Public complaints from Formula 1 teams about the sport’s future direction came as a surprise to Liberty Media, according to CEO Greg Maffei.
Liberty has outlined its plans to move toward a more equitable distribution of revenues from the next Concorde Agreement in an attempt to make F1 more competitive, while it is also in favor of a cost cap. However, while discussions are ongoing, Ferrari has threatened to quit the sport if it isn’t happy with its future direction, and Mercedes has offered its support to the Scuderia’s stance.
With F1 chairman Chase Carey requesting talks be kept out of the media, Maffei admits the public nature of the sport’s negotiations caught Liberty off guard.
“We remain very bullish on the thesis that if you look out there, there’s a broad fanbase – a fanbase that hasn’t been tapped as smartly and hasn’t been marketed to as smartly as they can be,” Maffei said. “And we can broaden that fanbase also by making the races more competitive and more interesting. The prior regime I would argue didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about that.
“You’ve seen some of the public discord where we’re trying to build more balance by things like trying to build cost caps in, trying to level the payments out, so they’re not so favorable to the winners.
“Why? We want to create the NFL perspective, where on any given Sunday somebody can win.
“There’s some tension around that, and it’s probably noisier yet than we thought it would be, and there will be more as we go through the period when we move up to renewing the Concorde Agreement for 2020, and looking for a new relationship – or a different relationship – going forward.
“That’s probably the part that is a little bit of a surprise how noisy all that is. Most of us are used to conducting business like that in private. Anything around Formula 1 gets blared out across the headlines of the world, whether you like it or not.”
Despite his surprise, Maffei is aware of the way certain teams use the media to push different agendas, with the Ferrari and Mercedes stance being counteracted by Red Bull and McLaren calling on Liberty to finalize future changes quickly and give teams an ultimatum.
“One of the issues is that it doesn’t really have to get fixed until 2020. Everybody would like it, and there is a lead time where you need to have some of this fixed, but as we sit here in early 2018 there is not a hard deadline yet that gets everybody there.
“There’s a lot of people who want to get there sooner, and other people who see this perhaps in their interest to play out the old hand.
“There are several teams who have been saying publicly that Liberty should put the terms on the table, we should get signed up, and we should stare down the other guys who don’t want to sign up.
“We’ve tried to take a tack more of ‘let’s see if we can get everybody in the boat, and row together, rather than draw a hard line’.
“I think that’s Chase’s demeanor, I think that’s Chase’s general operating procedure, but I totally agree. He’d first like to see if he can come up with a compromise that works for all the 10 teams, even though the 10 teams don’t necessarily have similar interests on every level.”