Carey: Liberty will not 're-do' F1 calendar

Carey: Liberty will not 're-do' F1 calendar

21 June 2017 – Earlier this week, F1 unveiled its 2018 calendar, the first under Liberty Media. GPUpdate.net got CEO Chase Carey's view, plus input from FIA President Jean Todt, on the initial changes and what may come next.

Ever since Liberty's arrival at the start of the year, intrigue has grown around the changes the US media firm will make over coming seasons, as it bids to inject fresh energy into the sport.

At the Spanish Grand Prix, paddock changes proved a hit, while Carey's right-hand men, Ross Brawn (head of motorsport) and Sean Bratches (head of commercial), continue to work on several behind-the-scenes projects to improve the on- and off-track show.

A crucial aspect of any season is, of course, the make-up of the calendar.

Some feared that, given Liberty's profile, classic European venues such as Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, could be overlooked for new, more lucrative territories.

For the 2018 season, at least, Formula 1 classics in France and Germany will return, albeit through deals concluded prior to Liberty's arrival.

Asked about how this calendar is likely to compare to future editions, when Liberty can put its full stamp on the championship, Carey spoke of an "evolution, not a re-doing".

"I think Liberty's stamp already exists, we're very proud of the calendar," says Carey, addressing selected media, including GPUpdate.net, at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva.

"We are feeling good about the calendar and I believe that we can continue to improve it in the future, but I think there will be an evolution, not a re-doing.

"Our focus is on really making the races everything they can be; we want to make these events, the 21 events that we have in 2018, everything they can and should be."

Carey stated that there will be careful evaluation of any circuit/country before it joins the Formula 1 calendar, while retaining a balance between old and new venues.

"We have a long list of places that have expressed interest in hosting Formula 1," he says.

"I guess I would say at this point we're listening and trying to understand the opportunity, and really we've probably got multiple places in every continent around the world.

"We've got a pretty full slate and there are obviously limits.

"I think we want to make sure we have a full lay of the land of who's interested, and I think we want to make sure we evaluate the opportunity with all things considered.

"For us, it's about which places appeal to fans, to sponsors, to broadcasters, which places are healthy for the sport, and what's the right mix and balance of places and locations.

"We want locations that captivate people's imaginations, that are exciting for people to think of a place being, and we want venues that put on a great race.

"I have used the phrase 'destination cities', people want to go to, that really are I think what give this sport part of its mystique, its magic, its unique appeal."

Carey added his belief that these 'destination cities' will engage more fans and bring them closer to the sport, as they get caught up in the whirlwind of a race week.

"We'd like to be connected to the city," he explains, having previously outlined his desire to stage "21 Super Bowls" which take over cities and race locations.

"If you want a week-long event, the events up to the race weekend are probably more city centric, and you evolve towards the track as you get to Friday/Saturday/Sunday.

"So having that connection to the city is something that we lack.

"If we have the opportunity to be more connected to the city in the future, then we think that presents interesting and fun opportunities [for fans]."

But once more stressing the importance of balance, Carey made clear that the F1 calendar will not turn into a street circuit tour of major cities around the world.

"In some ways, we want the events to be different," he comments.

"We don't want 21 events that all look and feel the same, so in reality, if they are all city races, then we'd say they're all starting to look too similar.

"I think each one having its own unique characteristics, its own culture…

"When you're at Monza you should know you're in Italy, it should feel like it's Italian. If you're in Milan, it's fashion and food, or things that make Milan special.

"But I think it's important that we don't try and have one cookie cutter, one set of criteria and say we're going to judge each place around the world on this basis.

"Each place is unique and I think they will be evaluated that way."

FIA front man Todt, who has been working closely with Carey since Liberty's takeover, agreed that a core of classic tracks, while pursuing "quality" additions, is the best approach.

"For me, it's not so much the quantity, it's the quality," he comments.

"What is encouraging is to see that the French Grand Prix is back, the German Grand Prix is back – these are events that are part of the history of motorsport.

"I'm very happy to have new venues, new countries on the calendar, but it's very important that we don't forgot who has been a part of the history of motorsport."

China and Singapore, two of F1's newer events, are listed as 'to be confirmed' for 2018, but Carey played down concerns of them being axed, or any late changes.

Ahead of the 2017 season, under F1's previous ownership, several calendars were issued, before a definitive 20-race schedule arrived at the end of November.

"I wasn't there last year, so I actually don't know about the four calendars," says Carey, referring to the previous 'Bernie Ecclestone era'.

"It is very much our expectation that this is going to be the calendar, but again, we put the asterisk to be clear, at full disclosure on where we are in the process.

"We wouldn't have put the calendar out, we wouldn't have submitted it, if it wasn't the calendar that we planned to move forward with in 2018."

Asked about the silence over two races not being fully confirmed on the 2018 calendar, Carey was keen to note a change in approach compared to Ecclestone.

"My rule in business has been you run your reasons, make your decisions and then explain after the fact why you did what you did, not talk first and act second," he says.

"I think this sport has been one that seems to – at times – talk first and then try and do it or negotiate in public, and I think you're better off trying to work.

"You have better partnerships when you're trying to get things done in private, and then explain why you've done what you've done when you've done it."

In separate talks, Carey has been working to avoid calendar clashes.

Next year, F1 will not race on the weekend of the FIFA World Cup final, which will take place on July 15, while meetings have been held in an attempt to better align motorsport schedules.

Read more: World Cup final played role in triple header

"There are motorsport events, there are other events, next year we've got a World Cup, and in other years you could have an Olympics or something," he comments.

"I think we also want to be a constructive part of the automotive sport world.

"Obviously, we were not [racing] on the Le Mans weekend this year, but there are a lot of different automotive sports… so we'll try to be constructive.

"We had a meeting with a number of the participants [racing categories] in the automotive sport world, to talk about how we were trying to set up a calendar.

"I think working with the automotive sport world is the way to connect with as many fans as possible, and for us, as the pinnacle of motorsport, I think the more people we can get engaged in it, the more we can turn non-fans into fans, or casual fans into hardcore fans."

If Liberty sticks to its promise of "evolving" and not "re-doing" the calendar, Formula 1 could soon find itself enjoying the best of both worlds, along with a strengthened fanbase.

Written by: Mike Seymour

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