We are truly living in a revolutionary age of Formula 1. The way in which we consume the sport is changing. The influence that manufacturers have in F1 is rapidly drawing to a close. The changing of the guard has finally begun. Already we have seen historic giants such as Ron Dennis and Bernie Ecclestone unceremoniously dumped by the wayside as the sport begins to head in a new and successful direction.
Earlier this year I wrote a wishlist for Liberty. You can read it here:
It is clear that Liberty Media have had a positive effect on the sport already, but has it been sufficient for their first year? (Of course, this is taking into consideration that they have only been in charge for a season - Rome wasn't built in a day!)
Well let's begin by saying Yes. They have had a sufficient positive effect on the sport, I think this is an undeniable fact. Some of the points from my earlier article have already begun to have been addressed, which is encouraging (they obviously paid attention to me...). Formula 1's social media rules have been vastly relaxed meaning that fans can immerse themselves further by just scrolling through their phones. F1's Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts have been become far more active so that there is now hours of footage that fans can enjoy without having to pay anything. Before the Malaysian GP this year, F1 uploaded the most popular Grand Prix from Sepang in FULL to YouTube! Admittedly this was not permanently, but compared to what we are used to it is a massive step in the right direction.
In terms of TV, Liberty have found themselves in a difficult position with contracts such as the Sky one in the UK that were already locked in place before they came in to power. I think this is one they may have to just ride out. However we have already heard that F1 plans to launch its own Netflix show that would provide fans with races through the streaming service. This won't please everyone of course, but I think we must acknowledge that this is the direction in which TV is heading. Liberty would be foolish not to tap into this market.
The experience at the circuits has already been improved dramatically. New F1 fan zones have begun to create a party/festival atmosphere that the sport was so drastically craving. The two seater F1 cars are also a step in the right direction in terms of allowing fans to get even closer to the sport, although I think work still needs to be done here. We saw at Austin this year a truly radical way of introducing the drivers to the grid, with the help of Michael Buffer. It certainly divided opinion, but I liked it. Yes it was slightly cheesy but I thought it was a great way to build up the tension to the race. It needs work, but they can't get it right straight away!
We are starting to see encouraging signs regarding having races back with exciting character and historic background, with the return of the French Grand Prix in 2018. Liberty have also held talks with Turkey looking at the potential of bringing back the Istanbul Park circuit - which would be amazing to see with a 2017 spec Formula 1 car. However, they already face a challenge from Silverstone regarding the British Grand Prix. I think something will be settled eventually because the sport can't afford to lose a country where 3/4 of the teams are based, however it certainly represents Liberty's first sticky obstacle since they came to power.
I mentioned not introducing the halo in my wishlist to Liberty, however I would suggest that this is rather outside of their jurisdiction. I'm hoping it is something we can all get used to, but it certainly takes something away from Liberty's vision of presenting the divers as 'gladiators' somewhat. And we all hate it, let's be honest.
As for rule changes that the sport so desperately needs, Liberty has made a step forward on that front, although I might argue not significantly enough. With the proposed 2021 engine regs they've rather landed themselves in a dodgy no-mans land. Fans aren't really satisfied because they want V10s (myself included) and the big boys like Mercedes and Ferrari aren't happy as it makes their current engines, which they have spent millions on, rather redundant in a few years. There is definitely time to change this but Ross Brawn and co may have wished they had been a tad ballsier with their proposals. We shall see. This certainly marks sticky situation number two for Liberty.
So year one has been a success for Liberty so far. However, I think this may have been their easiest year. Small changes have been quite welcome, but already we have seen a mood of dissatisfaction among teams, and some fans. Liberty's biggest challen still lies ahead and it is crucial that they now keep control...