Race Promotors express concerns about direction
Formula One’s Promoters Association have demanded a more open approach from Liberty Media after expressing concerns about the future of the sport.
The association which represents sixteen of the twenty-one promotors say they want “a more collaborative approach from F1” in the future. Their main concerns are about the loss of free-to-air television, a lack of clarity over rules and F1’s attempts to attract new races.
The race organisers will express those concerns to F1 bosses in London on Tuesday. The move comes as five of the key races, Britain, Italy, Spain, Germany and Mexico, begin to renegotiate their contracts which expire at the end of 2019.
All say they want to continue holding races after this year, however, agree that they cannot do so under the current financial arrangements. Their current deals were agreed under the management of chairman emeritus Bernie Ecclestone over the last decade.
Chairman of the FPA and managing director of Silverstone Stuart Pringle, told the Daily Mail, “Everyone is disgruntled. Liberty’s ideas are disjointed. We have all been compliant and quiet hitherto, but we have great concerns about the future health of the sport under the people who run it now
Liberty is looking at widespread changes to the sport, however, like many of the teams and drivers, the promoters say its hard to plan long term contracts without knowing the direction of the sport.
The circuits are also concerned that the migration of TV coverage away from mass-market outlets towards either pay television or direct to consumer through F1’s own outlets will inevitably restrict the sport’s appeal.
In many European and Americas countries only the home Grand Prix and highlights air on free to air tv. This year, the British Grand Prix will be live on free-to-air, on Channel 4, which also has highlights of the other 20 races.
F1’s overall TV audience has grown in the two years since Liberty took over, for the first time in a decade. The total audience in 2017 was 1.755bn and 1.758bn in 2018.
Russia says FOPA claims are “toothless”
Russian Grand Prix promotor has called the claims made by FOPA “toothless.” In a statement, the sixteen members, which Russia isn’t a member of, expressed concerns about the future direction of Formula One.
Their main concerns are about declining TV audiences as the sport moves more towards pay TV, as well as a clear strategy about the direction of the sport. However, Sergey Vorobyev, deputy general director of Sochi F1 promoter Rosgonki, told Motorsport.com he did not agree with FOPA’s stance, especially because he felt the problem areas were things that either Liberty could not control or was already working on.
FOPA and FOM are holding their annual meeting in London this week. Vorobyev said, “The statement is fairly toothless, because all the issues indicated there, in this statement, they are being resolved one way or another in the current format of communication with Liberty.”
He added “I do not share the position of the current chairman of the FOPA Association, Stuart Pringle. In his comments – public comments for the media – he has very frequently made personal criticisms of Liberty’s leadership and our whole common sport.”
Vorobyev says that the point of the meeting is unconstructive and believes that other promoters will join the non-FOPA position. Rather than force organisers to pay a hefty fee as happens elsewhere, it was eager for a profit share arrangement instead.
That has not gone down well with some current venues that are struggling to afford the tens of millions of dollars they currently pay out for the right to host a race.
However, he does agree with the FOPA position on the future of the regulations, saying There should be fewer rules and less stewards’ influence on the race.
Mazepin gets Mercedes test
Formula Two rookie Nikita Mazepin is to take part in a private test for Mercedes using a 2017 car. The Russian will complete twelve days of testing using the W08 because the teams are restricted on what running they can do in current cars built within the last two years.
Teams are only permitted to run current cars for fourteen days set by the FIA, these include two four day pre-season tests, two two day in-season tests and a two-day post-season tests.
However, they are allowed to build and test cars which were designed three years “immediately prior to the calendar year preceding the [current] championship”.
That means as of 2019, cars from 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons are eligible for FIA-approved private testing, giving Mazepin the chance to increase his mileage in cars built to the current, higher-downforce regulations.
This has been done before, Lance Stroll undertook a comprehensive private testing programme with Williams prior to his F1 debut in 2017, he used a 2014 car built to less relevant rules.
The test programme for Mazepin doesn’t mean he has an affiliation with Mercedes, whose official junior drivers are its 2019 reserve Esteban Ocon and Williams F1 driver George Russell.
He will be mentored by Ocon who he has previously worked with at Force India. Mazepin has conducted eight days of testing for the team over the last three years.
Verstappen in a three-way fight
Jenson Button believes that F1 is going to have a three way team fight and that Max Verstappen needs to be among the title fight. The former champion believes there is “so much to be looking forward to” in the sport.
The new Red Bull – Honda partnership is one of the biggest and most exciting talking points ahead of 2019, with the team hoping to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari. Button believes that it is imperative for Verstappen’s career that they do.
Button told Sky Sports, “It’s tricky with Max. He’s always moving forward and he’s always looking for something else. He jumps into a Red Bull and he wins his first race.”
“This year is a really important year for him to keep it moving. He has to be fighting for the championship or l think he will start asking questions about where he should be in the future.” Button says that the new regulations being introduced this year have come at the right time, saying that if the three top teams are in the battle there will be fantastic fights at the front.
Despite the success of five times champion Lewis Hamilton, the Englishman has repeatedly called for a wider title fight. Button says that is former teammate is motivated by evolving challenges, rather than chasing Michael Schumacher’s record.
Saying “Things are changing in F1 and there are new challenges and that’s what he loves. It’s when the challenges stop that you think ‘you know what, I’m going to do something else’.
“But with the F1 is, with the regulation changes and the driver changes, he will want to keep going, which is fantastic for the sport.”
Melbourne to host 2019 launch
Organisers of the Australian Grand Prix have announced a launch event in the centre of Melbourne on the thirteenth of March. They say in a statement by Liberty Media that all drivers will and their respective team principals in Melbourne’s Federation Square as they help to launch the new season, the first time an event like this has taken place.
The line up will feature a number of legends, music acts to add to the vibrant atmosphere ahead of the race weekend, while Formula 1’s social media platforms will be streaming all the action to make sure fans across the world don’t miss out.
Managing director of commercial operations, Sean Bratches, said “There really couldn’t be a location better than this fantastic city. The passion, knowledge and enthusiasm of the Melbourne crowd deserved a special thanks and this is why we have decided to organise the first ever season launch event in the history of the sport.”
“We are incredibly excited to be putting on such a spectacle for our fans. It’s vital that we put them at the heart of everything we do, and this event provides us with a platform to engage with fans not just locally but also globally.”
The states Minister for Tourism, Sport Major Events and Racing, and MP for Keysborogh, Martin Pakula added “his is a once in a lifetime event for lovers of motorsport. There is no better place to host the first-ever Formula 1 season launch event than Melbourne.
“We are excited to be hosting a fantastic event that will attract legions of supporters from around the world and give Victorian F1 fans a chance to meet their heroes.”
Bottas better than he showed Rosberg
Nico Rosberg believes that Valtteri Bottas is better than he is stronger than he showed last season, backing him to be “annoying” Lewis Hamilton “quite a lot” in 2019.
The German beat his former teammate Hamilton to the title in 2016, and when he retired following his title win Mercedes signed the Finn to replace him. Bottas believed a strong debut season for Mercedes, with three wins, but failed to win last year.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he said “Valtteri is a lot better than he’s been able to show recently. With a new season starting again he has a good chance of establishing himself in a much stronger position and even really [be] annoying Lewis quite a lot.”
“I think that’s possible. It always depends how the season starts. Last year he had a lot of bad luck as well. If the luck is on his side and he starts well, it could be a whole different situation.”
However, Bottas did help Mercedes to secure a fifth straight constructors’ championship, while Hamilton claimed 11 victories to wrap up his fifth drivers’ title.
Rosberg said F1 does not need his former team to fall back, but for others to catch up. Adding “It’s been an amazing run but it’s not necessarily time for change, it’s time for renewed battles up front, and then may the best team win.”
“Mercedes has been the best recently. We want it to go down to the wire, we want to see real action.”