January 24, 2017

In Formula 1, "Retirement" Means Never Having To Say "I'm Sorry." (UPDATED)

So!  Formula 1 stuff, huh?  Believe it or not, yeppers!  There's been some important news bit percolating up from the coffeepot that is winter break.

First up, remember that whole Nico Rosberg wins the Driver's Championship, then retired thing?  Well, he's still retired.  Mercedes, trying to get the best driver they could to take over his seat, nabbed Valterri Bottas from Williams.  Helluva pickup that, and short of signing someone like Fernando Alonso, probably the best pick they could have made.  But that left one loose end floating about: who was going to fill the seat at Williams vacated by Bottas?  The team couldn't just pick up a kid, because they've already got one in Spear Saunter Lance Stroll, who was filling the seat left vacant by the retirement of Felipe Not Nasr Massa.  So who to pick up?  I hear Jenson Button was available... heh.  No, no, he's taking a year off.  Really, Williams was in a quandry.  Except for drivers like Esteban! or Pastor Maldodo, there wasn't much left on the F1 Driver's Tree.  And then, in a little English town called Wantage just east of Swindon, a small dark man stepped off the Stagecoach Lines bus from Oxford via Faringdon.  He then strolled two or three miles up the A338, past Simply Potty, a charming little pottery shop, then steering clear of the local Vauxhall dealer, he eventually made his way to an unprepossessing roundabout, seemingly in the middle of a field.  From there, he walked up a tree-lined drive to a security office in front of a large, modern-looking building of some sort.  "Hello," said the small dark man, "my name is Felipe Not Retired Massa.  I hear you are looking for a F1 driver, yes?"  Retiring for two months... that's gotta be a record of some sort.

In other retirement news, this one is just beginning to shake out, but it looks like Bernie Ecclestone, longtime CEO and puppetmaster of Formula 1, has been gently edged out of the picture by the incoming Liberty Media Group, the new owner/operators of the sport.  In his place, Ross Brawn, last seen in F1 when he sold his BrawnF1 team to an incoming Mercedes team, has been named the Managing Director of Motor Sports.  The commercial side of Ecclestone's position has been taken by Sean Bratches, a former ESPN executive and arguably the most important figure in the adoption of HD television in the US.  So the little troll is finally, finally gone.  He was probably the most important figure in F1 history, but jeez, enough with him already.

Two months until Melbourne!

UPDATE: So GD asks in comments just what effect Ecclestone's departure will mean to F1 in the short run.  First, I expect that the United States is going to enjoy a Formula 1 Renaissance of sorts.  The Eccletroll made it quite clear that F1 didn't need the United States and the repeated failures here proved that point (in his mind, at least).  That the "failures" came from his lack of interest in promoting anything here in the States would never cross his mind.  Liberty Media is actually an American company, and F1's new CEO, Chase Carey of the Splendid Mustache, is on record saying that he believes the US is an untapped goldmine for F1.

The other near-term thing that'll happen is that we'll see F1 become huge on the web.  The one thing Bernie never "got" was how important the internet is.  As a result, you won't find legal streams of a race or practice anywhere but NBCSN here in America... F1's own website doesn't even have streaming.  There is no legal way to watch a race except through your home provider's network... and NBCSN's feed is fair to awful, usually.  Much the same is true in Europe.  It's actually very hard to find much in the way of highlights on Youtube, and most of them are official F1.com clips.  Those that aren't are either trackside shots, stolen from the Lithuanian broadcast, or on-screen-mirrored and shrunken in quality.  The key word in the new company's name is "MEDIA".  It wouldn't surprise me at all if in the next year or two there's either an official online subscription service for the season, or a PPV-like arrangement for a race weekend.

Longer term, I expect that we'll see a reduction in races at places like Baku or Bahrain... tracks that exist only because people were willing to throw cash at Bernie and have no racing heritage at all.  Along that same vein, places like Silverstone or Monza will not have to deal with the annual jabs from Bernie, about how if they can't pony up the doubloons, F1 won't race there anymore.  Which is like saying baseball won't play at Fenway or Wrigley.  A lot of badmouthing of teams, drivers, and tracks spewed from Bernie, and having that go away is worth the price of admission alone.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:52 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 What does removing the troll do to the sport in the near term, exactly?

Posted by: GreyDuck at January 25, 2017 08:48 AM (rKFiU)

2 I miss SDB, now.  So often he was the first person to comment on F1 posts.

So, Massa is literally filling his own seat.  Didn't he get a bunch of retirement gifts?  That's what usually happens when a successful athlete retires.

Posted by: Ben at January 25, 2017 07:42 PM (1uZgg)

3 Ben, Massa was only given a single retirement gift.  On the whole, though, it was pretty damn cool.

He doesn't have to give it back.

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 25, 2017 09:51 PM (UDOXQ)

4 Thanks for the detailed answer! I tell you what, if watching & following the sport online/streaming becomes a more viable thing, I could see that as a huge boost. Heck, I might even pay more attention to it (beyond reading your posts/recaps).

Posted by: GreyDuck at January 29, 2017 03:49 PM (rKFiU)

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