Tim Foil Hat: A certain future for F1 with Liberty Media?

Tim Foil Hat: A RaceFeeder.com column written by Tim Straub-Lubin


Tim Straub-Lubin writes for <a href="http://www.racefeeder.com">RaceFeeder.com</a>
Tim Straub-Lubin writes for RaceFeeder.com

Liberty Media has announced its future master plans for F1

The future plans of Liberty Media for F1 are surprisingly vague. A press statement revealed a slight lifting of the veil and a few key points: Expand social media footprint, A move that was 100% to be expected, not something spectacular but a solid gap in the sport. Increase sponsorship of events and the championship in itself. Not a bad idea. It has worked for other sports and generally this is how things are done in the United States. Liberty’s home turf and area of expertise for new F1 Chairman Chase Carey. Their final idea… More PayTV (*WTF*)!? 

Run rampant raging fans grab your pitchforks and flag poles. But not before you read my arguments as to why Liberty Media isn’t the mysterious (evil) super corporation that CVC was. Let me provide my thoughts on where things could be headed.    

Man with tin foil

CVC Capital and Liberty Media could not be more different if they tried, simply due to the fact that they are in entirely different industries. CVC Capital is a ‘private equity fund’, it’s the archetypal bond villain of financial institutions. It’s sole goal is to squeeze every last drop out of the massive profit machine that is F1. And to their credit, that is exactly what they have done.

The investment was kept afloat since CVC’s buyout in 2005 and has steadily brought in profit, and only that. The Sport’s global popularity dropped since CVC’s buyout simply due to the fact that CVC does not necessarily care what the sport’s image is, as long as it makes the money they want to see. All the decisions and rule changes have been a thinly disguised free for all between the FIA, who want to do… things (I am never quite sure what the FIA want, they change their mind every day), The Manufacturers (who CVC wants to keep happy because they are the one’s bringing in big bucks) and Bernie’s FOM, who’s sole goal in life is to try to make everybody happy (He gets paid a pretty penny for this as well of course). If by some miracle the parties agree on something, it will happen.

One of the biggest talking points in recent years and the best example of this has been the movement away from classic tracks and towards ultra high dollar oil oligarchy’s brand new Tilke-drome. Manufacturers benefit because they want to show their products to new markets and audiences (To be perfectly honest that’s the only way I can justify the horror of a circuit that is Shanghai ) CVC benefits because it rake’s in major cash that the older circuits simply cannot provide, and the FIA. Well the FIA doesn’t really care since they get ultra high standard circuits built for their amusement or nitpicking all across the world. Keeps them in a job. The fans hate the fact that this has happened, but considering the natural order of what CVC wants (Insert ‘Money Money Money’ by Abba) it was what was going to happen.

CVC did well for themselves in F1, Liberty Media basically wants some green too though.
CVC did well for themselves in F1, Liberty Media basically wants some green too though.

Liberty on the other hand, Isn’t some massive financial institution. it’s a media company, and while that may be very obvious by the fact that it is called Liberty MEDIA, there still are some key differences. First off, Liberty doesn’t necessarily want every ounce of profit it can get. Of course it is still a for profit enterprise, but it doesn’t have the same stringent company culture as a purely financial behemoth such as CVC capital would.

Liberty would thus be more willing to let the pure financials slide a bit to boost ratings, as this is an area where they are far more capable than CVC. Utilizing and monetizing the amount of people watching. Then again, the monetization of viewers is a very double edged sword. As anyone that has watched American sports will know, things have gotten VERY out of hand on the western side of the Atlantic in terms of advertisement. If I added the amount of times I have seen Viagra adverts in an American sports broadcast to my current age, I would already be too old for Viagra to make a difference. On the other hand of course, if not taken to the extreme this could be a very good revenue stream for F1 and could insure that  there will be no more rubbish on the horizon in terms of Circuits, and possibly the return of some fan favorites (Please Magny Cours. Please.)

Social media was another no-no from CVC’s perspective. Partly due to the sports stringent attitude to it, and partly because: Hedge funds are run by old people. Liberty Media on the other hand, wants to pull every cent out of the fan base. They should have some better knowledge of the subject considering their other assets and track record. Even if they completely mess up unleashing the full power of social media, they are still sitting pretty as Heineken is focusing its investment and sponsorship on developing social media for the sport. Driver of the day is a good start to proceedings, but I am very curious to see where the constantly changing world of social media will lead F1

Why aren’t there any major rule changes? There are two solid reasons for this. The primary and most important one is this: the same conditions that existed when CVC owned F1 are still applicable. Emissions are still important, downsizing is the norm and hybrid engines is an area manufacturers want to develop in. Even if change were to be demanded, everyone has already spent millions on development of the current engine formula, and as such there is no way they are going to let it be changed on such short notice (even if everyone has realized that it was a bad idea). With the upcoming aerodynamic/cosmetic/tire changes firmly set in stone and already due to be coming into effect next year there is no option or willingness to change anything there either. Secondly, Liberty is very inexperienced in running a sport. They may own a baseball team, they may own various huge film studios and TV channels: But they have not ever run a sport. A huge sport at that. the F1 rules and regulations are a political game that CVC capital was reluctant to get involved in and I think Liberty will follow a similar course.

Is it going to be better? Probably. Maybe. I have no idea. Time will tell is the oldest saying in the book, but in this case it is not only apt but also fitting in relation to a sport where time is everything. Seconds are the currency in the wonderful circus that is F1, and Liberty Media have no time to lose.