Bernie Ecclestone has strongly criticized the management of Formula 1 by Liberty Media, accusing Greg Maffei & Co of having overly Americanized the sport and tightened the leash with the Netflix series “Drive To Survive” in recent years. With the Las Vegas and Austin GPs scheduled for late October and November, the circus will make three appearances in the United States in 2023, allowing Formula 1 to penetrate the American market further.
A nostalgic Bernie Ecclestone hits out at Liberty Media and Netflix
“I consider the races they’re doing in America completely crazy,” said the former Formula 1 chief to the Daily Mail. “Let’s take Miami, for example. The way they handled it was completely crazy. They tried to be American, whereas when we went there, we tried to be pure Formula 1.”
“Perhaps they are right, and I was wrong to try to maintain the essence of F1. But I watch every practice session and race, and I think, ‘My God, are we trying to show F1 or something else?'”
Regarding Liberty Media’s desire to embrace the world of streaming/entertainment, the British mogul commented: “Netflix has caught them a bit, and they are following them a bit too much. Netflix will see them as entertainment only until they find it a profitable business. It’s not like our old TV broadcasters, who have been with us forever.”
Given his personality, it was widely predictable that Bernie Ecclestone would not view with favor the direction taken by Maffei to make the sport more spectacular, especially since in 2016/2017, it had clearly lost appeal in the eyes of fans.
Like it or not, the decisions made by Liberty Media have brought this sport back to being one of the most followed in the world, and it has reached levels of popularity never seen before. Certainly, there is a limit to everything, such as the continuous addition of Grand Prix races every year, which risks “normalizing” the anticipation of race weekends and causing considerable strain for those in the business.
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Speaking of the ever-increasing number of seasonal races, Bernie Ecclestone responds: “I think 18 races are sufficient. We had reached 20, and I often thought it was a bit too many. You have to think about the teams. Soon, it will be necessary to employ twice as many staff. With 22 or 23 races, there will be too many divorces.”
“I understand the commercial rights holders because they are signing long-term agreements and guaranteeing greater economic gain. Some contracts are even for 10 years. But without a doubt, I would stop at 18 races, the more prestigious ones.”
It’s undeniable that Maffei’s “treatment” has given new life to the sport. However, it’s equally true that the on-track action should never take a back seat to the television show, and this is something that has perhaps been happening too often at the higher levels of Formula 1 recently.