Sky Sports F1 exclusive: Ross Brawn sets out his vision for F1's future
"For 2021 we will have great-looking cars which can race each other."
That's the vision of Formula 1's future set out by Liberty Media's managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn in a must-watch feature on the sport's evolution to be broadcast during Sky F1's race build-up show for the Abu Dhabi GP.
F1's future is currently the hot topic of debate in the paddock after the post-2020 engine plans outlined last month by Liberty, F1's new owners, met with fierce resistance and a threat to quit from Ferrari.
But despite acknowledging the strength of the "the pushback" from some of the teams, most notably superpowers Mercedes and Ferrari, Brawn has defended the proposals and placed them within a framework designed to make F1 louder, more exciting and fan-friendly.
An attractive future with racier cars
Having revealed their plans for F1's engines at a meeting with the FIA and 'current and potential Formula 1 manufacturers' in October, Liberty's proposals for adapting the look and aerodynamics of F1's cars of the future will be unveiled to the teams next month.
But alongside a pledge to make the cars "look sensational", Brawn has also pledged to find a solution to the 'dirty air' handicap which delivers a "fairly catastrophic" aerodynamic disruption to any car following closely behind another.
"For 2021 we will have great-looking cars which can race each other," pledged Brawn.
Closer and cheaper racing - but still rewarding the best?
Ferrari's objections to Liberty's post-2020 engine blueprint were particularly pronounced with Scuderia president Sergio Marchionne warning the team could quit F1 if the series became "global NASCAR".
But an unwavering Brawn is adamant the sport must change if it is to remain relevant and popular.
"We have to look at cost control for the future," he told Sky F1's Martin Brundle. "We want a meritocracy, we want the best to win, but we don't want two or three seconds between the teams."
Warning that "fans will turn off when a team becomes dominant," Brawn said he wanted F1's leading constructors to prevail because "they are the best at what they are doing and not because they have the biggest budget."
Engine debate intensifies
A self-described "poacher turned gamekeeper", Brawn has tasked himself with reducing the cost and complexity of the V6 hybrid power units which he, in his former guise as Mercedes chief, was previously pivotal in introducing to the sport.
But faced with criticism of their stifled noise but excessive importance in F1's current era, Brawn is determined to bring in power units that can be built by independent suppliers and which are "cheaper and make more noise."
"For 2021 we have an opportunity to start again with the engines, learn from the past and redefine what we want for the future," Brawn told Sky F1.
However, despite acknowledging the appeals to rewind the clock from many of the sport's fans, Brawn has resisted calls to re-introduce the more powerful and louder V8 engines, explaining "we felt that was one step too far…we have to respect the investment the manufacturers have put in".
Putting the fans at the heart of F1
Since purchasing the sport's commercial rights a year ago, Liberty have conducted a series of surveys to understand what Formula 1 fans want.
"Getting close to the drivers and to the teams is something we always get feedback on," revealed Brawn.
One possibility is that, instead of taking place in the closely-cosseted environments of each team's garage, the cars could be subject to "open scrutineering" in full view of the fans instead.
No change to the format - except on Fridays?
While Brawn has tempered suggestions the sport could introduce more races - with the potential of increasing the calendar to 25 events - by scrapping Friday practice, the former Mercedes and Ferrari boss has admitted reshaping the F1 weekend hasn't been entirely ruled out.
Although there is little or no appetite to meddle with the race and qualifying format, Brawn has conceded that "practice on a Friday is open to debate. How many races we have [in the future] is another factor in this. If we have an increased number of races, do we change the format to put less pressure on the teams?"