McLaren’s Zak Brown Says Negotiations for Future of F1 will be “Turbulent”

Zak Brown (right) says Liberty Media will make mistakes
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

McLaren Technology Group Executive Director Zak Brown believes negotiations in Formula 1 for 2021 and beyond will be ‘turbulent’, and added that whilst new owners Liberty Media are ‘going to make some mistakes along the way’ they are ‘doing all the right things commercially’.

Liberty are only on the cusp of their second season of ownership, yet eyes are already turning to the 2021 contract negotiations. Brown has been clear that his priority is to ensure the sport continues, however has aired concerns that some teams may be more interested with furthering their own plans than those of the sport.

Speaking at a media event earlier this month Brown commented that he’s expecting the negotiations to be turbulent, though added he’s happy with Liberty’s ownership.

It’s definitely going to be turbulent, the negotiations for 2021 and beyond,” said Brown.  “I think they’re doing all the right things commercially – they’re going to make some mistakes along the way but it would be unfair to think they will to score a 10/10 on everything.

“They’re going to learn but I’m happy with all the efforts and incremental things they’re trying.

Rule changes have been a constant source of debate within the sport, particularly with the 2018 season being the first to feature the Halo safety device. Whilst Brown accepts that there are a lot of voices Liberty have to listen to, he says the most important one is the FIA’s.

On the rules front you’ve got 10 teams which probably means eight different opinions, so that’s a difficult situation,” said Brown.  “I think they need to move quickly and align with the FIA.

“There’s a lot of conversation about ‘Liberty, Liberty’… the FIA has much impact on what happens in the sport moving forward as Liberty so I think the conversation has to be ‘Liberty and the FIA’ not just ‘Liberty.’

“In some areas the FIA has a greater responsibility because of the technical aspect of the sport, [such as] engine changes. I think the FIA and Liberty need to move quickly so we can have as little or as short a time of negotiations, because they will be turbulent, so the longer that goes the more disruptive it becomes.

Formula 1 has experienced a contraction in the number of teams competing, falling from thirteen in 2010 to just ten in 2017. This struggle to keep existing teams, as well as being new teams in, is not helped by rule changes, and Brown says that concluding 2021 negotiations as soon as possible is important in helping any new competitors to enter.

Also to be fully prepared for 2021, if new manufacturers and teams are going to come in we know it takes a couple of years, so time is ticking. I want us landing on what 2021 looks like by the middle of this season. I think anything longer than that starts to become technically challenging.