Formula 1 teams welcome Liberty Media takeover

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Formula 1
Singapore Grand Prix qualifying and the race is live on the BBC Sport website and 5 live

Formula 1 teams have welcomed the takeover of the sport's commercial arm by US group Liberty Media.

Liberty has bought an initial 18% of the F1 Group and will become the main shareholder with 35.3% when the deal is completed, due to be in early 2017.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: "It sounds very positive. I can't believe a serious group like Liberty would buy F1 without a long-term plan.

"Hopefully, they can address some of the weaknesses we have in some areas."

Horner singled out F1's struggles to penetrate the US market and exploit digital and social media platforms effectively.

His views were echoed by Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff, who said: "Christian and I rarely agree, but on this we are 100% on the same page."

In remarks that could be interpreted as a swipe at the previous main shareholder CVC Capital Partners, Horner also welcomed the fact that a company with a desire to invest in and develop the sport had become the new owners.

"Rather than a venture capitalist buying it, it is far better for the sport that a company like Liberty does," Horner said.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and Chase Carey, Chairman of Formula One Group
New chairman Chase Carey, centre, arrives at the paddock with Bernie Ecclestone in Singapore

And he said it was a good idea to ask Bernie Ecclestone to stay on as chief executive for the foreseeable future, in a deal believed to be for three years.

Ecclestone will work alongside F1's new chairman Chase Carey, who has worked closely with media mogul Rupert Murdoch in the past.

"We need to understand what's his plan, what's his vision, for how Liberty see F1 for the future," said Horner.

"He is going to have to get up to speed. It is great they have come to an agreement with Bernie for him to be involved for some time to come because that intervening period is going to be crucial but then he has to work out what he wants F1 to be in the future."

Team bosses also said they supported in theory Liberty's plan to offer the teams a shareholding in F1 in the future.

Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul said: "It is a great opportunity. The teams have created a lot of value in F1. It would be a great thing if some of the teams could capture some of the value, so if it makes sense, why not.

"It is good we have some long-term stability because its gives us some time to focus son the product, F1 is always a balance between entertainment and sport."

Wolff added: "The idea sounds good if you are able to align all major stakeholders with a long-term vision.

"If you make the teams shareholders, that would solve a lot of problems but it is a commercial and financial decision and it depends on the detail."

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said she hoped Liberty would address what many see as the inequitable distribution of income in F1, about which the Swiss team and Force India have lodged an official complaint to the European Union.

"I hope they take steps to ensure a certain competitive parity," said Kaltenborn. "That is for us more equally important to how the sport is being promoted to the outside."