F1 boss on the sport's future

05th February 2021
Ian Parkes

Stefano Domenicali is a breath of fresh air for Formula 1. At the turn of the year, Domenicali took on the roles of F1's new CEO and president, replacing Chase Carey after the Irish-born American's four years at the helm following Liberty Media's takeover of the sport from former supremo Bernie Ecclestone.


It was abundantly clear that during Carey's tenure he was someone who did not enjoy the limelight, and who came across as being somewhat nervous when interviewed, which was surprising given his highly successful business background, while his answers always erred on the conservative side.

In contrast, Domenicali is an ebullient character accustomed to public speaking, in particular given his former role as team principal of Ferrari from 2008 to 2014, and in a typically Italian way, he is not afraid to offer an opinion.

The 55-year-old has returned to F1, after serving in the interim primarily as CEO at Lamborghini, at arguably one of the most difficult periods in the sport's history given it finds itself still navigating its way through the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 pandemic.


In fairness to Carey, he had at least steered F1 into a more open-minded era, embracing new markets and concepts such as the value of social media that was previously anathema to Ecclestone who may have turned the sport into an all-powerful, global entity but who had become narrow-minded in his business ways.

Carey should take credit for leaving F1 more unified than at any time during the reign of Ecclestone who preferred the divide-and-conquer approach to bring the teams to heel rather than throwing an embracing arm around them to ensure they and the sport all rowed in the same direction.

The fact Carey also managed to get the teams to re-sign the Concorde Agreement last year amidst a wholly uncertain period given the financial implications of COVID-19, means Domenicali has a relatively stable platform on which to continue to build.


In a conference call with selected media, including this writer, Domenicali knows that while there is still work to do given the short-term uncertainty, F1 would appear to be in a healthy position for the medium-to-long term as interest remains healthy.

“I think what was already done by the legacy of Chase was to try and open up a new way of connecting people and promoting the sport with an additional way of pushing the business of Formula 1 in a dimension that before was not possible," said Domenicali.

"I think that was very important because as always, in life, things that are stable will become old. I think that was the right direction that I needed to take over.

"In terms of structure, what has already been done by the new governance, the new Concorde Agreement, the new budget cap, the new regulations for the short-term future, has been an incredible step which is what we needed, the elements of sustainability.

"This is what the teams needed to be protected. For the people, the teams needed to make sure they can be there from the business perspective."


Domenicali is appreciably aware that for the sport to be attractive to as wide and as varied an audience as possible, it needs to be "the show" on one side, offering a mix of entertainment and accessibility, but also serving as the vanguard of motorsport on the other in terms of technological relevance in what is becoming a rapidly evolving landscape.

"There are a lot of ingredients we need to work on but there is a lot of positivity around Formula 1," insisted Domenicali.

"What I feel and what I think are very strong. We are receiving a lot of interest for grand prix from all around the world, and we are receiving a lot of interest from OEM [original equipment manufacturers] about what the future of Formula 1 is.

"Now we are seeing some new requests from teams or other organisations about the possibility of investing in Formula 1. I think this is an upside from the ideas we have on the table that are good for the future of Formula 1."

Domenicali has confirmed there is growing interest from America and Africa with regard to holding races, with the former viewed as key to further enhancing F1's reputation in a country whose appeal for the last few years has existed for one week only around the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

As a purist and a traditionalist, Domenicali has also definitively stated there will be no introduction of gimmicks such as reverse grid races, although he is open to the prospect of a sprint race on Saturday to further enhance the product over a weekend, with a trial on the cards at some stage this season.


New races and different ideas aside, one key factor for Domenicali in F1's upward trajectory is that Lewis Hamilton signs a new deal with Mercedes.

While F1 could naturally survive without Hamilton, as it has done throughout many eras in the past when stars have departed, as a global ambassador for the sport and the spotlight he shines upon it, Domenicali knows the seven-time champion is a powerful marketing tool.

"Lewis is an incredible driver, an incredible man, an incredible athlete, and he has given to Formula 1 a different dimension that is over the sport, I would say," assessed Domenicali.

"Lewis is a massive ambassador for Formula 1, who is really very important for Formula 1 because he is the one who is embracing other values into the discussion, with his face [now recognised] in a lot of areas away from the sport."

Even to Domenicali, it seems inconceivable Hamilton will not put pen to paper, not with history beckoning as F1's first eight-time champion after equalling the record of Michael Schumacher last season.

"As soon as we know what his future will be, it will be great to see him fighting for something that no-one would have thought possible to achieve after Michael's era," enthused Domenicali. "It will be really great."

When he talks, and no matter the subject, you can sense Domenicali is bristling with enthusiasm that can only serve F1 well over the coming years.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Stefano Domenicali

  • Chase Carey

  • Bernie Ecclestone

  • Formula 1

  • F1 2020

  • F1 2021

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