Formula 1
Formula 1
29 Aug
-
01 Sep
Event finished
05 Sep
-
08 Sep
Event finished
19 Sep
-
22 Sep
Event finished
26 Sep
-
29 Sep
Event finished
10 Oct
-
13 Oct
Event finished
Motorsport Blog
Topic

Motorsport Blog

How do you grow F1? Contrasting views on what's best for F1 in new regions

shares
comments
How do you grow F1? Contrasting views on what's best for F1 in new regions
Jan 12, 2015, 7:18 PM

It is interesting to note that the organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix feel that a third race in the Middle East region would be counter-productiv...

It is interesting to note that the organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix feel that a third race in the Middle East region would be counter-productive. This contrasts with the views espoused by Austin's US Grand Prix promoter, Bobby Epstein, that the more races there are in his continent and time zone, the better.

So what is behind the contrasting attitudes to multiple races in a region?

There is a focus on the Middle East at the moment with Qatar keen to join the F1 championship. It has held a Moto GP race since 2004, the same year that Bahrain joined the F1 circus. It also has the rights to the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup, somewhat controversially. But that is a one-off event, whereas an F1 Grand Prix is an annual event.

This weekend at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham, the boss of the Bahrain International Circuit, Sheikh Salman, said that he doesn't feel that the addition of a third race in the region would be positive,

“The thing with Mr Ecclestone is how he values friendship. He appreciates the step we took – as we were the first people to take a chance. I think F1’s culture is growing (in the Middle East), and we can see it slowly coming about.

"But my personal opinion of having another race – wherever it is – I don’t think we are ready for that.”

Bobby Epstein, COTA

Contrast this with the attitude of Epstein, who has long maintained that he would encourage Bernie Ecclestone to do deals with other US venues, such as the mooted races in Las Vegas and New Jersey, as the more races in that time-zone, the more it helps American race fans to get to know F1. Speaking at his event last season, he even cautiously welcomed the Mexican Grand Prix being scheduled as a back to back with Austin in 2015, calling it the "Tex-Mex double header", even though it would hit the numbers of Mexicans coming up for his race.

Marco Mattiacci, who was Ferrari team principal from April to November last year, agreed,

"I want an extra race in the United States," Mattiacci said in Austin last year. "I want three races in the United States. That's my proposal, because the American market is fundamental to generate revenues, to attract sponsors, so that's my proposal."

The Middle East is an important market for F1 because many of the companies involved in the sport trade there and it is relatively audience friendly in terms of time zones, especially Bahrain's night race. F1's TV audience is still stubbornly Euro based, with over 60% of the audience still in Europe. But there is only a very limited audience in the Middle East region for F1 and it is a struggle for the promoters to engage local fans; they prefer football and in motor sport terms drag racing.

It is interesting to note that, like his counterparts in Bahrain, the head of the Qatar motorsport federation, Nasser Khalifa al Attiyah, who hosted the FIA at its pre-Christmas World Championship prize giving, sees the idea of multiple races as a "competition" between Gulf states, rather than a collective effort to grid the sport in the region.

“It is good for the region if there is a competition between countries in the region,” al Attiyah said. “Everyone wants to prove that they have better races, this has helped all of the countries. I treat the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) market as an open market. There are no rules for this market, you can have ten flights between Qatar and Bahrain or the UAE each day, so this has helped a lot of people to move very easily."

This says quite a bit about the engrained competition between countries within the Gulf Region. Bahrain is a relative minnow compared with the gigantic wealth of Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Bahrain's annual GDP is $32 billion, compared to Qatar's $202 billion.

Bahrain became the first country in the region to sign up for a Grand Prix and Ecclestone rewards people who take a risk for him; he gave them a kind of veto right over which other countries in the region could have a race.

Bahrain agreed to Abu Dhabi because it felt that the audience would be different, with more expats and international visitors to the Yas Marina event, whereas being so close to Qatar, the fear is that it would cannibalise the Bahrain GP audience.

Clearly in this case, the Qataris will pay a very large sanctioning fee for a race, which Ecclestone is keen to get.

It will be interesting to see who prevails.
Next article
Red Bull facing Daunting Season of Catch Up, says design chief Newey

Previous article

Red Bull facing Daunting Season of Catch Up, says design chief Newey

Next article

Gian Carlo Minardi: “What a surprise”

Gian Carlo Minardi: “What a surprise”
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1