“Lies, damn lies and statistics,” wrote Mark Twain, and with that in mind, it’s worth noting that Chase Carey opened his section of Liberty Media’s Q2 earnings conference call with a number of said stats.
According to the F1 supremo, 44% of the sport’s “more avid fans” are more interested in F1 than at the corresponding time in 2017, which itself showed a 7% improvement on 2016.
Furthermore, 66% believe F1 has improved compared to 2016, while “just 15%” say it’s worse.
Finally, Carey revealed that 67% of fans say F1 is “in good hands with Liberty”, while only 10% disagree.
As well as revealing that “live attendance” so far this season is up 4%, race day viewership is down by the same amount, this being largely attributed to the move from free-to-air to pay-per-view coverage in Italy. “Excluding Italy, viewership is up 3%,” he boasted.
Of course, with F1 fans in the UK currently enjoying their last season of free-to-air, albeit only in terms of ten races, those figures should take another hit when Carey announces the Q2 figures next year.
Other than statistics however, Carey spent much of his part of the conference call answering questions on F1 as it moves forward, and in particular the rules – both technical and financial – that will shape the sport once the current Concorde Agreement comes to an end.
Concerned at the 50% drop in overtaking in 2017, which carried over into the season opener in Melbourne in March where just 5 successful passes were recorded, the sport opted to introduce a number of regulation changes for next season.
However, it is the changes for 2021, the year after the current Concorde Agreement expires, that are of real interest, for they form the framework of the sport as it moves forward. Indeed, under its new ownership, the sport is looking to turn its back on the “what’s in it for me, short-term” philosophy, and instead build for an all-round prosperous long-term future.
“We’ve introduced some recent regulation changes for next season,” Carey began. “And we’ll introduce a larger list of sporting regulation changes in the coming weeks to further improve the sport.
“Most importantly we continue to move forward with a broader set of changes to cost structures, revenue distribution, regulations and governance, the so-called Concorde Agreement.
“We’ve made good progress with the teams, we’ve agreed on the goals and objectives, and now need to work through the details to find the right compromises as we finalise these agreements in the coming months for the 2021 season.
“I feel good about the discussions,” he insists. “The devil is always in the details, and we have details to work through. But I think people agree with the goals, people agree with the direction, and I think the overall points of what we’re trying to achieve, and the vision for the sport.
“We need to find the right compromises as we get into the details. Nobody is going to get everything they want, but I think everybody recognises that. You’re not done until you’re done, but I feel good about the discussions, good about where we’re going, and good about the engagement with the teams.
“In terms of what we’re finalising, certainly we are looking to finalise the major components,” he continued. “There will always be components that are moving. It’s not like you are done, particular with issues like regulations, they are a living, breathing process, and will continue to evolve.
“So you’ll have a set of regulations in place, and whenever you put sporting regulations or others, some change less frequently, obviously an engine doesn’t change that often, but other regulations will clearly change. And I think with the things we’ll put in place we’ll probably continue to find ways hopefully to make whatever we put in place better.
“What I’m talking about is more than just the engine regulations, I’m talking more holistically, probably not completely, but getting the major components in place.”
“What the revenue distribution is, both amongst the teams and between us and the teams, is part of those longer term discussions for 2021,” he said. “I think those are discussions at this point we’re best having with the teams in private, and when we get to the place and we finalise that we’ll be happy to discuss where we’re at and what we think the opportunity is under that revised structure.
“But since those are live discussions with the teams I’m not going to comment on that. Those are still best had in a private room between us and the teams.
“I don’t want to put out a specific deadline for it,” he said of the 2021 package, even though teams and manufacturers are already pressing for clarfication of certain areas. “One of the challenges of bringing it to a completion is that the effect of many of these things is 2021, so there isn’t a natural deadline, usually it’s made easier by having a deadline that you have to get it done by.
“I think we and the teams all recognise and know that it would be good to get these things stabilised so we can all plan for the future. I think there’s a shared objective to get it done, but there isn’t an external forcing mechanism, but I think our goal is to move this forward and try and get it done in the coming months.”