Ross Brawn

F1's new era: Ecclestone out, Brawn in

Formula One might still be run by old, white males following today's announcements, but at least it's a fresh start and hopefully a new direction for the sport that has been accused of being stale and risks losing its tenure as the leading edge of motorsport in recent years.

First came the announcement that Bernie Ecclestone was stepping down as CEO of FOM, but will remain in a position where he can provide advice to the board.

Mr Ecclestone:

“I'm proud of the business that I built over the last 40 years and all that I have achieved with Formula 1, and would like to thank all of the promoters, teams, sponsors and television companies that I have worked with.
“I'm very pleased that the business has been acquired by Liberty and that it intends to invest in the future of F1. I am sure that Chase will execute his role in a way that will benefit the sport.”

Executive Director of the Maclaren Technical Group Zak Brown said that Bernie's exit resulted in some big shoes (figuratively) that needed filling, but was confident that Liberty Media and new CEO "Chevy" Chase Carey were up to the task of rebuilding F1's standing.

Zak Brown:

“Over the next decade I expect the way Formula 1 is run will become both freer and more fan-friendly, and as such we can expect to see new generations of Formula 1 devotees recruited and delighted via the proactive embracing of digital and social media, gaming etc."

Perhaps the biggest news is that schools of salmon and trout across Britain will be sleeping a little easier knowing that master tactician Ross Brawn is putting down his fishing rod and returning to Formula 1 in a management role.

Brawn has been confirmed in a newly created role of "Managing Director, Motor Sports" by Liberty Media, presumably to help shape and improve the direction of F1 from a technical standpoint.

“It’s fantastic to be returning to the world of Formula 1,” said Brawn. “I’ve enjoyed consulting with Liberty Media these last few months and I’m looking forward to working with Chase, Sean and the rest of the Formula 1 team to help the evolution of the sport.
“We have an almost unprecedented opportunity to work together with the teams and promoters for a better F1 for them and, most importantly, for the fans.”

It's certainly true that some of the top figures like Ecclestone have been responsible for conceiving and regulating the very worst measures that the sport has seen. It's also true though that he has kept the sport viable and operating while expanding its global reach, scrapping to find new sponsors to support teams and drivers and going over and above to keep the cars on the track for the last four decades.

Ironically it's the backroom deals that Ecclestone has forged over the years that have held F1 together, now his departure could expose just how unsteady the foundations of the sport are in truth.

To be clear, I'm certainly not sorry to see Ecclestone go -- especially when personnel of Brawn's pedigree are being brought in -- but there is a nagging concern that the slightest gust could send this whole thing into a tailspin.  

Let's hope we look back on this moment fondly in two or three years' time as the dawning of a new era.