F1 Business Diary 2017: The Bahrain Grand Prix

An exciting race nevertheless ends with predictable faces on the podium.

F1 Business Diary 2017: The Bahrain Grand Prix

Though this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix was in many ways the most exciting race of Liberty Media's short reign so far - with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel battling back from third place on the grid to take the win ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton - the sport's new stewards will nonetheless have some cause for concern, as a third race in a row ended with the same duo sharing the top two places on the podium.

It has not been a bad start to the campaign, but nor has it been a revolutionary start to the new era, and it will have done little to persuade a wider audience to return to the sport in their droves.

The resurgence of Ferrari - still topping the constructors' championship despite two podium places for Mercedes - will come as some consolation, after the sport's most iconic team had spent several years in the wilderness. But Liberty, regardless, will be continuing to look for ways to spice up Formula One, and convince casual fans that there is something worth tuning in for.

Ecclestone out in the cold

One man who will not be contributing to that is former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. Though it barely needed confirmation, given his absence from both of the opening races of the season so far, Ecclestone has nevertheless taken the time to confirm that his advice has not been sought by Liberty chairman Chase Carey.

86-year-old Ecclestone seems to have taken his sidelining in his stride, claiming that his input is "the last thing they need" when trying to take the sport in a new direction. "They want to change things," said Ecclestone, "and they know I would have changed them before if I thought they needed changing."

Having defined Formula One over the past 40 years of his involvement, Ecclestone said he was not missing the sport because he was still around in his new role as chairman emeritus.

"I've been upgraded from chief executive to a much higher position: it's so high, I can't even see what's going on," he joked.

Malaysia out, Turkey in?

After the Liberty takeover, there was inevitably much discussion about future circuits, with many speculating that the bigger markets, such as the US and China, could be in line for more than one Grand Prix on the calendar. The announcement that Malaysia is set to host its final Grand Prix this year led to further speculation, fuelled by commercial chief Sean Bratches' statement that there would still be 21 races in 2018 despite the loss of the south-east Asian event, with a potential space opening up for another addition in the region.

Carey, however, has so far made the most positive noises about Europe, where he has said the sport has "historic strength" and a ready-made fanbase. A return to Turkey for the first time since 2011 now looks all but assured, after Carey met with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan and Vural Ak, who owns Istanbul Park, to discuss the potential return of the circuit to Formula One. Carey admitted an agreement had been made "in principle" to race in Istanbul next year.

Indy crossover

While McLaren's expectations for 2017 were kept low - new commercial chief Zak Brown telling SportsPro in November that their intentions were simply to "get as high up the grid as possible" - few could have predicted a start this calamitous. Three races down and still neither Fernando Alonso nor Stoffel Vandoorne have managed to finish a Grand Prix - the latter did not even start in Bahrain after his engine failed before the race.

The team were thrown into further disarray last week after Alonso signalled his intent to skip the Monaco Grand Prix altogether in order to take part in Indycar's Indy 500, a decision that is also unlikely to please anyone at Liberty.

Alonso will be racing for McLaren in the US but appeared to further undermine his team when he pointed out that former McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who left the team at the end of last season, would not have allowed him to take leave of an important race. Red Bull boss Christian Horner, meanwhile, unequivocally stated that he would not stand for either of his drivers following suit, adding that Alonso "needs to see a psychiatrist".

Social policy

Last week's Business Diary reported on the viewers Hamilton received for an on-board video he posted to Instagram, with 3.1 million people tuning in to watch the Brit take pole position in China. This week, that same video was pulled from social media at the behest of Liberty, as the clip contravened rules regarding footage taken from the international feed, for which broadcasters pay significant fees.

Liberty, which this season has encouraged teams and drivers "to film and record their activities so as to bring the sport closer to the fans" via social media and sees social networking as a major part of the sport's future, will have to balance this carefully, as it seeks to engage fans through online content without diluting the lucrative broadcast product.

Mallya arrested

Force India owner Vijay Mallya has been arrested in London over accusations of fraud relating to unpaid loans tied to his now defunct Kingfisher Airlines. Though he has been released on bail, he is facing extradition to India where he is expected to face trial. The news may mean we see Mallya at fewer races during the 2017 season; fewer, that is, than the one he attended, at Silverstone, during 2017. He has long preferred to tune in to races from a 'control room' in his home.