Liberty Media, a group formed by the five finalists of the ITV talent show Popstars who failed to make it into the group Hear'Say, have announced that they’ve bought F1. This means that ten years of money squeezing from CVC can finally come to an end and Bernie Ecclestone can at least begin to look into the sunset.
But what does this mean for the sport we love? Liberty Media meet F1, F1 meet Liberty Media. How do you know each other? Money? Me too! Let me tell you something; F1 is awful at media. You two will get along like a 2012 Barcelona paddock on fire.
Liberty Media might leave everything as is and continue to skim off the money from the top, but reports seems to point to them doing something different. So, if Liberty (and its boss, the dad from Frasier) are reading, here is my idle wishlist in a ten point plan to change F1.
1. Disconnect from Sky - be its own online entity
Let’s stop this nonsense of having to pay Sky for its full sports package, endless Simpsons coverage and irritating adverts just to get their (admittedly great) F1 coverage. Hiding F1 behind a paywall is totally counter-intuitive.
Which leads us counter-intuitively onto…
2. Monthly subscription/free ad supported
Let us pay directly for F1. Like baseball and American football, which have a monthly Netflix-style subscription that gives us full access to all the sessions, press conferences and most likely some expert commentators and features. And stick it all on an ad-supported plan for the misers that don’t want to cough up.
This should all be available from anywhere at any time; a phone app, a website, a TV channel, even a newspaper (and maybe an official sarcastic podcast).
3. App for full live timings/replays/angles
Don’t fleece us with another £40 per half hour for an app that looks like it was designed when Steve Jobs was still around. If I’m watching the race I want the power to choose my own replays, focus on my own drivers and have all this as part of the package.
4. Access to ALL archive races
F1, you have all the old videos squirrelled away. Don’t pretend like you haven’t. Instead of drip feeding something on Facebook every now and again, let us log in to our F1 account and watch any race (or practice/qualifying session) from any time in history. Hey Siri, I want to watch the 1974 Monaco Grand Prix. “Sure thing!”
5. Cheap/free f1 tickets
Bernie’s way of making money has been to get each race promoter to pay squillions of dollars to host a Grand Prix, which means they then have no option but to charge eye-watering prices for race tickets, which in most countries people don’t bother with and then the promoter goes bankrupt and Bernie heads off to the next oil-rich country.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If F1 management cuts back on trying to down every dollar in the world then the race promoters can get on and, you know, promote the race. There will always be corporate and VIP people spending bundles of cash, so how about you let the rest of us in for free? We’ll buy lots of burgers and beers and shitty t-shirts anyway.
6. Fan boost (joke)
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7. Integration with F1 game
Imagine a world where on a Monday morning your PlayStation has a download for you, letting you recreate race scenarios from the real Grand Prix the day before. So after Belgium there could be a special game that throws you into Kimi Raikkonen's seat (Quantum Leap style - oh boy!) at the start of the Kemmel Straight. Can you overtake Max? When he moves over have you got the reactions to avoid a huge crash?
8. Fold in support races
Get rid of GP2 and rename all the series F1, F2, F3 etc. Then have some of the rising F2 stars in the F1 grand prix in their F2 cars, like in the '70s. You could even set up F2 to be a series that uses year-old F1 cars. Think about it. Cheaper that way too.
9. Formula E
It’s the future, and instead of pushing them away and making them drive around Battersea Park, get Formula E to be on a Saturday afternoon, before qualifying.
10. Tie in with Indy 500/Le Mans
Back in the day the Indy 500 would be part of the F1 calendar. It’s possible that the two series have gone too far apart to make this happen (unless Liberty X buy IndyCar too). But at the very least make sure the F1 calendar keeps these two weekends free so that drivers can go and compete.
11. Make all the drivers live in a big house together
They won’t be happy (although it’ll save millions and they love a bit of frugality), but on race weekends get the drivers their own house and they all have to live together and be filmed 24/7, as we see what it's like when Max Verstappen finishes the milk or someone nicks Nico Rosberg’s eyebrow plucker.