FOTA chairman and McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh reckons the teams can control the direction of the sport providing they remain united.
Whitmarsh made the comments on Thursday when speaking at the latest FOTA Fans' Forum, this time held at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking. When asked about speculation F1 could end up on pay-TV in the UK, following recent reports the BBC
will not renew its current deal at the end of 2013 [see separate story - click here
], Whitmarsh reiterated that all the teams are committed to free-to-air TV.
“All of the FOTA teams believe in free-to-air television. There will be parts of the market where there's some differentiated service offered, but if you think about the business model of F1 teams, which is all about attracting brands and giving them brand exposure, they require us to have a large audience,” he said.
“Historically, that meant being on free-to-air. Our current contracts require that F1 remain on free-to-air and the teams, through FOTA, are clearly going to safeguard their business interests and the interests of the fans in this regard.
“But it isn't as simple as 'is it on BBC or ITV'. Fans want a lot more information. We're in a very data-rich sport: we have a lot of telemetry data and strategic information, and lots of modelling and simulation that every team is doing.
“We're an ideal sport to feed the real fans additional information, as well as the traditional TV feed. We've got to try and unscramble that, and it isn't as simple as 'we must stay free-to-air'.
“The media is really multi-faceted and we've got to ensure that there's a mass free entry in which to see grand's prix. But there are an awful lot of people who want extra information that you won't get through a free-to-air route.
“There's speculation surrounding Newscorp's interest in the sport and let's be clear: the teams are working together and this sport isn't going anywhere without the teams.
“If we stay together, we can control the [future] direction of this sport and we're not trying to do that for any other reason than what's in the best interests of the sport,” he summed-up.