Ecclestone says Brawn role would be better at FIA, not Liberty

What did I just say here and here? When news broke from James Allen that Ross Brawn may have inked or has spoken about a deal with Liberty Media to come in as a sporting director along with their acquisition of Formula 1, I had suggested that his role would seem more cohesive within the FIA instead of the commercial rights holders.

My thinking in the pieces linked above from earlier this week were that Brawn would be a real asset from a technical and sporting regulation standpoint within the FIA and even suggested that Jean Todt’s comments in the past about appointing a head of F1 within the FIA made more sense than trying to sway the technical or sporting regulations through the lens of the commercial rights holder position. Apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way as the current F1 CEO, Bernie Ecclestone, told AUTOSPORT:

“I’d be delighted if he went to the FIA – he would be absolutely first class,” Ecclestone told Autosport.

“I haven’t spoken to him for quite a long time. I haven’t got the slightest idea what he could do.

“But nothing with us. We don’t need an engineer, or anybody like Ross’s job.”

If you were Liberty Media and you had the confidence in your ability to not only acquire F1 but set forth a long-term plan for its sustained profitability, you may look for a role for Ross if you believed he would make an eventual successor to Ecclestone’s role but that’s slightly askew because I would have presumed Chase Carey would fill that role unless he felt he doesn’t have all the tools he needs regarding insight, long-standing presence in F1 and relationships. It could also be that he views the ultimate leadership of F1 as a multi-role job of CEO, CMO and COO—Ross being the COO and perhaps, if you believe rumors, Zak Brown being the CMO leaving Chase as the CEO.

Ecclestone seems a little discounting on the move as well as he lays out the ownership structure and possibility of his replacement:

“Liberty Media are shareholders – Chase [Carey] has taken up Peter Brabeck’s role as chairman, but they are not in control of the company,” Ecclestone added.

“They have 10% of the company, and at the moment I am still chief executive of the company.

“It’s the same company it’s always been. If Liberty gains control then they are in a position to do whatever they want to do, which anybody that owns a company can do.

“But at the moment they don’t own the company, so they are not in that position.”

There is another side of this equation that is just a bit of conspiracy on my part but I would be keen to know what Liberty’s relationship and long-term thinking regarding the FIA is. Bringing in your own sporting and technical chief is a duplication of what the FIA is legally bound to do and not bound in a negative but a positive term if you are the FIA. Could Liberty be thinking post 2020 and the contractual agreements the Formula One Management group has with teams and the FIA? Could they be looking at a new structure that not only includes the commercial but regulatory oversight of F1 in the long term?

To try and go it alone would be a monumental task and that’s why the team’s threat of a breakaway never materialized in the past. The FIA has a firm grip on race sanctioning and the EU rights to regulate motorsport in Europe. Reading Max Mosley’s biography, I gained a much deeper insight as to how the FIA controls motorsport and any reality of a new series simply negotiating new contracts with promoter and circuits and then go racing. It’s nowhere near that simple. IT would be a litigious mountain to overcome.

So as the F1 world turns, expect more positioning and speculation as to what and when Liberty Media will make changes and who may be involved.