By Alan Baldwin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Formula One could re-introduce a non-championship race to experiment with new formats and ideas if such an event can be made commercially viable, motorsport head Ross Brawn has suggested.
“It might be rather optimistic,” the former Honda, Brawn and Mercedes team principal told Reuters during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday.
“But you can imagine if we had a non-championship race there’d be a lot more capacity to look at different formats and approaches and see if the fans take to it with much less risk or exposure than we would if we were doing something in the championship.”
The last non-championship race was held at Brands Hatch in 1983 and won by Keke Rosberg, the father of 2016 world champion Nico, in a Williams.
Silverstone also held the International Trophy from 1949 to 1978. Such races saw drivers compete for prize money but not points towards the world title, with teams using them for extra testing.
“We often had non-championship races in the old days but getting it all to work is another matter,” said Brawn.
“It needs to be commercially viable of course, and that’s the challenge. Again, it couldn’t just be ‘pick ideas out of a hat’. It needs to be properly thought through, but maybe an opportunity.”
Brawn was appointed in January, following the takeover of the sport by Liberty Media, and the Englishman reports to the new chairman Chase Carey who has taken over from Bernie Ecclestone.
Sean Bratches, who was in the paddock on Monday as testing started, is the managing director for the commercial side.
Speaking separately to Sky television on Tuesday, Brawn said he was nervous about changes to the race weekend format.
“You can’t take the risk of swapping a format in a championship race and not getting it right,” he said.
He also said 2017 rule changes with faster and wider cars and fatter tires could unwittingly benefit his former Mercedes team, the dominant world champions for the past three years.
“We expose ourselves whenever we make changes like this. Fingers crossed, it is going to work out but l think it is a good example of where we didn’t go through the right principles to begin with,” he said.
“And if this was a principle to stop Mercedes winning, you could argue the exact contrary. A team that strong and with that resource will relish change. It was naive to think it would destabilize Mercedes. If anything it gave them an advantage.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)