'F1 won't be Americanised'

Respect for European heritage paramount as new chairman hails advantages of global sport

The US has one race in this season's F1 calendar, at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. But there has also been talk of new races on the east and west coasts.
The US has one race in this season's F1 calendar, at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. But there has also been talk of new races on the east and west coasts.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The United States can be a big growth area for Formula One but Liberty Media has no desire to "Americanise" the sport after the US company's takeover.

"We didn't make this move because of America," new F1 chairman Chase Carey told Sky Sports News on Thursday, the day after Liberty announced a deal, valued at US$8 billion (S$10.83 billion) including debt, that will give the American media and telecoms business effective control of the motor racing series.

"America is an opportunity, I think we can do a lot more in America, it's probably more long-term than short-term," he said. "Realistically it's a global sport. We're not trying to Americanise the sport.

"We have great respect for the European foundations of it. Europe is critically important to us."

The United States currently has just one round of the 21-race championship at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, after a series of failed attempts to secure a permanent home over the years. However, there has been talk of new races on the east and west coasts.

The takeover comes as races in the sport's historic heartland - Britain's Silverstone, Italy's Monza and Spa in Belgium - have faced uncertain futures as they struggle to pay hosting fees while making a profit.

Carey said there was a more passionate fan base in the US than people realised, even if it took time to build the audience.

"This is a great global sport and great franchise and one we are just going to continue to build with the things Bernie's (Ecclestone) built over the prior decades," he added. "We want to make it (F1) everything it can be."

One way to expand revenues would be to develop additional streams for fans in individual countries that focus on the race from the point of view of a driver who is a hometown favourite.

Adding more races to an already crowded calendar - this year's 21-race programme is a record - would be another obvious way to enhance revenues if the schedule could accommodate it.

Carey, the executive vice-chairman of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and a director of Sky News owner Sky, has been appointed chairman of the board of Formula One's parent company with Ecclestone remaining as CEO.

Adding Carey to the mix is a shrewd manoeuvre as Murdoch's long-time right-hand man is a natural at televised sports events.

The executive helped build the Fox cable network into a rival to ESPN and was instrumental in the company's decision to take a controlling stake in the New York Yankees' baseball channel.

Carey has some ideas to boost F1's US$1.8 billion annual revenue, including slicing up digital rights to various video-streaming services and expanding the competition's 400 million global viewers. It is the kind of strategy that has served the National Football League well. The NFL extracted US$17 million from Yahoo for the rights to stream one game last year, for example.

Austrian Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, 71, had been chairman of F1 since 2012 but has recently recovered from cancer and is also due to step down as chairman of Nestle, the world's largest food and drink company, next year.

Ecclestone is used to calling the shots, and has a famous dislike of delegating, but has indicated that he can work with Carey.

Carey said he looked forward to the partnership.

"The best businesses are partnerships where people work together as a team," he said. "We'll work closely and as partners and we'll figure it out."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline ''F1 won't be Americanised''. Print Edition | Subscribe