Ask Karun: On Jenson Button's departure, Liberty Media's takeover, and Valtteri Bottas' future in F1
Stoffel Vandoorne has been confirmed at McLaren for 2017, now that Jenson Button has announced his sabbatical. What do you think we can expect from Stoffel? Will he outperform Alonso? And what's with Button's sabbatical? Is he likely to make a return to Formula 1?
- Ashraf KM
Stoffel is probably the most exciting talent to arrive into Formula 1 since Lewis Hamilton. He has a fantastic junior formula CV, he has been very quick in testing, and he did a fantastic job in his one-off appearance in Bahrain. He's a really nice guy too which makes him very popular in the team. Going up against Fernando will be a great challenge, but the cream always rises don't forget we saw Lewis match Fernando as a rookie team-mate in 2007. If Stoffel can do the same, he will certainly earn huge respect. Jenson has had an outstanding career, and I would be very surprised to see him come back unless Fernando walks at the end of 2017 and McLaren need an experienced driver alongside Stoffel. I think it's a good time for Jenson to go he's won a World Championship, a lot of races, been a great ambassador for the sport and can be very proud of everything he's achieved.
I've read reports about Liberty Media buying a controlling stake in F1 for a sum of £3.3 billion from CVC Capital. How much of a difference will it make to Formula 1 as a sport? And is there life beyond Bernie Ecclestone?
- Ankit Ahuja
The Liberty Media deal has been well-received by the teams in the paddock. In the short term, we won't really see any differences as the current agreements with most teams, circuits and TV broadcasters are already in place, but over the next 5 years we should start to see some changes. Bernie has done an outstanding job of making the sport what it is, but the world has moved very quickly in the digital age and the hope is that a company like Liberty, who are used to promoting sport on a global level, will be able to market and promote the sport using new media and draw in new audiences. It will be very strange going to a grand prix where Bernie is no longer in charge, and the common perception is that we are getting closer to that day.
There are a lot of things right about F1, but there are a lot of things F1 can do better. For example, FOM has a very small marketing department and an even smaller communications team. In contrast to NASCAR, MotoGP or Indycar, F1 really hasn't embraced broadcasting via the apps or websites, mainly because they couldn't find a secure way to monetise it, but perhaps this will now change. For me, the key point will come in 2020 when the new Concorde Agreement needs to come in to play. This is the agreement that binds all the teams to Formula 1 and also defines the commercial relationship between the promoters and the teams. Formula 1 is a sport that generates an annual revenue of $1.8 billion surely that should be enough to find a way to distribute it in a way you safeguard the future of all the teams, particularly the smaller ones at the back of the grid.
Formula 1 might soon have to face a Bernie-less future
We've seen some terrific drives from Valtteri Bottas in the past. And he's becoming something of a podium regular too. Can we expect him to fight for the championship title soon? Or will he have to move from Williams to another team in order to do that?
- Ravish GK
Valtteri is in a tricky position. He's done a very good job for Williams and is well liked by the team. However, at the moment, Williams are some way from challenging the top three teams for the championship, and realistically if he wants to become world champion in the near future, he has to target a drive at one of those teams. It's tricky because you imagine Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen all being locked in to their teams for the long term, while we know Lewis and Nico have a couple more years. That leaves Kimi's seat as a possibility at the end of 2017 if he retires, but there will be plenty of people in the queue for that.
What's next for Karun Chandhok the racecar driver? We know you're the official test driver for Williams F1's heritage division, and you've done one race for the Murphy Prototypes team earlier this year. But is there an active race seat being sought? WEC? Sportscars, maybe?
- Karan Makhija
I would love to do more sportscar racing, either in prototypes or the GTE cars. Being the first and so far only Indian to have raced at Le Mans is something I'm immensely proud of, and it's a type of racing that I thoroughly enjoy. However, I'm also clear that I don't want to race in a programme where the team isn't competitive unless it's a question of some short-term pain for long-term gain. I'm speaking with teams for 2017 and looking at options, but at this moment there's nothing locked in to place.