Ross Brawn has hailed Liberty Media for how they have helped grow Formula 1 in their time as the sport’s owners.
The group took control of Formula 1 at the beginning of 2017 and have overseen a period of significant growth in the sport’s wider fanbase, brought about in no small part to the commissioning of the Netflix series, Drive to Survivewhich is credited with opening the sport up to a new audience, particularly in the United States.
Brawn announced his retirement at the end of the season, which will see him leave the role of managing director of motorsports, a role he has held since Liberty’s takeover.
He has praised the way the media corporation, which also owns American broadcast station SiriusXM and baseball’s Atlanta Braves, has gone about improving Formula 1’s image around the world, but leading with enhancing the sport first – making it a ‘substance-over-style’ approach.
“I think Liberty have done a great job,” Brawn said to Motorsport.com about Formula 1’s owners.
“I would say this, but they employed me!” And while I said that, they recognized that they wanted to improve the sport. They didn’t just come in and say ‘how can we improve the margins?’
“Their mindset was: ‘There’s this great sport, how can we take the sport forwards? Because the rewards will come when we take the sport forwards, not by squeezing more juice out of the lemon.’
“And Greg [Maffei, Liberty Media CEO] and Chase [Carey, Formula 1 non-executive chairman] had that vision. And, luckily, I had the opportunity to be involved.
“Therefore I think Liberty has taken a great approach. Certainly, if you look at the history of owners in Formula 1, they’re the only ones that I’ve seen do it – and I’ve been here quite a long time.
“If you look back, I can’t think of many owners that put that kind of investment into the sport. I won’t tell you my budget, but it was a substantial budget to do that work we did. And that’s a commitment, which is paying off now.”
Ross Brawn: Formula 1 must not forget about long-term fans
While the calendar has expanded to new parts of the world, the changes overseen in Liberty’s time in the sport have not been universally popular – such as the introduction of sprint qualifying, which will be doubled from three to six rounds in 2023, as well as an ever-expanding calendar which will reach a record 23 races next year.
Given the way the sport has changed for the better in attracting new fans to Formula 1, the former Ferrari and Mercedes team boss explained that he cannot forget about the long-standing support which maintains a “critical” role in how the sport is received around the world.
“I think it’s pretty good,” Brawn said about the current state of the sport.
“I mean, we can’t be complacent, but we’ve got huge interest in Formula 1.
“What’s pleasing is there’s a new demographic coming through with a great balance of diversity – particularly gender diversity in that new demographic. And that’s really encouraging.
“We’ve got to make sure we retain our sort of core, long-term fans – we don’t want to alienate them. And that’s why I say I think the integrity of the racing is critical.”
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