15 July 2011
Whitmarsh: F1 must grasp media 'opportunity' to lay foundation for future
Seeming to accept that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp organisation is not the way forward and that working to improve the present status quo is instead the answer, FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh urges F1 to embrace the new digital media age
Martin Whitmarsh has asserted that F1 must 'change' and seize the golden opportunity that lies in front of it by embracing the exciting new media age – adding on the subject of a potential takeover that 'it is better to find good and constructive ways of working together, rather than saying, 'Oh, here is someone new, whom we don't know, who wants to buy the sport so let's rush off in that direction''.
The future of F1 has been a hot potato for some time, with the roots of the recent discussions about what approach it should adopt on the commercial side to be found two years back in the teams' 2009 'breakaway' menace. The chief bugbear amongst competitors is the slice of the financial pie that they presently receive – in comparison with the chunk that goes into the pocket of Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.
With that in-mind, it was speculated three months ago that the sport's current majority owners CVC Capital Partners – who took control in 2005 – could be evaluating selling F1 on, with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation declaring itself an interested bidder...and the teams ostensibly prepared to entertain such a bid.
Perhaps deterred, however, by the recent storm of negative publicity engulfing the Australian media mogul, and speaking with his Formula One Teams' Association cap on, Whitmarsh claims the first avenue should be to endeavour to resolve the current issues from within – rather than seeking to find an outside saviour who may or may not transpire to be a better proposition.
“The teams want to work together,” FOTA's chairman told the official F1 website. “It's the first time in 60 years that the teams are working together better. Historically, the teams have fought each other – they fought with the FIA and FOM – so it was kind of a battlefield. What we are trying now is to collaborate in a manner that promotes partnership.
“There are new suitors, but we think we are better off working with the partners that we have. Bernie knows the sport and has done many great things for the sport, CVC are the owners, so we have got to be respectful. Bernie is an enormously influential and powerful figure in the sport, and I hope we will wake up for many years to come and Bernie is still there.
“That doesn't mean we always have to agree and doesn't mean we will agree all the time, but I think it is better to find good and constructive ways of working together, rather than saying, 'Oh, here is someone new, whom we don't know, who wants to buy the sport so let's rush off in that direction'. I think that there is always danger in change.
“In my view, that would be the wrong thing to do. We all have flaws and weaknesses, but if we can work together, that would be the best option. This is a fantastic sport. Of course, we can do better and we always should be open to embracing new technologies, opportunities and new challenges, but we are better off doing this with people we know – probably – than suddenly saying we must go off in a different direction.
“There are a number of issues with News Corp. There is a lot of concern over pay-per-view [television], which has been historically the Sky model and that is probably not suitable for F1. Yes, they've got a lot of challenges at the moment in the UK, but nevertheless, we all know that News International and News Corp will be alive and powerful in the media in twelve months' time. They will move on, but there will be casualties as they've closed down a newspaper, which none of us would have believed two weeks ago. It's a dynamic time.
CVC Capital Partners
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