable. © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

The Formula 1 paddock in Bahrain is shaping up for what is already being called “Bloody Friday” as Liberty Media have set 10:00 am local time tomorrow to make a presentation outlining their vision for the sport to team bosses.

Late last year a preliminary proposal was circulated to the powers that be in the sport which promptly divided the various stakeholders into two camps.

Those backing Liberty Media in one camp and the other camp headed by Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne who has threatened to pull his team and, if Bernie Ecclestone is to be believed, even stirred up talks of a breakaway series.

Liberty have been criticised for not being forthcoming fast enough with Formula 1 rules that will kick into effect in 2021. But now, time has run out and a blueprint for the future needs to be presented, most pressing of which is the format of the engines that will power Formula 1 cars into the next decade.

The FIA is also intrinsically involved in this process along with F1’s sporting chief Ross Brawn.

In a nutshell, Liberty are keen to rid Formula 1 of the two divisions that exist and eliminate the ever-growing chasm between The Haves and The Have Nots. Too few teams succeed while too many struggle for survival.

Liberty’s goal is to create an environment that will be affordable and attractive for likes of Porsche, Lamborghini, Cosworth are Aston Martin to consider entering Formula 1 at reasonable costs.

To do this they seek to drastically reduce costs and have suggested that revenues from entry fees and TV rights are distributed more equitably among teams. This will only possible with a budget cap and transparent distribution of income.

Their goal is to reduce the technical overkill that Formula 1 has become, which in turn has seen costs skyrocket and delivered a series in which overtaking is limited, no one likes the sound of these cars and despite the huge budgets engine parity is non-existent.

Only Mercedes have really got their sums right with the current technology, everyone else has played catch-up since inception in 2004. 

The first presentation made by Liberty to teams last October was not universally well received and triggered the ire of Marchionne.

He was not alone in his dissent as Mercedes chief Toto Wolff made it clear his thinking is in cahoots with Ferrari and their gang of separatists.

But cynics believe that the Ferrari chief’s posturing is all about not losing out on the exclusive “Long-Standing Team” deal that is covered by the current seventh Concorde Agreement, which has seen Ferrari receive a sizable chunk of ‘bonus’ money over the years. In 2017 this ‘bonus’ was worth $68-million to the Reds.

How the other teams stand on the matter provides a fascinating picture of the current state of Formula 1:

  • Ferrari and Mercedes are together in one stockade, along with Ferrari powered Sauber and Haas F1, which accounts for almost half the field.
  • McLaren and Red Bull are likely to ally with Liberty Media and are keen to see costs reduced.
  • Renault and Honda would welcome a budget cap of sorts but appear to be on the fence between the two camps.
  • Force India and Williams will be staunchly in the camp of anyone that will reduce costs, level the playing field in terms of engine formula and regulations while the fairer distribution of income will be music to their ears. Right now that’s the Liberty gang.

Chase Carey is expected to deliver the opening address on Friday morning in Bahrain to Formula 1 bosses, with Brawn likely to present the technical dossier that everyone is waiting to read and Sean Bratches providing an overview of the commercial and marketing vision for 2021 and beyond.

A big day for the future of Formula 1…