After almost four years at the helm of Formula 1 Chase Carey will step down as CEO to be replaced by ex-Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali. Although Carey’s reign in the sport was short-lived, in comparison to his predecessor, he oversaw multiple major decisions that will have an impact on Formula 1’s future. MotorsportWeek.com takes a look at the top five changes to have happened during Carey’s four-year reign.
5. New events
Arguably one of the trickier jobs when managing Formula 1 is securing new races on the calendar as the negotiations can often be long and arduous.
During most of Carey’s spell as CEO he had Sean Bratches in place as Formula 1’s commercial chief to assist with this department, though Carey was also influential in forming the sport’s direction.
Liberty allowed the Malaysian Grand Prix to drop from the calendar but Carey signed a new deal with officials in Vietnam, at a street-based track in capital Hanoi.
Although the coronavirus pandemic marred plans to go to Hanoi this year, it marked the first new race obtained under Liberty Media’s governance.
Another crowning achievement came when it agreed a deal with Zandvoort, bringing the Dutch Grand Prix back following the large backing gained by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Although that race too was a victim of COVID-19 in 2020, the event is set to finally return in 2021.
New contracts were also secured for historic and well-loved races at Silverstone, Monza, Suzuka and Spa-Francorchamps, allaying fears that Liberty Media would uproot the sport from its traditional bases.
Hockenheim was poised to be dropped from the 2019 calendar, however Mercedes was swayed to step in to become the title sponsor of the race, and it was saved for another year – putting on one of the all-time great races.
There have been misses – such as the ongoing saga over the Miami event – but overall Liberty has preserved Formula 1’s heartlands while seeking pastures new.
4. Fan growth
Carey took over the role of F1’s CEO from Bernie Ecclestone, who had, for a long time, run a tight ship, and was unconvinced to embrace new technology until his very final years.
At pre-season testing in 2017, the first F1 event under Carey and Liberty Media, immediate changes were noticed as teams were posting videos of their cars from Barcelona on social media amid seemingly relaxed rules. This was eventually even opened to written media to a limited degree – an unfathomable scenario in the Ecclestone era.
This openness would only continue to develop, as teams and F1 alike began to use social media to promote themselves and the sport, attracting a new audience.
|Year||Followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube||Growth from previous year|
|2017||11.2 million||+54.9% from 2016|
|2018||18.5 million||+53.7% from 2017|
|2019||24.9 million||+32.9% from 2018|
The Drive to Survive series, available on Netflix, was a very successful project, offering an insight into the characters and personalities of those involved in the sport, and brought in a substantial number of new fans.
The creation of F1TV not only gave many people access to live F1 sessions as they happened but also a rich archive filled with races from decades gone by for fans to re-live or experience for the first time. There have been problems, and it remains a work-in-progress, but it gave F1 its own much-needed platform.
The Beyond the Grid podcast, featuring weekly guests that offered new, astute information, provided fans with a relaxed but informative listen on the ins and outs of F1 from different eras.
Over the last couple of years, F1 Esports has become a prominent topic, with many younger fans, who enjoy racing virtually at home, gaining an opportunity to showcase their skills on the worldwide stage. At the same time, F1 opened itself into a new market consisting of a younger, gaming audience.
Formula 1 has also enhanced the off-track spectacle for fans at grand prix weekends, with more activities, a centralised fan zone, forming a festival-like atmosphere at some events.
In the current ever-expanding digital era, the push for new markets and fresh platforms has turned Formula 1 into much more than a sport.
3. New 2022 regulations
Despite the sport’s popularity growth in recent years, frustrations have arisen from the lack of competitiveness, with Mercedes winning all titles on offer since 2014. They have won 45 of the 71 races to have been held under Carey’s stewardship.
There is also deep unhappiness regarding the sizeable gap that exists between those competing for wins and podiums and those racing for points, with very rare sniffs of a top-three finish.
Teams agreed to new technical regulations that targeted a reduction of the dirty air effect that has grown in recent years amid the increase in downforce levels.
While there were no major sticking points to get teams to agree on the new cars, discussions on the budget cap were tougher due to disparity between the teams, prompting a delay in 2019 as negotiations dragged on.
Teams finally agreed to a $175 million spending cap just as the deadline loomed but it became clear new terms would have to be negotiated to compensate for losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
F1 and Carey was left in a tricky position of finding a compromise, as some teams felt the cap was too low, while others believed it remained too high, as exclusions were sought, primary focused on engine costs incurred by a handful of entrants.
All teams eventually signed up to a $145 million figure for 2021, which would be reduced to $135 million by 2023.
Compromise was reached and it was an admirable triumph for Carey to get the powerhouses of Mercedes and Ferrari to concur with such a significant spending slash.
Successor Stefano Domenicali will still have to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic, the financial hit of which has yet to be truly felt, but Carey brought Formula 1 teams around to a new way of thinking.
2. New Concorde Agreement
After all of the teams had agreed to the new technical and sporting regulations that are set to change the sport that paved the way for the new Concorde Agreement.
Formula 1 faced the possibility of losing one or more teams from the grid, amid question marks over the futures of some outfits, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.
Haas’ struggles in recent years led to speculation that owner Gene Haas could pull the plug while Renault’s long-term future was also in doubt – both cited the budget cap as vital developments. Mercedes questioned its income from the prize money fund under the new deal, forcing F1 to further negotiate the matter and find common ground for all involved.
“We from Mercedes made it very clear that we are happy with a more equitable split of the prize fund,” said Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff earlier this year.
“The way success is rewarded and possible for everybody, we agreed to. We are, I would say, the biggest victim in terms of prize fund loss in all of that. Ferrari has maintained an advantageous position. With Red Bull it obviously balances out with AlphaTauri. So it is us that are hurt the most.”
The following week, Mercedes confirmed it had signed the new Agreement along with the nine other teams, settling the matter and satisfying those with different ambitions.
With it being the first Concorde Agreement signed under Liberty Media it aims, in the medium to long-term, to right the wrongs of the last version designed by Ecclestone.
It means that all 10 existing teams have signed up to compete, in some way or form, until at least the 2025 season.
1. Navigating the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic seriously threatened the 2020 season. Back in March, there were still lots of unknowns and questions regarding the virus, and it reached a nadir in Australia.
F1 was caught in the worst-case scenario: a week later the race would have been abandoned, a week earlier it would have gone ahead with no problems, but the timing skewered the sport. The handling of that crisis, with Carey only jetting in early Friday after a meeting in Vietnam, was terrible.
Carey was unusually snappy and was clearly facing an unprecedented situation that risked derailing a whole season. Formula 1 effectively went into hibernation. Would a 2020 season even exist? That was a real possibility at one stage.
But behind the scenes, F1 was working to get the season underway, while news of cancellations or delays to grand prix events took over headlines. Carey was having to juggle multiple balls while simultaneously spinning plates.
A plan was put into motion and the opening eight races of the season were secured in Europe, while further races would be announced in the following months. The sport ended up with a healthy 17 races locked in, of which nine have been completed.
It has largely been a success with just nine positive cases after 44,101 tests – making for a positivity rate of a mere 0.02 per cent.
F1 in 2020 will be remembered for many things, but perhaps what may stand out most is the sport’s ability to secure races at Mugello, Imola, Portimao and the Nurburgring – a feat many would have labelled inconceivable only months before.
While sport in general is managing to push on amid the pandemic, F1 faced a heightened challenge in that it is an international sport with thousands of operatives required at each event, huge logistical issues, and the threat of government advice changing at short notice. Carey’s proclamations in March and April that a 15-18 round calendar was achievable were met with derision in some quarters but that is exactly what was finalised.
It was also crucial for the season to get underway to fulfil TV contracts and for teams to receive corresponding prize money. Everyone is braced for a brutal financial hit but that would have been catastrophic without a season.
But business motives aside, for many people who are enduring a difficult year, having the offer of viewing F1 for two hours on a Sunday afternoon may be as good a medicine as any.