Wolff: New F1 owner Liberty Media shouldn't mess with current fans

Formula 1's new owner Liberty Media should not risk alienating existing fans with "beta tests" aimed at attracting new ones, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff warns

Wolff: New F1 owner Liberty Media shouldn't mess with current fans

Liberty's takeover was completed on Monday, with long-time CEO Bernie Ecclestone ousted, amid expectations it will revamp F1.

How Ecclestone triggered his own downfall

However Wolff has urged caution, believing any moves to shake-up the show need to be well-considered and must not alienate the core audience.

"I think we need to acknowledge that Formula 1 is a technical sport, so it will always polarise," Wolff said in an interview published on the Mercedes F1 website.

"There are people who will say that they hate it and others will say that they love it. That is OK. But one thing is for sure - we shouldn't make it a beta test.

"We shouldn't mess with our loyal fans and our audiences by implementing rules and regulations that we haven't assessed properly.

"We should use data in a scientific approach and see what works in other sports and other entertainment platforms, then combine that with the great strengths and assets of Formula 1."

As part of Liberty's takeover, former Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn has been installed as a managing director overseeing sporting aspects, with Chase Carey replacing Ecclestone and ex-ESPN executive Sean Bratches working on the business side alongside Brawn.

Wolff also thinks it wrong to suggest F1 is completely broken - a notion fuelled for some by Mercedes' dominance of the turbo-hybrid era so far - even though he acknowledges key areas can be improved.

"Considering that we as a team have been doing pretty well during the last seasons, audiences have developed in a very positive way," he said.

"The last couple of races we had record-breaking audiences in some markets in terms of TV spectators.

"There has been a lot of talk about F1 not doing well. Actually, we have been doing pretty well considering that the market has changed tremendously.

"I doubt that younger generations switch on a traditional TV at two o'clock on a Sunday afternoon.

"They expect to watch it on a mobile device or via social media. Nevertheless, our audiences are pretty strong.

"We mustn't talk the sport down, as it is not broken."

Ecclestone's scepticism about digital platforms was one of the biggest criticisms aimed at the 86-year-old late in his tenure, and Wolff agrees it has been a "blind spot" for F1.

However he believes Liberty has to understand the opportunities before striking a balance between social media and existing commercial deals.

"Social media is very important as a marketing tool to involve our audiences - both current fans and future fans," he said.

"But we have loyal partners in the TV stations that have been broadcasting our sport for a long time and have helped contribute to the team's revenues.

"You can't offer it for free in the digital world. You can see it as a marketing tool but not as the silver bullet that will solve all the problems."

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