© Getty Images

F1 teams say new owners need time to develop strategy

Leave a comment

SINGAPORE (AP) Formula One teams have welcomed the commercial takeover of the sport by American company Liberty Media and the prospects of improving the product on and off the track, while cautioning that such changes won’t come any time soon.

This weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix is the first since Liberty struck an agreement for an $8 billion staged takeover of the sport, with controlling shareholder CVC Capital selling out and minority shareholders to follow.

The new Liberty-installed chairman of Formula One is Chase Carey, an American who formerly ran 21st Century Fox. Accompanied by long-term F1 commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone – who will stay on for the short term under the new owners – Carey visited the race paddock at Marina Bay on the weekend and had an opportunity to meet team bosses.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner welcomed a return to hands-on ownership and said Liberty’s media expertise should boost F1’s presence in new media, an area where it is viewed as being slow to capitalize.

“Rather than having a venture capitalist or a financial institution buying into the sport, it’s far better that a company like Liberty has bought in and hopefully that will address some of the areas we have been weak in previously,” Horner said. “Hopefully for the US market it could be a great thing and some of the other platforms like the digital and social platforms could also be very interesting.”

Liberty does have the capacity to make some changes in the near term – such as to the season calendar, promotion and media coverage – but the fundamental changes to the sport that many are urging will need more patient negotiation. Changes to the program of race weekends, rules governing car design and fairer distribution of revenue to teams are governed by the secretive Concorde Agreement – between the owners, the teams and the FIA, the sport’s governing body. The latest iteration of that agreement runs through the end of 2020 so big changes to the sport are some way off.

“It’s not so much what’s going to happen in 2017 or 18, it’s what does the future beyond 2020 hold in store,” Horner said.

“It’s great they’ve come to agreement with Bernie for him to be around for a few years to come, because that intervening period is going to be crucial. He (Carey) is going to have to get himself up to speed with the business and then decide what actions they want to take for the future.”

Maurizio Arrivabene, the team principal of the sport’s perennial power Ferrari, said Liberty clearly sees potential to grow the sport, given the amount of money invested, but also said it will take time for them to develop and enact a strategy.

“Normally what you do when you buy something, you are listening, learning, sharing and acting,” Arrivabene said. “All these phases are going to happen, and they request good time to make sure that the sport is growing.”

Cyril Abiteboul, team principal of Renault, hopes the new owners can forge agreement on a better balance between no-holds-barred technological development on the one hand, and close and entertaining racing on the other.

“A number of partners want to showcase technology, which sometimes goes against the interests of entertainment and the show,” Abiteboul said. “So it will be interesting to see, with the arrival of a pure player on entertainment and show, how it can impact the product.”

Guenther Steiner, operational chief of the U.S.-owned Haas team, believes the arrival of a U.S. company should not only boost the sport’s presence in that key market, but might bring about some blue-sky thinking.

“There is big potential in the States, so we being an American team, we hope they bring that to fruition,” Steiner said. “We are more than happy to help them to do anything they need to do in the United States.

“We are waiting for their plan because maybe they have got some ideas we haven’t thought of. We are quite stubborn in this business, we just keep on asking for the same. Maybe they’ve got some great ideas as we can support them and help them along.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.