F1 may appear to be an independent sport governed solely by the FIA and by its CEO, Stefano Domenicali. However, the entire Formula One Group is owned by a massive American mass media company called Liberty Media. They have been the owners of the sport for six years now. Along with the Formula One Group, Liberty Media Corporation also owns the Braves Group and SiriusXM Group.
In late 2016, Liberty Media agreed to buy the Formula One Group for around $4.4 billion. The deal was finalized and completed in January 2017 for around $4.6 billion after Delta Topco transferred 100% of its shares to Liberty Media. After acquiring F1, Liberty Media appointed Chase Carey as CEO, but he was quickly replaced by former Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali in 2020. Carey still works in the sport as a non-executive chairman.
The change in ownership brought massive changes to F1. For instance, the company decided to completely change the look of the sport by rebranding the logo, font, TV graphics, audio stings, etc. This was one of the many steps they took to make the sport more modern.
They also increased the sport's reach by working harder on various social media platforms and video streaming platforms. They launched F1 TV, which allowed fans to stream live races on any device they wanted. One of the biggest deals Liberty Media made was with Netflix, which gave birth to Netflix's original web series Drive to Survive. The fanbase expanded drastically with the help of the web series as more people started taking an interest in the thrilling sport.
Ross Brawn on F1's rise in popularity under Liberty Media
Ross Brawn, former managing director of F1's sporting side, praised Liberty Media for the sport's booming popularity. Ever since the company bought Formula One Group in 2017, the sport's fanbase has drastically increased, and racing has improved as well.
Speaking to Motorsport, Ross Brawn explained how Liberty Media focuses on improving the sport as a whole rather than chasing profit margins. He said:
"I think Liberty have done a great job. I would say this, but they employed me! And while I say that, they recognised that they wanted to improve the sport."
Brawn further explained:
"They didn’t just come in and say ‘how can we improve the margins?’ Their mindset was: ‘There’s this great sport, how can we take the sport forwards? Because the rewards will come when we take the sport forward, not by squeezing more juice out of the lemon.’ And Greg [Maffei] and Chase [Carey] had that vision. And, luckily, I had the opportunity to be involved."
He also mentioned how he feels fortunate to be involved in the process of improving F1 to where it currently is. Soon after Liberty Media bought the Formula One Group, Brawn was appointed as the managing director, as well as motor sports and technical director.