Six weeks ago, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has issued an open letter calling out Formula 1 on several different issues, ranging from fanbase engagement to environmental commitment and the future of the sport.
More specifically, Brown believes there’s a need to reinforce competition between teams and prevent larger ones from exerting political control over those they supply components to. According to the American businessman, the sport shall introduce secret balloting to the F1 Commission, the rule-making body in which each of the 10 teams is represented, “to ensure customer outfits are not forced to vote a certain way by their suppliers”.
“Currently, decisions about the future of the sport can be halted by a minority, and they are further skewed by some teams’ voting power being in favour of their affiliated team partner," claimed Brown in his open letter.
“There have even been instances when an affiliated team, to satisfy its bigger partner, has voted in favour of a clear disadvantage to itself. This isn’t sport. This isn’t putting the fans first,”
Almost two months have passed since his open letter and Brown confirms that his ideas have been well-welcomed by most teams – “I’ve received a lot of positive comments”, he said, “a lot of teams agreed on what I said in that letter”.
“I’ve spoken with Formula One and the FIA about that. I think a lot of the things I claimed must be discussed.
“Most importantly, I’m glad none of the teams came to me saying “We totally disagree with you”… this means we can move together and hopefully address this issue to move forward as a whole,” concluded Brown.
Another point that Brown addressed in the above-mentioned letter is the need to put fans first.
“You ignore your fans at your peril”, claimed McLaren Racing CEO. They are and will continue to be the lifeblood of any sport so it is vital to remember that Formula 1 survives because of its fans. Through the development of digital media output and development into the realm of esports and gaming, Formula One pushed by Liberty Media ownership is engaging with a new generation and segment of fans.
One of the most significant advances in building a new audience has been via the Drive to Survive documentary series, which has been aired on Netflix in 25 different countries. In the US specifically, the series has had "the single most important impact in North America", Brown commented. "It's done such a great job, not only just raising awareness, but turning people into avid fans”.
"From Drive to Survive, I've seen people going from 'I've never watched a Formula 1 race in my life' to 'I'll never miss a Formula 1 race again'.
"That's been a great thing that Liberty did very early on, which is to recognise we've got this great sport that we've not let people understand what goes on in the paddock. Drive to Survive is a little bit less about the on-track action, and it's a little bit more about the off-track action.
"It's such a fascinating sport, with the politics and personalities. I think Drive to Survive has nailed that and exposed that to the world, and it seems to have really resonated in the US."
Given the rate of growth in interest that Formula One is registering in the US, Brown believes it would be a clever move to exploit the positive momentum and capitalize it.
Moreover, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 F1 schedule currently entails 22 races, but some events might be at risk. The Singapore Grand Prix which was scheduled for September has already been cancelled, while questions marks remain over Japan, Australia, Mexico and Brazil GPs.
One option being considered to compensate for Singapore's cancellation is running a second race in the US. Formula One is already supposed to run at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas on 24 October.
"If it works out to where a second double-header is needed, and it works out to where the US can be one of those, I think given the rapid growth, the numbers in America now for the growth of Formula 1 are awesome”, said Brown.
Austin track officials are allegedly very open to the idea, and it could prove lucrative for F1 at a time when it is enjoying a big boom in the United States, with a second permanent race planned in Miami starting from 2022.
"I think Texas is wide open, and my understanding is it's sold out, so I think you can definitely probably sell out again.