"[However], I think we would welcome interest from other forms of media. The devil, of course, is in the detail. [I'm] mindful that there is a lot of heat in the air about that at the moment, but we just don't know the detail so it would be improper to comment beyond that. But what the fans need and want - and a mass audience - is something we need to pay attention to.
"I am not sufficiently aware of the detail of quite how [it] is going to operate. What I can say is that, if you look at the last two or three years, then F1, whether through the teams' association, or through the FIA, has taken a number of steps to try and keep the racing exciting and grow that audience. I think everything from the fans' forum to the amount of digital content that we are now pushing out into the networks says that we are extremely interested in what the fans are doing. They are the backbone of the global reach that we have and we do listen to them, so I disagree with your first assertion that it is just riding roughshod over that, but I can understand some of the concerns when the detail isn't there."
Renault team boss Eric Boullier, however, claimed that the deal could only be good for the sport.
"With the latest I have been told about this deal, I think it is rather good news," the UK-based Frenchman suggested, "It should be positively welcomed by the fans, even if they have not been maybe calling into a forum to discuss the idea. My understanding is there will be more TV viewers, there will be more access to F1 and F1 will broadcast much more through two different channels that are BBC
, on free-to-air, and Sky
, so with the latest info I have got it is a good deal, as it is good for F1 and it is definitely much better for fans."
had expressed an interest in taking up ownership of the sport through News Corp, Ecclestone always insisted that he would not entertain offers from a group that would, potentially, remove the 'free to air' option from television viewers. However, the sport's ringmaster appears to have has given in under the weight of the problems facing the BBC
and added the UK to both Germany and Italy in allowing Sky
to have the rights to cover F1 live.
Amid concerns that the latest decision could be replicated in other countries, the question of potentially alienating sponsors was raised during Friday's FIA Q&A session, with Lowdon admitting that the sport may have to adapt its current practices.
"The model has to reflect the commercial model of the sport, there can't be a disconnect in the commercial model, it's really quite clear," he noted, "Everything in F1 changes, everything moves forward, so I imagine that the commercial model will as well.
"It's vitally important that the requirements of the fans are reflected in that and I would anticipate that, if there were this kind of move on a global scale instead of one specific market, then the overall model would have to change for the teams, not just to be profitable but to be sustainable and obviously the sustainability of F1 is very important. It's a sport with great tradition and it has a fabulous future and it's important that that future plays out."
Boullier admitted that losing 'free to air' coverage would be detrimental to doing business with sponsors, but insisted that this was not his understanding of the latest deal.
"Based on this business model today, which is only 'free to air', we can obviously sell to the sponsors the great access to fans and TV viewers," he conceded, "If you start to reduce the 'free to air' broadcasting, you obviously have to change the business model and it will affect the sustainability of the sponsorship. In the case of this deal, I think we need to wait to have more details, because my understanding is that it will still be 'free to air' and that there will be better access to F1 for the fans which will, in the end, be much better.
"The added value is that Sky
will broadcast much more information and show any reports and that's extra information that we will share with the public and with the fans."