F1 chief Chase Carey praises Singapore race, says discussions for extending contract are 'positive'

Formula One chief executive and chairman Chase Carey at the British Grand Prix on July 14, 2017.
Formula One chief executive and chairman Chase Carey at the British Grand Prix on July 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - In a sport where speed is of the essence, Formula One chairman and chief executive officer Chase Carey yesterday praised the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix for being ahead of its time, giving the clearest indication that the Republic will continue to host the race beyond this year.

The American told The Straits Times that he is having "positive discussions" with the Singapore race organisers to continue holding the F1 race here.

"We are actively engaged with our partners, and it's our goal to reach a new deal that enables us to continue to hold the race here. We have a working relationship, but we haven't concluded the deal yet," said Carey, who took over from long-time supremo Bernie Ecclestone six months ago.

Yesterday, on the sidelines at the All That Matters (Sports Matters) conference at the Ritz Carlton, the 63-year-old lavished praise on the world's first night race, calling it Asia's "signature event" and its blend of gruelling track, carnival atmosphere and business networking opportunities being an example for the other circuits to follow.

"This is the signature race for Formula One, it (Singapore) certainly is a spectacular setting with the city lit up with racing through the streets," he said. "It's something we're very proud of, it's a race that anchors our Asian strategy and certainly a signature race for us globally."

With the Republic into the last year of a five-year contract to host motorsports' pinnacle race series, Carey's effusive appraisal of the Singapore Grand Prix has given hope that another five-year deal could be concluded soon.

He said: "This is the marquee race and our goal is to renew the contract. Shanghai (Chinese GP) is a gateway for us into China, the Japanese GP has been a long-term race and Singapore is a race that will not be mistaken for something else.

"Singapore is one of the gateways into Asia and its incredible story of growth in the last 50 years had captured the world's attention."

In 2008, the Republic became the first night race in F1 history, with Ecclestone hailing it as the "crown jewel" of the sport.

And Carey is keen to use this recipe, calling Singapore's template "ahead of the curve", to turn every race into a similar carnival for the host city.

This season, for example, a parade of F1 cars of yesteryear was held in London before the race at Silverstone. Similarly for the Italian GP in Monza, a post-race party was held in Milan three hours after the chequered flag.

"Singapore had always done a great job," he noted. "I am here on a Wednesday and things are already going on in the city... there is a great energy around it.

"What I hope is to broaden F1 as an event, make the race the centre of a week-long celebration.

"Our real goal is to create across the board the spirit of partnership, between teams, sponsors and broadcasters to let the sport achieve its true potential. If you are standing still, you are moving backwards."

And Carey, 63, who helmed Liberty Media's takeover of F1 from Ecclestone a year ago, hopes to give this high-tech sport a greater reach to the masses.

For example, he has encouraged drivers to use social media to give fans a greater glimpse into F1's inner sanctum.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo had picked up the gauntlet, posting on Facebook a video of his motorhome, while Lewis Hamilton took over Mercedes' YouTube account to film a tour of the Silver Arrows' office in England.

"The digital side is truly lacking," he observed. "This sport is so rich in information and data."

A common lament around the circuits is the quieter V6 hybrid engines of today, which seems muffled compared to the guttural roars of the V8 beasts of the past.

Carey assured that he wants the next generation of engines will let fans "feel the shock and awe of it".

"We want to make the sport healthier. It doesn't make sense that some teams spend the better half of half a billion dollars to put a car on the track," he said.

"But we don't want to dumb the car down, too. F1 is still state of the art, the top of the automotive world."

And with a hearty laugh, he summed it up the future power units in three words: "Simpler, cheaper, louder."