McLaren boss Zak Brown says Formula One must act decisively if it wants to minimise the political turbulence he expects to be created by the ongoing discussions about the post-2020 regulations.
Liberty Media enters its sophomore season in charge of F1 facing questions about the long-term future of the sport. Though it has been making smaller changes -- such as a tweak to session times and a significant re-brand of the product -- the bigger issues are likely to dominate headlines in 2018 as the negotiations intensify ahead of the next cycle of rules.
Ferrari threatened to quit the championship when it saw Liberty's first engine blueprint last season and Brown says F1 cannot afford to allow that sort of political stand-off to continue for too long this year.
"It's definitely going to be turbulent, the negotiations for 2021 and beyond," he said. "I think they're doing all the right things commercially -- they're gonna make some mistakes along the way but it would be unfair to think they will to score a 10/10 on everything. They're going to learn but I'm happy with all the efforts and incremental things they're trying.
"I think the FIA and Liberty need to move quickly so we can have as little or as short a time of negotiations, because they will be turbulent, so the longer that goes the more disruptive it becomes. Also to be fully prepared for 2021, if new manufacturers and teams are going to come in we know it takes a couple of years, so time is ticking. I want us landing on what 2021 looks like by the middle of this season. I think anything longer than that starts to become technically challenging."
Mercedes and Renault, two of the three remaining manufacturers, are aligned with Ferrari's stance on the original engine proposal, but share differing views on a future cost cap and the planned redistribution of revenues. Away from the manufacturers, teams such as McLaren and Red Bull also hold strong views on the key areas F1 management wants to address. This complicates the issue further as the teams are involved in F1's decision-making process.
Brown thinks Liberty and the FIA need to be clearer in explaining the finer details of its vision if it wants manufacturers and teams to converge on a set of ideas.
"I think Liberty has articulated to the teams where they want to go, not in total specificity but directionally. It's engine, it's cost cap, and it's revenue distribution -- those are the three things we've all known about. They've not put on the table what the revenue distribution will look like other than that it will go from here to here.
"Formula One, of all the major sports, has the largest discrepancy from first to last and they've got to close that gap. Costs are totally out of control, we're probably the only industry in the world, let along sport, that has not addressed cost in today's day and age. That needs to happen, I think that happens as the highest priority. If people end up making more money than others, I'm OK with that, as long as they're not able to spend it to cause this great gap we've got in the field."