Ross Brawn, the newly installed managing director of the sporting side of Formula 1, has begun to speak about some of the areas he will work on in the new administration and what he thinks is important for Formula 1.
He has highlighted cost control, simplifying the rules and putting in place a process for decision making, rather than the knee jerk decisions which have not served F1 well in recent years, such as the fiasco over qualifying rules at the start of last year. And he said he wants to hear fans’ views before making any decisions, but has ruled out any “artificial” devices to spice up the show.
Brawn is one of the most successful figures in F1 history winning world championships in F1 with Williams, Benetton, Ferrari and Brawn and also in sportscars with Jaguar. He has a grasp of the history of the sport and its key values, but also realises that the sport needs to change and to modernise for modern audiences.
Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy he said, “First of all there will be a change of course. With Carey as CEO, me on the sporting side and Sean Bratches on the commercial side the decisions will be collegiate. And we will involve the FIA and the promoters. In recent years I have seen F1 being slow to react. It’s clear to everyone we need a change, but we have to pay attention to preserve the essence of Grand Prix. For my part after a period of research and investigation we have to put down a 3-5 year plan and gradually introduce the changes. Moving too quickly could be counterproductive.
“The right thing to do before making any decisions is to sound out the fans, to hear what they have to say. We need to study and to understand what solutions will make the sport more exciting and more competitive. We need to be careful not to do things, as has happened in recent years, that artificially to create spectacle. But I agree we need to make F1 more competitive,” he added.
He was the master of ingenious race strategies, when he worked alongside Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, but now as a sports administrator he wants to evolve F1 to make it more simple for fans to follow.
“As a spectator in the last few years, if I haven’t followed a race from start to finish and had my laptop switched on so I can see all the lap times and the tyre and the rest of it, I’ve had a job following the races. I don’t think that’s healthy,” Brawn told BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday morning.
“I think we need to find a way to get back to the races being clear to the fans where everyone is, what they are doing and where they are in the race and their position.
“There are different levels of fans, of course and we want to appeal to all of them. We have to start with the guy at the circuit who won’t have access to a laptop. He wants to watch a race and he wants to understand what’s going on. So we have to define what is needed there. And then we need to start to add the layers for the fans who want to look into F1 more deeply.
“And I think there is so much material there; stuff that goes on in the garages, on the pit wall, deeper analysis of what is going on at the circuit. People will be able to dial in at whatever level They want to.”
Brawn argues that the idea of F1 teams building their own cars and the cycles of competitiveness are fundamental to F1 and will not change.
“The DNA of F1 is a fair element of technical challenge and I think that is healthy. There is a need for the cars to be different and there is a need for fans to follow the cyclic competitiveness of the different teams.
“But it’s pretty excessive at the moment; we have to look at that and at how we pull that back, because the margin between the front and the back is dramatic.”
Cost control is one of the first items on the agenda for Brawn; he has spoken out against the short term thinking behind the introduction of new hybrid turbo rules whereby setting a realistic price for the engines to be sold to teams was not one of the main objectives in specifying the engines. In addition to crippling the smaller teams with costs, it also put too much power in the hands of the manufacturers.
“We have a whole list of objectives and one of them is to enable small teams to stand on their own two feet,” he said. “At one end that involves the money paid to the teams and at the other end the cost of going racing and putting on a decent show. The money to the teams we can’t do anything about for a number of years until the commercial agreements get reviewed again (2020).
“But on the costs to the teams I think that the commercial rights holder has a valid input into seeing that those are pegged back so the cost of a well organised small team, the numbers can add up and make sense.
“When we do that then of course those remaining entries in F1 become attractive. Because there is a viable business there. At the moment I’m not sure there is and that’s what we have to focus on.”
Brawn has said that F1 needs a long term plan, over 3-5 years, rather than the short term thinking that has left it with the many problems it has today. As to how long it takes for Brawn and his team to start to make a difference in F1, he says,
“Before the response from the previous commercial rights holder (Bernie Ecclestone) was a bit knee jerk. There was a crisis, something needed doing, there was a knee jerk reaction. What I want to have is a process where with every decision that is made there is a consideration for the fans and the consideration for the commercial rights holders is part of that decision. So we just start to get things moving in a different direction…It’s a process.”
Brawn also said that he hoped Ecclestone would see a way to continue to contribute to F1 in an advisory capacity, but reading between the lines it sounded very much as though Ecclestone has not yet accepted his chairman emeritus role. Time will tell.
What do you think of Brawn’s ideas? Do you think he will achieve his goals and improve F1? Leave your comments below