Lewis Hamilton hopes Liberty will relax F1’s social media rules

Lewis Hamilton takes a picture in the press conference ahead of the 2016 Abu Dhabi GP. (Photo: Charles Coates/LAT Photographic)
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Lewis Hamilton wants new F1 owners Liberty to give the drivers freedom to reach the public by social media on race weekends, without issues over broadcasting rights making their lives difficult.

In the Bernie Ecclestone era, drivers were subject to the same tight restrictions on streaming video from the paddock that have apply to everyone. That led to drivers getting into trouble if any content was deemed to have broken the rules.

“I don’t have all the answers, I mean that is not my expertise,” Hamilton said Thursday. “But if you look at football, social media is so much greater, they utilize social media a lot better in football, in the NBA, in the NFL. In F1 every time for example I would have posted a picture or a video I would have got a warning from the FIA, or notice telling you to take it down.

“This year I am hoping that they will change that rule, and allow social media for all of us – because social media obviously an incredible medium for the world to communicate with. And for the sport to be able to grow, it is a super easy free tool to grow for the sport, for us to use to share it, to engage with other people.

“There are people who are following me, some of whom are on right now, who have not been F1 fans for a long, long time, but one of their friends who happens to follow me or one of the other drivers has said to follow, and has since started to watch the races.  I am sure it is one of the fastest and it’s the new way, the new way forwards.”

Meanwhile, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agreed with Hamilton on the role of social media, and believes Liberty will be able to implement changes to the sport sooner rather than later. Wolff says that improvements to the show could be seen this season.

“Of course you are always limited by contracts and also part of the success of F1 was long-term contracts that give F1 stability,” said Wolff. “But that also means that probably you might not be able change everything at once.

“But I think there will be quite some short-term changes, things that are possible to be implemented. At least what we have heard, in terms of enhancing the show at the track, giving access to the paddock, giving teams and the media more rights, and the drivers more rights. So I think there are quite some things that are going to happen pretty quickly.”

Wolff also acknowledged the contribution of Bernie Ecclestone over he decades, but stressed that Liberty brings new specialist knowledge to the table.

“Bernie has invented the sport from a couple of racing driver and racing teams meeting each other to the most successful global port in the world, generating $1.5 billion in EBITDA [earning before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization]. That’s a serious company. And I think there are areas where there is nobody better than him. I haven’t met any more skilled deal maker – [a] Machiavelli – and that is part of F1, and has made it what it is.

“Now with the new shareholders coming in, they have great expertise in the TV market, TV rights, sports rights. The USA is much more advanced in monetizing sports rights through either free TV, pay TV, digital channels, and I think it provides opportunity.

“There is a certain risk that we might miss the deal making ability of Bernie, and there is a certain opportunity with Liberty coming in with know-how that we didn’t have previously. My message is the most important thing is to recognize what the DNA and USP of F1 is, and to keep that, and develop it from there.”

Wolff confirmed that various members of the team have been in contact with Ross Brawn and the sport’s other new bosses.

“We have spoken to each other a couple of occasions, a few times over the last weeks. As a team, various team members in their fields, we had a very regular exchange, with Ross, with Chase Carey, and with Sean [Bratches]. And they are interested in hearing our opinions, and hearing where we see deficits, and where we see opportunity. It was a very pro-active approach. I think just the way it should be.”