Liberty have done a great job, says Brawn


As he heads off to watch the sport from the comfort of his sofa, Ross Brawn is adamant that Liberty Media, has been a positive force for F1.

The Briton is stepping down as F1's managing director of motorsport, and though linked with a number of positions within the sport insists that he is retiring and will restrict his future involvement to watching races from his sofa.

As an engineer, technical director and team boss, Brawn built a much deserved reputation as one of the best in the business, but since being recruited by F1, much like Stefano Domenicali, has become very much the company man.

Brought on board, like Domenicali, because of his vast experience in the sport, in Brawn Liberty Media saw the opportunity to use the Briton's knowledge to reshape it as it sought to radically overhaul F1 and attract a new audience whilst not fully alienating the existing fan-base.

Under Bernie Ecclestone it must be admitted that the sport was not realising its full potential, though many would argue that under Liberty it has gone the other way.

Alongside initiatives such as Drive to Survive and a full-on approach to social media, the sport has sought to exploit all means possible to attract and retain its newly won over audience whilst never missing an opportunity to monetise.

"I think Liberty have done a great job," says Brawn, according to "I would say this, but they employed me! And while I say that, they recognised that they wanted to improve the sport. They didn't just come in and say ‘how can we improve the margins?'

"Their mind-set was: ‘There's this great sport, how can we take the sport forwards? Because the rewards will come when we take the sport forwards, not by squeezing more juice out of the lemon.' And Greg and Chase had that vision. And, luckily, I had the opportunity to be involved.

"Therefore I think Liberty have taken a great approach. Certainly, if you look at the history of owners in Formula 1, they're the only ones that I've seen do it, and I've been here quite a long time.

"If you look back, I can't think of many owners that put that sort of investment into the sport. I won't tell you my budget, but it was a substantial budget to do that work we did. And that's a commitment, which is paying off now."

Though F1 did well to put together a schedule during the pandemic, it was Drive to Survive that really boosted the sport's image.

Amidst the lockdowns viewers discovered the Netflix show, which hadn't been attracting a significant audience outside of the sport's core fan-base until then, and by the time the 'all-clear' was given a whole new army of fans had been won over.

This, combined with a non-stop aggressive social media policy which saw F1 management, the teams and drivers all working together, steadily changed the look of the fan-base, not only in terms of numbers but also the demographics.

As more sports get on board the Netflix train and present their own version of Drive to Survive, Brawn is confident that F1 can maintain its position.

"It's pretty good," he says. "I mean, we can't be complacent, but we've got huge interest in Formula 1.

"What's pleasing is there's a new demographic coming through with a great balance of diversity, particularly gender diversity in that new demographic. And that's really encouraging.

"We've got to make sure we retain our sort of core, long-term fans," he adds, "we don't want to alienate them. And that's why I say I think the integrity of the racing is critical."

One of the main complaints once Brawn ditched his role as poacher for that of gamekeeper was his willingness to follow the Liberty mantra of incorporating more gimmicks into the sport.

Whenever a set of natural circumstances somehow conspired turned a race on its head, Brawn was the first to suggest that the concept be adapted in order to spice up races.

A perfect example is the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, when the race was red-flagged and subsequently re-started, by which time a number of drivers were out of position, not least Lewis Hamilton who had been forced to the back of the (restart) grid after being penalised. While the Briton staged a brilliant come back to finish seventh, the race was won by Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri.

"Monza was a candidate for a reverse grid sprint race when we were considering testing the format this year," enthused Brawn the following day in his debrief for the official F1 website. "Unfortunately, we could not move forward with it, but the concept is still something we and the FIA want to work through in the coming months and discuss with the teams for next year. We believe that yesterday's race showed the excitement a mixed-up pack can deliver and with next year's cars remaining the same as this year - our fans could be treated to the similar drama we saw this weekend at Monza."

Thankfully, the powers that be remain unconvinced by reverse grids, but another of Brawn's cause celebres is the Sprint.

"There's always this debate about reverse grids," he says. "Reverse grids would be pretty entertaining. I think most of us would love to see what would happen.

"But there is an element of our fans who think that's getting too synthetic, too WWF sort of thing, and that you should reward the best guys and so on. I get that as well and I think we've got to be very cautious on that side of things.

"You have a sprint race now. And, for me, a sprint race can only add because it's a competition, it's a contest, best guy wins, smartest guy wins, it's a meritocracy. It's just an additional demonstration of the drivers' talents during a race weekend. I think the sprint is great.

"I can't see why anyone would really have a problem with that. That should, if they've got an open mind, appeal to all our fans. I can see why a reverse grid could be divisive and could unsettle some of our fans and that's something we've got to keep in mind.

"I think we're in a great place," he concludes. "We seem to have engaged well with our existing fans. We've got this new group of fans that we need to continue to engage with, and I think we've taken the opportunity of giving our fans a much deeper insight into the sport than they had before.

"I can see why personalities are appealing. And, as you know, we've opened up social media, which has its downsides and we're never gonna stop that, but I think for fans who engage in the sport and feed their passion, that's good."

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 26/12/2022
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