Formula One in 2017 is set to look and feel very different both on and off the track this season. While Lewis Hamilton and co get ready to handle much quicker machinery, the sport is set for a major revamp behind the scenes too, and it looks set to spell the end for Bernie Ecclestone.
Having run the sport for 40 years, turning it into a multi-billion dollar industry during that time, the 86-year-old has seen US-based Liberty Media purchase the majority of Formula One’s Commercial rights from previous owners, CVC.
Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, formally approved Liberty’s purchase last week.
But while Bernie remained at the helm under the CVC era, it’s been reported in recent days that no such position will await him under the new owners.
It had been initially believed that Ecclestone had been offered to stay under the new regime for three years, but that appears no longer to be the case.
New owners want to drag F1 into the social era
Many will be saddened to see the Suffolk businessman depart the sport he has done so much to grow, but in recent times Ecclestone has failed to keep Formula One in touch with the modern world.
A continued refusal to push Formula One with the likes of Twitter, Youtube and Facebook has hurt the sport’s power to attract sponsors and viewers.
And persistent fights with the calendar’s heritage races has also hurt the sport’s reputation and damaged attendances at venues across the world.
That’s something Liberty Media are keen to fix, and comments coming out of the firm have been positive and encouraging for the sport.
Teams to receive much-needed cash boost
In addition to enhancing Formula One’s social presence in the digital age, also on the US-group’s agenda is a bid to redress the financial balance in the sport and a greater support to the historic Grand Prixs – including Britain and Italy.
A desire to enhance the racing spectacle, and in conjunction, overhaul the decision making process in the sport, is also on Liberty’s list of things to resolve.
Certainly they could do a lot worse than take a look at their home turf.
With over half of Formula One’s 11 teams struggling to make ends meet in the last few years, the sport financial state is a startling contrast to NASCAR, where each team is now worth an average $148m.
NASCAR can also count half a million more Twitter followers, and 1.5m more Facebook Likes.
Under the new owners, former ESPN marketing guru Sean Bratches is set to succeed Ecclestone as commercial chief, with former Ferrari legend Ross Brawn ready to take on the sport’s technical and sporting regulations.
Ecclestone must be given enormous credit for what he has achieved across the best part of 50 years, but as he always used to say – the show must go on.
Except this time he is his own victim for failing to keep up with the modern world.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing