F1 owner admits Verstappen's current domination "a challenge"

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei admits that Max Verstappen's current domination of Formula 1 is a "challenge" as the championship tries to sustain audience growth and fan interest.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

In Monza last weekend, Verstappen set a new record with his 10th consecutive grand prix win, while between them, the Dutchman and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez have won every race held so far in 2023.

Maffei said that F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is trying to focus on the fact that Verstappen is making history as he extends his record run, and that in itself is worth watching.

"The midfield is quite interesting, and we can show statistically there's more overtaking than has ever occurred," Maffei said at an event hosted by investment company Goldman Sachs.

"The challenge obviously is Max Verstappen is having an unbelievable year, or record-setting year.

"Stefano Domenicali is rightly trying to pivot and say, 'Come watch this historic event, you've never seen success like this, you don't want to miss it.' We'll see if that works."

Maffei jokingly referenced the infamous events in ice skating in 1994, when Tonya Harding was charged with an involvement in an assault on rival Nancy Kerrigan intended to scupper the latter's chances in the US championships, and hence Olympic Games.

The story was told in the 2017 movie 'I, Tonya', starring Margot Robbie.

"The reality is, we have a very attractive competitive product, other than the fact that Max is that fast," said Maffei. "Short of breaking his leg, a la Tonya Harding, I'm not sure what we can do about that!

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Erik Junius

"But he's a phenom. He's driving what seems to be the fastest car and he's driving it very well. If you look at the lines he's taking, how aggressive those lines are, but how well he's able to navigate them. It is truly stunning. And you can see statistically why he is faster than anybody else."

Maffei acknowledged that TV viewership isn't the only measure of interest in F1.

"I think you need to look at overall interest in the sport," he said. "Viewership is a little tough.

"We've had many successes this year, I think three of the top four races here in the United States were all this year in terms of viewership, and our average viewership is up year over year.

"But nonetheless, there can be a specific circumstance, like last year Miami was standing alone, this year was up against a Miami Heat game in the [NBA] playoffs. Those particular circumstances can drive viewership of a race.

"If you take the totality of interest as measured by growth, not only in linear TV, but how much we've grown Instagram, YouTube views, TikTok views, the amount of interest in the sport has only catapulted greater, much greater than double digits. So I'm convinced our demand is very high."

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