“Formula 1 needs more heroes”

The president and CEO of Formula 1 Group talks about the season at the start, between an expanding market and new challenges: “We want more drivers and teams capable of winning. And we have to change our language for a new audience, but without distorting ourselves “

Mario Salvini

– Milan

The big boss talks about his Formula 1 which starts today. Stefano Domenicali takes stock, with the evident satisfaction that comes from the bang with which the season we arrive from ended. From a boom in interest like never before generated by the world overtaking on the last lap of Abu Dhabi. “Today we begin, it is a starting point, we really begin to see what the cards are like on the table”. A Formula 1 begins that enters a new era, with the new regulation, ground effect cars, 18 ”tires. “Our goal is to have more than two competitive teams, more than two drivers in contention”. Within the framework of a healthy championship, which generates growing interest “also through the dynamics of personalisms”. As if to say that the rivalries: Lewis Hamilton against Max Verstappen, Toto Wolff against Christian Horner, are boon. And who knows how many more they will be able to create if other teams are able to compete with Mercedes and Red Bull.


“When it comes to budget cap, the first issue is that of control, a control that gives credibility to the system: and must be implemented quickly. In addition to the technical regulations, it will be necessary to verify that there are no financial engineering phenomena that lead to circumventing the limits. Then it is true that there are unforeseeable variables, such as inflation and the issue of transport costs that have risen in recent weeks. So I foresee that especially on this last aspect there will be confrontation “.


The Formula One Group president and CEO explained how his organization is working to increase its base around the world. “Our strategy is to be inclusive. On the one hand, we must respect the fans who have always followed us, ever since they were born. But we must also understand if that language risks becoming uninteresting for other fans ”.


Also this year, as already in 2021, in some GPs the sprint race is scheduled, with the difference that according to the statistics it will be the best time of qualifying on Friday which will be valid as pole position. Originally it seemed that there would be many more, then it was decided to do three, like last year. This time they will be in Imola, Zeltweg and Interlagos. “The sprint race is a tactical response. We are receiving so many inputs that I do not anticipate how to change it. Also to understand if in addition to doing more, maybe even as a modality “.


Linked to the theme of expanding the pool of fans is the series on Netflix. However, Verstappen does not intend to collaborate with. “That Netflix has had an inclusive effect is beyond doubt. It is an exceptional tow. It is to be understood whether the dramatization of narrative can be part of a path to ignite interest, in this sense there are themes that need to be redefined. If a driver refuses to participate, because he is not presented as he wants, we talk about it constructively. ‘Tell us how you want to be presented, we find a way’. Already these days the Netflix managers are meeting the teams. It is a theme of culture and language. If you want to get in touch with the US market you have to speak that language, we have to readjust ourselves. Which does not mean upsetting us, of course “.


Also this year we will have two events in Italy: Imola on April 24th, Monza on September 11th. “I’m not saying this as an Italian: Italy has represented an important meaning and will continue to do so. Imola and Monza must stimulate each other to assert themselves in a context where tradition is no longer enough. But I see that the president of the ACI, the presidents of Emilia Romagna and Lombardy, the president of the council have all understood that Formula 1 is something in which we must invest. It is a driving force for the business “.


In 2021, until the culmination of the last five dramatic laps in Abu Dhabi, the invasiveness of some team principals (and some engineers) with the race direction held up. The continuous communications, requests, disguised intimidation. “From this year it will be limited. It is an opportunity to improve. Sports organizations, like everyone else, who do not take inspiration from the episodes that have occurred to improve themselves do not fulfill their duty. We demand it because it is a question of credibility that we care a lot about. And our credibility passes through the credibility of our bodies “.


It is almost a philosophical question: a requirement that has always been pressing in Formula 1. “I feel the need to make traditions coexist with the speed in which things change. And rightly so. In the search for this balance I am involved on a personal level. I don’t want to deny the inputs that come from many fields, business, technology. And at the same time, for many it is essential to maintain continuity with the past “.


“To date we have received many requests to enter,” revealed Domenicali. “Let’s say more than one and less than eight… There are those who are more explicit in making it known that he would like to enter (the reference is to the Andretti team, ed) and those who do so in silence. But it’s also true that today’s number isn’t a limiting factor for the show. I don’t think increasing the number of teams and cars on the track increases the show, unless it is a very important entity. I would like to be more focused on making the teams that are already there more competitive ”.


Many think that the change of crown has benefited F1, that Verstappen’s victory after Hamilton’s long domination was good to revive the show. In the same way, therefore, it is to be imagined that F1 hopes for a winning Ferrari again. “F1 cheers for a more competitive championship. It is clear that the added value that a strong Ferrari would give would be high. The signs say it will be, we’ll see ”.


Both the United States and the Far East market are important. Never before has there been so much interest in the United States: it would be wrong not to take advantage of the opportunity In the Far East, we expect Guanyu Zhou, the Chinese driver of Alfa-Romeo, to attract even more attention. Beyond Ferrari, it is the drivers, with their faces that make interest grow. China is a potentially giant market. Beyond Shanghai, we also have requests for GPs in other cities in China ”.


As we know, the controversial epilogue of 2021 led to the dismissal of race director Michael Masi. Replaced by a couple of directors who will alternate, the Portuguese Eduardo Freitas and the German Niels Wittich. With the suspicion that it may become even more difficult to have uniformity of judgment. “We have to have faith in their work. For us, uniformity of judgment is linked to the issue of credibility “.


Verstappen has brought a crazy quantitative dimension: here in Bahrain there are hundreds of fans who have come only him. Zandvoort is already sold out for three years. Spa is already sold out. The value of television rights in that area has increased fivefold. Hamilton has led to a range of themes and values ​​that go beyond F1. Of course: for some they are important, for others less, we just have to try to ensure that they do not become politicians. Then, that some pilots are in the fashion world is something more, a new thing. The different way of presenting F1 has meant that F1 is talked about in areas where it was never done ”.


This year there will no longer be a social moment, let’s say, like last year “We race as One” in favor of inclusion. “We will make more concrete operations. In this GP, for example, we met less fortunate guys for whom we have a special program. We have passed from the moment of the image to concrete acts. On Sunday you will see something… we will encourage the whole world to contribute to a just cause ”.


The replacement of Antonio Giovinazzi with Zhou in Alfa puts Italy out of Formula 1. Domenicali, by force of position, must look at it from the top. “Well, I can’t do more than putting two GPs in Italy…”, he joked. “But I see an F3 championship with many cars. I believe that within 4 or 5 years we will be able to see someone ”.


“I hope there are more and more women. Beyond the focus on the W Series. What we need to worry about is that there are no limitations. The goal is that there are no barriers. But we must also accept, if anything, the idea that women prefer to do other sports ”.

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