Stefano Domenicali is already showing how much of an impact he plans to have on the Formula One as the sport’s new President and CEO. Speaking exclusively to Sky F1’s former F1 racer turned pundit Martin Brundle, Domenicali explained that he seeks to increase the number of manufacturers on the starting grid. Not only this, but the former Ferrari Team Principal from 2008 to 2014 also teased that alternative race formats are once again up for discussion.
Stefano Domenicali has always been a man in demand and at the top of motorsport in different positions. Upon leaving Ferrari, he soon found himself in the ranks of Audi prior to taking on the CEO position of Lamborghini in 2016. However, when it was announced in 2020 that Chase Carey of Liberty Media would be stepping aside into a non-executive chair position, the role of being one of F1’s top men in charge was clearly too good an opportunity for Domenicali to miss. His acceptance of the position was met with widespread praise in and out of the paddock. Many a pundit was eager to see how the former Ferrari ringleader would organize the F1 circus as a whole.
Formula One first and foremost was designed to advance motorsport technology and help sell cars in the motor industry.
At present, the so-called pure manufacturers on the grid are Mercedes and Ferrari seeing how only these two teams build and use their own engines. As for, Alfa Romeo, Alpine (formerly Renault), Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point) and McLaren - these teams fall into the ‘manufacturer backed’ category.
As there is such a desire to have new manufacturers on the grid, while speaking exclusively to Sky F1’s Martin Brundle, Stefano Domenicali explained his approach:
“I think that one of the biggest challenges that automotive manufacturers have today is to feel younger,” Domenicali said. “There is this kind of fight between the old school of OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturers] and the new OEMs that are coming in the mobility side… But I think that the OEMs can use the platform [of Formula 1] to get also the fresh image they maybe need for the future.
“What I can say is that we are in discussions with other manufacturers,” Domenicali added. “For the moment, they prefer to stay still quiet, but the good news is that there are other… companies, very important companies, that are really keen to understand what is the value that they can bring home using the F1 platform. But not only in terms of technology, in terms of also the value of what Formula 1 can bring to the automotive manufacturer.”
There had previously been rumours that Porsche was building an F1 engine to the new regulations – however, this was aborted and a commitment to Formula E was made by its subsidiary the Volkswagen Group instead.
Formula e is a far cheaper sport to have a successful campaign in and with the might of Mercedes dominating F1 – it is easy to see how other manufacturers are deterred from entering the fray.
Nevertheless, Stefano Domenicali has hinted that there is reason for optimism due to the opportunities and lower costs which should follow when the 2025 new power unit regulations are in place.
“It’s not possible that the power unit in Formula 1 can cost what it is costing today,” said Domenicali. “I think there is a margin, a big margin on that, and one of the agendas that we have is that we would like to involve teams and OEMs to try and anticipate the new engine even earlier than what is expected of the regulation, and make sure that these kinds of things will be part of the agenda, and I’m sure we can do it.”
Such a comment indicates the intention of the Former Ferrari master and the fact that nothing is set in stone and the sport is eager to be flexible and appealing to manufacturers.
However, due to an almost inevitably of who will be competing at the sharp end of the grid, one such way to interest new manufacturers may be to ‘shake things up.’
As a result of this, during the same interview to Sky F1’S Martin Brundle, Domenicali explained that he was open to exploring alternative formats – as long as everyone is on board.
“We are thinking how to keep the racing format alive in a different way,” said Domenicali. “We are talking with the teams, because of course, it’s important to have the opinion of the teams, but also the opinion of the stakeholders and people like [the media] that have incredible experience.”
It is a sign of the times to see how big a part the media has on Formula One.
Following ‘the longest race in F1 history’ which saw Jenson Button victorious in Canada in 2011 after that last gasp overtake on Sebastian Vettel – regulations were introduced to implement a total four-hour window for the race to be run once it had started. This was due to the way that the Canadian Grand Prix had impacted TV schedules..
Now, for 2021 the time has been reduced again after the FIA amended the 2021 Sporting Regulations and the maximum length of time for a race to run came down to 3 hours. The reason being, once again, so that it does not impact tv schedules.
The longest race of 2020 was the Bahrain Grand Prix which infamously was delayed after Romain Grosjean’s accident on the opening lap. At a running time of two hours 59 minutes and 47 seconds – it was a mere 13 seconds from the three-hour limit now implemented for 2021.
“We’re going to have dedicated meetings to prepare the right offer,” Domenicali added. “We need to be sure that we don’t lose any opportunity, and we need to be sure that we are not auto-referential in what we are offering, because this will be a big mistake.”
Such a revelatory interview coming on Sky Sports’ F1 channel is no surprise and cements the relationship that the sport and this area of the media have with one another.
Due to its team of pundits consisting of former F1 Drivers’ World Champions – Damon Hill, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg – it makes perfect sense for them to be viewed as stakeholders by Stefano Domenicali calling on people like them so that he can utilize their experience.
With such a forward thinking, amicable and experienced man as a ringmaster of F1, I fully expect it to simply be a matter of time before new manufacturers wish to sign up to the circus.
Having heard from former Ferrari man...now hear what one of Ferrari's newest signings felt about his first weeks at Maranello: