Ross Brawn Clarifies His Role With Formula One Management

It appears my recent story about Ross Brawn taking over the reins at Formula One Management and replacing Bernie Ecclestone might have been partly attributable to wishful thinking. [sigh] In an interview with ESPN UK, Brawn clarified what his role with FOM will — and will not — be. He confirms that he has been acting as an advisor and consultant to FOM’s new owner, Liberty Media, but says his current involvement ends there.

Ross Brawn talks Formula One
Ross Brawn speaks with ESPN UK correspondent Jennie Gow.

“I’ve given a little advice to Liberty Media on Formula One, because they wanted to have a perspective on the business from someone who has been involved and someone who is not involved in a team anymore,” Brawn says. “I didn’t have any angles or axes to grind, it was just my view on Formula One and the characters involved and teams etcetera.”

Asked if his role could evolve into something more when Liberty completes its purchase of Formula One early next year, Brawn said, “It’s always Liberty’s decision, but there has been no serious discussion. I’ve given them some help to understand Formula One a bit more and they have to complete the transaction and then see what happens. I think they recognise that Bernie is a pretty key element in all of this, because of the relationships, experience and the knowledge, so I think Liberty appear to be a very sensible company and they are going to proceed cautiously.”

Translation — Bernie’s pudgy and well greased little fingers will continue to be all over the sport for the time being. Ecclestone is said to have a three year contract with Liberty Media to remain on board. Brawn adds, “I hope they take on-board the idea of creating a plan for the future, which is contributed to by a number of elements. What do we want Formula One to look like in three to five years’ time? Are the criticisms that are made today fair and can they be addressed? Everyone wants to see more racing, but how much more racing do you want to see because you can have too much of a good thing — it can seriously get boring if it’s there every week and it never changes.”

Some, including Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, have raised the idea of Brawn becoming involved with the FIA, the global motor racing sactioning body that supervises Formula One. “That’s possible. If that became the best channel to influence and be part of a better Formula One then it’s not out of the question. It’s not my natural environment if I’m honest, but that’s not a criticism of the FIA, it’s a criticism of me! That may be a possibility for the future, who knows? I think when the dust settles and we see what’s going to happen and on what time scale, then we can make better judgements on if I get involved and in what capacity.”

Brawn  then puts his finger directly on the number one issue that makes Formula One fans unhappy. “I think one of the frustrations for me is that there never seemed to be a plan and everything was reactive. Therefore, I think it would be good for Formula One to try to formulate a plan and a strategy of where it wants to be in three years’ time or five years’ time.” Imagine that, sports fans. A sport with a long range plan. That’s exactly what we have been hoping for all along.

“Formula One has a very impressive engine at the moment, but is that the engine for the future and where does that go? What’s going to be the engine in five years’ time? Is there going to be another engine and do we know what it is? If there is another engine in five years’ time that process needs to start soon with maybe some slightly different objectives to this engine. This engine right now is incredible, but it’s quite expensive and makes it difficult for the smaller teams. Can we produce an equally impressive technical challenge but make it more viable for the smaller teams?

“It’s those sorts of things, and if you set those objectives now you won’t do it next year, but maybe in three years’ time or five years’ time you will succeed. That plan can be adjusted like all plans, but at least start getting down with all the stakeholders — the broadcasters, the promoters of the circuits, the teams, the media, journalists and the fans to understand what they want to see — and then build that plan, debate it, structure it and see what comes out.

“I don’t think that’s been done yet in Formula One. I think it’s been more reactive to problems. [For example, we say] ‘the audiences are falling, so we’d better change something, change qualifying!’ and we saw what happened there. It wasn’t a great success. And then its ‘Mercedes are dominating, we’d better change the rules’. Well, perhaps that’s a solution, but where do we want Formula One to be in three to five years’ time? Do we know? Maybe we don’t know. But it would seem a better process than waiting to see where we are in three to five years’ time.”

Can you imagine what the sport would be like with such a clear eyed. professional, and mature person at the helm? It would be totally unlike anything we have ever seen from Bernie Ecclestone, who has been winging it for decades. If you are a fan of Formula One, pray that Ross Brawn becomes more involved with charting a course for the sport going forward. I had to wait 96 years for the Red Sox to win the World Series. I don’t want to wait that long for Formula One to come to its senses.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.