Liberty Media chief executive Greg Maffei has conceded that Max Verstappen’s dominant run is providing “a challenge” to maintain the sport’s growing popularity.
Verstappen preserved Red Bull’s unbeaten 2023 campaign at the Italian Grand Prix by surging to his 10th straight victory, setting a new all-time F1 record for the most consecutive wins by a single driver.
Although the nature of the ever-changing battle behind the Austrian outfit has provided excitement, Red Bull has been unchallenged at the front since midway through last year, winning 24 of the past 25 rounds.
While Maffei has pointed to the increased overtaking taking place – the Dutch Grand Prix recorded the highest number of position changes in history – he is cautious about whether F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali will be successful in his attempts to spin Verstappen’s supremacy in a positive light.
“The midfield is quite interesting, and we can show statistically there’s more overtaking than has ever occurred,” Maffei said in an event held by Goldman Sachs.
“The challenge obviously is Max Verstappen is having an unbelievable year, or record-setting year.
“Stefano Domenicali is rightly trying to pivot and say, ‘Come watch this historic event, you’ve never seen success like this, you don’t want to miss it.’ We’ll see if that works.”
Discounting the lack of immediate competition at the top, Maffei contends that F1 remains a “very attractive” proposition.
Despite acknowledging that one driver continuously winning could eventually prove troublesome to viewership figures, Maffei acknowledges that the reigning champion is the best in the business right now.
“The reality is, we have a very attractive competitive product, other than the fact that Max is that fast,” he said. “Short of breaking his leg, a la Tonya Harding, I’m not sure what we can do about that!
“But he’s a phenom. He’s driving what seems to be the fastest car and he’s driving it very well.
“If you look at the lines he’s taking, how aggressive those lines are, but how well he’s able to navigate them. It is truly stunning. And you can see statistically why he is faster than anybody else.”
Since taking over ownership in late 2017, Liberty Media has consistently vied to expand F1’s presence in the United States. The country now upholds three spots on the F1 calendar, with Miami and Las Vegas now accompanying Austin, Texas.
Maffei has revealed that the overall viewership figures continue to rise every year across the board, despite both championships being a foregone conclusion.
“I think you need to look at overall interest in the sport,” he noted. “Viewership is a little tough.
“We’ve had many successes this year, I think three of the top four races here in the United States were all this year in terms of viewership, and our average viewership is up year over year.
“But nonetheless, there can be a specific circumstance, like last year Miami was standing alone, this year was up against a Miami Heat game in the [NBA] playoffs. Those particular circumstances can drive viewership of a race.
“If you take the totality of interest as measured by growth, not only in linear TV, but how much we’ve grown Instagram, YouTube views, TikTok views, the amount of interest in the sport has only catapulted greater, much greater than double digits. So I’m convinced our demand is very high.”