What a busy man Zak Brown is. Other than his role as CEO at McLaren Racing, which in 2019 is to run a programme for Fernando Alonso‘s Indy 500 challenge, the American has his own United Autosports team, not to mention his seat on the board at Cosworth Engineering and his role as non-executive chairman on the board of Motorsport Network, which owns Motorsport.com.
Indeed, talking to Motorsport.com, Brown has revealed his desire to see the sport’s owner push ahead with the grand vision it has for the sport post-2021 and to ignore the protests from the naysayers, which include Mercedes and Ferrari and Red Bull.
When Liberty Media first revealed its grand plan at last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, such was the delight among the smaller teams that Claire Williams admitted to being tempted to “crack open the Champagne”.
Other than changes to the technical and sporting regulations aimed at levelling the playing field, hopefully ensuring that podiums and race wins are open to (almost) all, and the title fight is no longer a two-team affair, Liberty is looking at a controversial change to the prize money in a move which would effectively mean ‘robbing’ the bigger teams in order to ensure their smaller rivals get a bigger share.
Of course, not so long ago, Williams and McLaren were at the other end of the pitlane and would have been fighting just as hard as Mercedes and Ferrari to hold on to their share, but times are hard and now the British outfits find themselves among the have nots, even though both currently receive their own individual bonuses.
Aware that realistically, and despite his latest 5-year plan, McLaren‘s only hope of challenging for podiums and wins is such a major overhaul, not only of the rules but the prize money, Brown is calling on Liberty to push ahead with its plans.
“We know change in F1 is difficult, and we also know F1 today is a broken model, both as a business and as an on-track product, that is going to need to be changed,” says the American. “Those that are winning today will obviously feel the compromise about what is happening, and those who are not winning today are going to like the plan.
“It was inevitable that Chase would bring forward a plan that some people like and some people don’t like,” he continues. “But he needs to move forward with what he thinks is in the best interest of the sport.
“At the end of the day, what is in the best interests of the sport in the long term is in the best interests of everyone,” he insists, “if people can get past the short-term compromises that they need to make. I think today’s F1, if it is stays as is, I think everyone eventually loses.
“They have been consistent since Bahrain in their vision and direction of the sport,” he says of Liberty Media, “the budget cap, and the revenue distribution. We’ve not got a lot into governance, their desire strategically of where they want to take the sport, so I think various teams are looking at different levels.
“I think the majority of the teams are supportive of what was presented in Bahrain and all that has really happened since was drilling deeper… what is in the budget cap and what isn’t in the budget cap. I know that not all the teams are aligned but I think a majority are. At McLaren we are very supportive of what was presented in Bahrain and I think the sooner we can get that on the road to implementation the better.
“I believe Chase and Ross are going to move forward on that basis and I think that is their plan. For anyone else saying that they are not aligned with it, their view is ‘we presented it in Bahrain, we’ve been working together, we’ve been consistent on where we are going so this is what we are doing’. I think some people haven’t accepted that yet.”
If nothing else, at a time F1’s share price is at its lowest for over a year, it would be interesting to hear Chase Carey’s reaction to Brown’s claim that “F1 today is a broken model, both as a business and as an on-track product”. Not exactly the message the sport needs to be signalling to shareholders… prospective fans, circuit owners, potential races or those existing fans expected to dig deeper into their finances in order to watch it.