Fans the top priority in new agenda for F1

Mr Chase Carey, F1 chairman, walks on the track before the start of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix night race in Singapore.
Mr Chase Carey, F1 chairman, walks on the track before the start of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix night race in Singapore. PHOTO: EPA

LONDON • Formula One intends to put fans first in a new era likely to see a big push into the United States, while also protecting Europe's historic races, chief executive Chase Carey said on Tuesday.

Speaking a day after he replaced long-time supremo Bernie Ecclestone at the helm following the takeover by US company Liberty Media, Carey outlined his immediate priorities.

Formula One, he said, was neither efficient nor effective in its decision-making, costing too much to compete in, needed a more level playing field and had to abandon a divide-and-rule mentality.

"Really what we want to create is more of a shared vision," said the American, mentioning the sport needed a new organisation that enabled fans to engage live and on media platforms as never before.

The US, which currently has just one race in Austin, Texas, represented a growth area.

"We think there is a real opportunity to engage the American public in a new and exciting way, and probably one of the components is putting another race there and in a destination city," said Carey.

"We want these events to be big, broad. I've talked about 21 Super Bowls... The sport would be at the centre of it but there would be a lot of stuff going on for everybody throughout that time frame."

Carey made it clear that the days of Formula One taking millions from deep-pocketed nations with little history in auto racing to stage Grand Prix events are over.

Ecclestone turned a disparate collection of races into a premium global sporting property, drawing millions of television viewers and a signature branding opportunity for new race hosts like Bahrain, Russia and Azerbaijan.

Chasing the money - Azerbaijan pays a reported US$75 million (S$106 million) a race - has led to higher financial demands on racetracks in the European heartland.

The organisers of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which hosted the first championship race in 1950, have said the price is too high and are mulling over exercising a break clause, which would terminate its contract in 2019.

Other European tracks such as Spa and Monza have struggled to pay ever-increasing hosting fees in the past while Germany has dropped off this year's calendar.

Carey said preserving such races was important but, rather than reducing the fees, the new owners aimed at creating more value.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline 'Fans the top priority in new agenda for F1'. Print Edition | Subscribe