In formulating the first RacingNews365 'Power List' we applied two criteria: the levels of power and influence individuals have to disrupt Formula 1, for better or worse. Five senior journalists submitted their respective top 10 lists based on the above parameters; these were tallied, distilled, obvious anomalies purified, and our Top 25 arrived at.
The result may surprise you. Indeed, we hope it shocks you: no women appear on the list and not for lack of diligence on our parts. Lewis Hamilton is the only black person (ditto); close to 60% identify as European - and even there it is Brit-centric - and the median age is almost 60. Indeed, the single female candidate we identified - Ellie Norman, F1's Marketing Director - abruptly left the company last week.
Chloe Targett-Adams, F1's Director of Global Race Promotion, is on the fast track and a sure-fire candidate for future inclusion. While teams have a number of senior female engineers and managers, none seem to be under consideration as Team Principals, while, as Hamilton pointed out, black team members are a rarity. A good number of our top listers started at the bottom and grew with the sport; oaks don't grow without acorns.
Our list makes clear F1 must change if it is to retain social relevance, but change cannot be forced; it must come from within – therein lies the conundrum: too many vested interests and powers held by too few. In December, the FIA elected their first non-European President (in 117 years!), but still the 26-member World Motor Sport Council numbers just three women, with the role of head of the Women in Motorsport Commission yet to be filled.
This is our first Power List and, hopefully, it serves as a wake-up siren for the entire sport, from the FIA and F1 through team and partners levels. The 2023 list will provide - or not - proof of F1's commitment to diversity. In the interim, enjoy the read and let the debates flow!
25: Paul Walsh (66) British McLaren Chairman and CEO
Who is he? Numbers man and ex-Diageo boss - think Johnnie Walker etc. - who took ailing McLaren's top job upon retirement and oft wishes he hadn't. Whatever, straightened a company now only marginally in financial dire straits.
Why is he here? Arguably saved McLaren – but will he sell to Audi?
24: James Allison (53) British, Mercedes F1 Chief Technical Officer
Who is he? Hugely gifted graduate engineer with aptitude for management, as Technical Director he worked wonders for Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes with left-field solutions. Stepped up to Chief Technical Officer last year to oversee other projects.
Why is he here? As above, would rank higher - potentially Top 10 - but for transition from purely F1.
23: James Gay-Rees (55) British, Drive to Survive Producer
Who is he? Award-winning movie producer - think Senna - commissioned to produce D2S.
Why is he here? D2S narrative creates powerful perceptions of F1 and thus hugely influences emerging audiences; thus, he has power to turn them on or away. Verstappen turned him away…
22: Luca De Meo (54) Italian, Renault CEO
Who is he? Former Fiat and Seat executive who took Renault's top job and rebranded F1 team as Alpine.
Why is he here? Because futures of team and F1 engine division are in his gift.
21: Lawrence Stroll (62) Canadian, fashion entrepreneur and Aston Martin Chairman
Who is he? Car-mad, made billions out of floating Hilfiger and Kors fashion brands, ploughed proceeds into son Lance's career before buying F1 team and control of Aston Martin road car company.
Why is he here? Saved team and car brand, but only Stroll knows whether for his son, himself or the sport.
20: Sean O'Connor (61) Irish, FIA President's adviser
Who is he? PhD sports management graduate, hugely experienced motorsport media and administration executive very few had heard of until he managed Ben Sulayem (landslide) election victory.
Why is he here? Worked with Ben Sulayem for 10 years and expected to continue in future, potentially as first FIA CEO…
19: Max Verstappen (24) Dutch, F1 driver
Who is he? 2021 World Champion after heady mix of fought-for and fortunate outcomes; holds various 'youngest' records. Prickly under pressure but gets away with it most times through sheer strength of character.
Why is he here? Hamilton is the present; Verstappen the future, that's why.
18: Zak Brown (58) American, McLaren Racing CEO
Who is he? Budding race driver who sold sponsorship to keep dreams afloat, then turned selling into career. Sold his agency and faced choice of F1 commercial director or McLaren as F1 team boss; racer in him dictated latter.
Why is he here? Lucid thinker who sees entire vista, not snapshots; unafraid of speaking his mind and regularly tapped for his commercial expertise. No one cuts better sticker deals, setting prices ever higher.
17: Greg Maffei (61) American, Liberty Media President
Who is he? Bean counter who hit big time with Microsoft, moved to Liberty where he oversaw various mergers and acquisitions, including F1 from CVC.
Why is he here? Piles on pressures for greater profits, forcing commercial evolution. Did not invent Sprint Qualifying but demands for revenues forced them. Recruited Domenicali – proving he's not afraid to buy top expertise.
16: Michael Masi (42) Australian, FIA Race Director
Who is he? Motorsport junkie from tender age, was Super Car V8 team gofer as teen then moved into race administration. Parachuted into F1's top paddock job after sudden death of irreplaceable Charlie Whiting, a poisoned chalice.
Why is he here? On paper he's F1 most powerful for two hours every fortnight, and seldom universally liked for it. Clinging onto job after Abu Dhabi controversy – the jury's out whether he survives Ben Sulayem's nights of long knives. If so, he moves up; if not, he's off the list and off to Sydney.
15: Ross Brawn (67) British, F1 Managing Director
Who is he? Won serial titles with Benetton and Ferrari as Technical Director before being gifted ex-Honda team; promptly won both titles. Recruited out of retirement by F1.
Why is he here? Seen it, done it and wangled it all, he reformulated F1 after Liberty buy-out and led 'new era' charges. Retires soon, so influence waning.
14: Christian Horner (48) British, Red Bull Team Principal
Who is he? So-so former feeder series racer who moved to pitwall with own F3000 team, promoted to F1 at age 33 on Marko's recommendation. Married Geri 'Ginger Spice' Halliwell, hence 'Speedy Spice' nick. Led Red Bull to 2010-13 double titles, then managed Verstappen's successful 2021 campaign but not its fall-out.
Why is he here? Massively well connected - particularly with Ecclestone - he was candidate for F1's top job and still young enough to remain under future consideration despite his 15 years as team boss. Question is whether he still wants the job. In interim he relishes showdowns with Wolff…
13: Bernie Ecclestone (91) British, former F1 tsar
Who is he? Astonishingly fit and astoundingly sharp for a nonagenarian, the former used car salesman-turned-F1 team owner transformed F1 from niche pastime for super mechanics and dare-devil drivers to Big Time, then sold it for billions after lassoing commercial rights. Squeezed out when Liberty acquired them.
Why is he here? Maintains fingers on all F1 pulses, regularly tapped for advice and opinions – which he dispenses freely, but seldom without some agenda. His Brazilian wife Fabiana sits on Ben Sulayem's WMSC, which is hardly coincidental…
12: Mattia Binotto (52) Italo-Swiss, Ferrari Team Principal
Who is he? Former star powertrain engineer who rose to his dream job; Ferrari's F1 face.
Why is he here? His day-to-day decisions directly affect three teams - Ferrari, Haas and Sauber - while his broader vote potentially affects the entire sport.
11: John Elkann (45) Italo-American, Ferrari (and Stellantis) Chairman
Who is he? Polyglot scion of Agnelli family with increasingly full plate after busy Peugeot merger with Fiat.
Why is he here? Takes big decisions, but is he big enough to take ultimate decisions? Time will tell…
10: Helmut Marko (78) Austrian, F1 consultant
Who is he? Lawyer-turned F1 driver/record-setting Le Mans winner forced into driver/team management after losing eye in F1 incident. Known for very sharp brain and mega blunt comments…
Why is he here? Mateschitz's ears, eyes, nose and gut-feel – wooed F1's most powerful individual to Formula 1, who trusts him implicitly provided results keep rolling in; thus far they have…
9: Amin H. Nasser (64) Saudi, Aramco CEO
Who is he? Leading petroleum engineer who heads world's largest non-IT company.
Why is he here? Ultimately responsible for Aramco's F1 spend, said to top $120m annually when race hosting and advertising fees are totalled - over 5% of F1's annual revenues - with headroom for more, much more…
8: Adrian Newey (64) British, race car designer
Who is he? Best current engineer, arguably best of all time having won multiple titles with three teams and six drivers; his designs usually set performance standard whilst being aesthetically tops.
Why is he here? No other designer pulls superstar driver money; enough said.
7: Toto Wolff (49) Austrian, Mercedes F1 Team CEO & shareholder
Who is he? Speed fiend-investor who smelt F1’s riches, then led team to serial successes through persuasive politicking and shrewd spending of Mercedes millions.
Why is he here? One-third equal shareholder with Daimler and INEOS boss Sir Jim Radcliffe of F1's biggest team, Wolff is arguably F1's most influential team boss, albeit at cost of paddock unpopularity. Surprisingly, has no executive authority over Mercedes F1 engine division. Biggest tests yet to come: Hamilton's exit, whenever; and potential shareholder fall-out…
6: Lewis Hamilton (36) British, F1 driver
Who is he? Record-setting Grand Prix winner and seven-time World Champion and diversity activist with F1's largest social media presence (40m combined followers).
Why is he here? First black F1 driver, his global popularity transcends the sport. Hugely influential: could any other driver keep Abu Dhabi narrative flowing via total radio silence; could any other driver persuade Mercedes to swap historic silver for black?
5: Benedetto Vigna (52) Italian, Ferrari CEO
Who is he? Physicist/inventor who made European Inventor 2010 shortlist, appointed CEO of F1's most iconic - yet third most popular - brand in September 2021. Has superb record in electronics industry and is ramping up Ferrari for electric future.
Why is he here? Ferrari holds (diluted) veto over F1 regulations and sits on WMSC so theoretically wields more power than other teams, yet he's had little exposure to F1; time will tell whether he uses power wisely as the Scuderia enters first year since 1996 without Philip Morris bucks. Recent top-level reshuffles prove he's unafraid of big decisions.
4: Mohammed Ben Sulayem (60), Emirati FIA President
Who is he? Life-long motorsport fan, businessman and former rally champion, club administrator and World Motor Sport Council member elected as first non-European incumbent of world motoring's top job in December after promising to totally revamp the FIA, saliently F1's regulator and de facto owner.
Why is he here? Holds sufficient executive powers to influence F1 - as his predecessors did - but unlikely to take rash decisions without consulting his (largely hand-picked) WMSC and other advisors, including Bernie Ecclestone and Sean O'Connor (see above). Handling of Abu Dhabi's fall-out - ironically his home circuit - and relationship with F1 will determine his (and FIA) credibility and chances of re-election.
3: Ola Källenius (52) Swedish, Daimler Chairman & Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars
Who is he? Mercedes lifer who rose from trainee to first non-German to head the aristocratic car maker via a series of assignments, including head of the F1 engine company, McLaren board member and CEO of Mercedes divisions as diverse as AMG and trucks.
Why is he here? Understands F1 teams from inside and grasps benefits and pitfalls, but economics background means he won't hesitate to hit exit button on team and engine company if results - return on investment - tail off, immediately affecting three customer teams. Candidate for #1 spot but sell-off of two-thirds of F1 team reduces influence. (See T Wolff)
2: Stefano Domenicali (56) Italian, F1 president/CEO
Who is he? Life-long motorsport fan who climbed from circuit marshal to F1 CEO via team boss of Ferrari through abundant intelligence, unrelenting persuasive powers and sheer affability – making him a shoo-in for F1's top job when Chase Carey moved upstairs to (semi-) retirement.
Why is he here? Manages F1's commercial future, thus its global health. During 2006-17 CVC rights holder era F1 resembled rickety unmaintained house, thereafter Carey did fine job of papering over cracked walls, but Domenicali is charged with floor-up renovation programme that will determine F1's commercial direction in the face of unrelenting environmental onslaughts. One slip, and it (and he) could be over.
1: Dietrich Mateschitz (77) Austrian, Red Bull Chairman
Who is he? Founded Red Bull after discovering recipe for Thai revitalising drink, effectively creating a niche beverage market. Billionaire 25 times over yet keeps lowest of profiles, so much so that he attends Grands Prix almost anonymously.
Why is he here? At the pull of a plug Formula 1 would lose two teams, popular Grand Prix venue, billions in below-the-line awareness, a (potentially) new powertrain supplier, flood of emerging talents, and leave myriad other teams and series fumbling for funding. No other individual holds the power to wreak as much disruption on F1, but unlikely to yank the trigger unless severely provoked. (See H Marko, C Horner)
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