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Burden worth BILLIONS - Is F1 becoming a Liberty Media liability?

Burden worth BILLIONS - Is F1 becoming a Liberty Media liability?

Burden worth BILLIONS - Is F1 becoming a Liberty Media liability?

Burden worth BILLIONS - Is F1 becoming a Liberty Media liability?

As the 2024 Formula 1 season looks to continue the trend of knowing the race-winning driver before lights out, you have to wonder if Liberty Media are checking the refund policy for their F1 purchase.

Sadly, I'm more familiar with getting my money back for a faulty £50 power tool from a DIY store than I am seeking to recoup $4.4 billion for commercial rights, but I somehow don't think an uninterested part-time schoolkid would be handling Stefano Domenicali's concerns.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Horner allegations lost Red Bull 'MONTHS' of development claims Villeneuve

Why might an American media giant question their investment when F1 is making the sporting headlines nearly every day?

The answer comes from Liberty's incredible job of turning Formula 1 from a somewhat niche and slightly geeky fortnightly treat for the few into the daily entertainment show it is for the many.

F1 is no longer a niche sport as it once was

Formula 1's growing popularity

This transformation has been nothing short of remarkable, making Formula 1 appeal to a broader audience than ever before.

The celebrity factor that names like Guenther Steiner and Christian Horner come with in 2024 is sizeable, and these characters somehow hold the same gravitas as some of the top drivers.

These once-supporting cast personalities within the paddock have become as much a part of the spectacle as the racing itself, contributing significantly to the sport's growing appeal.

As Max Verstappen sets off for what is almost certainly his fourth consecutive championship, and the also-rans strap in for another 2023 season, it's not the wheel-to-wheel action on race day that's generating interest and headlines.

Haas not renewing Steiner's contract, Lewis Hamilton joining Ferrari, Christian Horner and Mohammed Ben Sulayem subject to separate investigations... each of these are the topics of gossip and conversation I'm having with my friends who have become casual fans.

They aren't spending three days of their weeks watching hours of television as they might've done in the nailbiting 2021 season because they already know who will win the race.

Why bother watching days of racing when seven minutes of YouTube can tell the shorter version of the same story?

READ MORE: Horner makes big announcement over Red Bull future

Guenther Steiner was a hugely popular figure with F1 fans

Is F1 a sport or entertainment?

The most-read pieces on F1 websites in 2024 aren't the race results, and newspapers didn't put Red Bull on their front pages because of their racing success - it's all about the off-track drama.

The soap opera that unfolds in the paddock is as compelling as any prime-time TV show, drawing in viewers who might not be traditional sports fans.

Heartbreakingly for Liberty Media (won't someone think of the multi-millionaires?!), F1's commercial rights don't extend to paddock gossip, driver transfers, and personnel sackings.

None of Liberty Media's purchase, i.e. commercialising the sporting part of Formula 1, can provide more entertainment than the noise away from the race track, and everyone else benefits from their investment.

Because of F1's pretty revamped packaging - and a certain Netflix documentary -Christian Horner is far more of a household name than a decade ago.

The spiciness (please excuse me) of Geri Halliwell's husband being subject to an alleged leak garners far more attention, thanks to his recently grown fame. The dream for Liberty Media is to have a name like Horner enhancing their core product, F1's on-track action.

Instead, they are stuck holding the short straw of a dull-to-watch era of Formula 1 while everything surrounding the sport is undergoing a renaissance.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Mercedes pushing Russell, NOT Hamilton insists F1 champion

Drive to Survive helped F1 find a new audience

This time next year, Rodney

We're at the point in the Formula 1 cycle where awaiting the revolutionary new regulations to fix a driver's dominance is the great hope to save the sport.

The current generation cars have brought the grid closer on a single lap, and the racing is arguably better, although DRS continues to provide 'artificial' help.

Yet the delta to the driver in P1 makes those overtakes and side-by-side moments in a race feel far less pivotal when they simply sort out who finishes P4 or P5 rather than the victor.

I adore any battling we get, even those without passing, but they don't have the same stakes when it's not for the lead, as Singapore exemplified last year.

How long can Liberty Media hope their recently-acquired American audience, their target audience, will stick around and tune in when home-soil racing options like IndyCar, NASCAR, and IMSA offer the uncertainty F1 can't?

READ MORE: FIA president Ben Sulayem INVESTIGATED over alleged F1 race 'interference'

Carlos Sainz's Singapore GP victory was a highlight of 2023

Liberty Media's F1 future

With three high-ticket sellout American events, Liberty is undoubtedly still riding the crest of its making, but every wave eventually crashes down.

They must decide how many seasons they're willing to foot the cost of a sport that desperately needs to find its mojo again.

The need for Formula 1 to adapt to maintain its place at the pinnacle of motorsport has never been more crucial because it's no longer only competing with other racing series.

F1 is in its newfound landscape within global entertainment, and Liberty must establish it as a sport first and drama second for them to reap the rewards of their hard work.

READ MORE: Wolff reveals Verstappen 'PRIORITY' as Mercedes seek Hamilton replacement


Red Bull Formula 1 Christian Horner Guenther Steiner Stefano Domenicali Liberty Media
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