Formula 1 owner Liberty Media‘s chief exuecit veGreg Maffei insisted the sport remains a ‘very attractive competitive product’ but conceded Max Verstappen‘s dominance is a challenge – and added there isn’t much he can do about that.
F1 posted a small profit in their 2023 second-quarter financial figures, despite losing $20 million in revenue due to the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, and have seen TV viewership drop, including almost a 25% plunge for the 2023 Miami GP.
Verstappen is set to win his third consecutive F1 drivers’ championship having won a record-breaking 10 successive races and only failed to win two grand prix all season.
“The challenge obviously is Max Verstappen is having an unbelievable year, or record-setting year,” Maffei told a Goldman Sachs event. “The midfield is quite interesting, and we can show statistically there’s more overtaking than has ever occurred.
“The reality is we have a very attractive competitive product, other than the fact that Max is that fast. 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 added that aside from F1 going to extreme lengths, it was down to Red Bull‘s rivals to overcome the gap to Verstappen.
He even referenced the infamous Nancy Kerrigan assault, the figure-skater who was bludgeoned in the knee with a baton by the ex-husband of rival Tonya Harding in an attempt to put her out of contention for the 1994 Olympic team.
“Short of breaking his leg, a la Tonya Harding, I’m not sure what we can do about that,” added Maffei jokingly. “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’s truly stunning. And you can see statistically why he is faster than anybody else.”
Maffei: Interest in F1 never been higher
Maffei added interest in F1 is very strong, despite a drop in TV figures thanks to the all-conquering Verstappen.
The nearly-quarter drop in viewership for the 2023 Miami GP compared to 12 months earlier was particularly noted, but Maffei said he wasn’t concerned about the apathy from some fans.
He also highlighted he role ‘individual circumstances’ could play race-to-race – saying the Miami GP was impacted by the city’s NBA team, the Heat, playing an NBA play-off game on the same day.
“I think you need to look at overall interest in the sport, viewership is a little tough,” Maffei added. “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.
“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.”
“And when we had bidding last year for the sport we had enormous interest from some players, we cut a relatively short deal in the US, three years, we already have players asking how do we get in for the next one.”