Formula 1: More and more money thanks to Americanization and Arabization – Sport

Formula 1: More and more money thanks to Americanization and Arabization – Sport

Strong and gracious as if he were the true regent of the Kingdom of Bahrain Max Verstappen high above the capital Manama the gloved right hand. The gesture of the world champion is unmistakable and cannot be ignored. It crowns a mighty banner that, with a length of more than 170 meters, was rolled down the Almoayyed Tower, Bahrain’s only real skyscraper.

A few floors down are also the likenesses of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton. At the same time, the longing for as spectacular a season as possible is formulated on the banner: The formula 1 longs for a three-way battle at the party that starts this Sunday (4 p.m., CET, unfortunately not on free TV). Which is understandable after the ultimately tiring march through by Dutchman Verstappen last year. Sporty – but also financially.

The flood of reports about new television contracts or main sponsors, from the ten racing teams and also from the Formula 1 organization itself, has even topped the bulletins with the (usually meaningless) declarations of intent in the past few weeks. And just as a violent storm set a new speed record of 127.8 km/h over the Gulf state of Bahrain at the beginning of the week, the premier class is now chasing itself around the world – from boom to boom.

The one chased out of the paddock six years ago by the then new owner Liberty Media Bernie Eccleston may be in the new TV docuseries Lucky once again celebrate happy origins, but the Hollywood managers, who were initially viewed critically by everyone, have done a great job since then. Was Ecclestone still wearing the one from Federico Fellini’s film La Strada borrowed the honorary title “Zampano”, the North American motorsport commissioners clearly belong in the category of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street predator Gordon Gekko.

Your with the Netflix series Drive to survive (the name is to be understood literally) started foray has grown into its own social media empire, operating on all channels and with its own platforms such as its own content hub called F1 unlocked has become a proven feeder. Together, the following adds up to over 60 million followers. The promise of the premier class, ever young since its debut in 1950, to be a last reservoir of unreasonableness, catches on even better with the digital generation than with the baby boomers – and recently also increasingly with female sports fans.

The four races in the Arab region still take the role as the most important donor

Formula 1 is growing and thriving – and one wonders where it will end when the penultimate round of the World Championship on the Saturday before Thanksgiving tears down the famous Las Vegas Strip, where Formula 1 owners even bought an entire block have, which they are now having converted into a luxury paddock. Even the opulent box system on the Bahrain International Circuit, with a bit of charm and a bit of gold, must come across as a poor relative.

The now four races in the Arab region still play the role of the most important sponsor – financially they are more important than the now five World Championship races on the North American continent. Miami, Austin and Las Vegas, on the other hand, may not have a more motorsport tradition than Manama, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi, but the glamor effect and the star density on the other side of the Atlantic is significantly greater and the joie de vivre less played. In the end, Americanization and Arabization complement each other – and in Gordon Gekko’s brave new world of Formula 1 they form a well-rehearsed duo like driver and co-driver. The main sponsors of the racing series have just been joined by a sponsor who is FC Bayern’s eternal temptation in this country: Qatar Airways.

Formula 1: Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1, has a good laugh: The premier class of motorsport is growing and growing and growing.

Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1, has a good laugh: The premier class of motorsport is growing and growing and growing.

(Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Formula 1 itself shouldn’t really care which car manufacturers take part, and yet more and more of them are pushing their way into the premier class from 2026 with a view to the half-electrified, half-powered with e-fuels – first Audi and Ford. Whoever wants to increase awareness worldwide has to go to Formula 1, despite all the discussions about the usefulness of an extended future for combustion engines.

One thing leads to another and adds up in one big profit calculation. For 2022, Liberty Media is reporting record sales of $2.573 billion, an increase of 20 percent. Compared to the media group’s year of entry, this is an increase of three quarters of a billion. Most of it comes from appearance fees, sponsors and TV rights. The number of spectators along the routes is also growing, with 5.7 million visitors at 22 races. Internationally, no one misses a German Grand Prix anymore, the trend is driving past the Autobahn nation.

The fulfillment of sporting expectations will also be decisive for the highly developed economic perspective

But the big winners are the ten team owners. The tremendous boom is taking the value of their investments into the $1 billion range each. With simultaneously valid budget cap at around $150 million per team, that’s a pretty good deal. Of the total marketing pie, $1.157 billion was distributed last year, an increase of 13 percent. No wonder that the exclusive circle resists taking on more racing teams, which businessman would want to share voluntarily? But even here there is a race between North Americans and Arabs. Michael Andretti dares the third attempt to provide a team – but the Saudis also want to crown their Grand Prix soon with a team in their own colors.

The frantic business is a profitable one. The business magazine forbes evaluates Liberty Media as the most valuable sports empire in the world with around 20.8 billion dollars – 17 billion of which is attributable to Formula 1 alone. Recently the President of the World Automobile Association Fia, Mohammed bin Sulayem, rumored about a takeover of the entire Formula 1 by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia commented, the share price of Liberty Media – ticker symbol FWON – soared by eight percent.

Fulfilling the sporting expectations for the 2023 racing year will also be decisive for the highly developed economic perspective. Defending champion Max Verstappen has ticked off his record season with 15 individual victories: “It’s also quite entertaining to have a dominant car.” But to ride out of competition in the long run, because the regular rivals Ferrari and depriving Mercedes themselves of their chances is not good for the suspense. Which is why the victorious Dutchman would much rather have a real duel, even better a three-way fight.

It is also important to him that he can remove the last doubts that he is a deserved champion with a third title achieved on an equal footing. After the scandals surrounding his first world championship crowning and the superiority of his second the 25-year-old can appear calm on the outside. But the lack of appreciation of many opponents and spectators may be deeper than expected.

A third title would also catapult him into the circle of Sennas, Stewarts, Laudas, Brabhams and Piquets. There have only been four pilots who have been world champions three times in a row, and all of them have then won at least one more: Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher. He rates the quality of his Red Bull racing car – with the same technical regulations – as high: “Where have we improved? In all areas!”

Lewis Hamilton has done little to harm his first year without a race win in popularity, remaining the sole mass favourite. Also because the Brit can credibly weave fashion statements (in Bahrain he impressed with his appearance in a flowing red fleece robe) and political messages. When asked about the sportswashing of Arab donors and the human rights situation in Bahrain, he does not want to remain silent: “I’ve always felt a responsibility. When sport goes to these countries, we have an obligation to raise awareness and try to have a positive influence to leave.” He was “not sure” that the human rights situation had improved.

He answered the question of whether and how he would express himself when he got into his black racing car – Hamilton slowly put his helmet on and tilted his head forward so that the rainbow stripes were clearly visible. You can see them even better from above – also from the magnificent royal VIP tower directly in the first chicane.

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