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The importance of Formula 1 in the East
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Sep 2010   |  2:04 pm GMT  |  73 comments

I’ve spent the first part of Friday hosting the Business of Motorsport in Asia conference at the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) – a high octane gathering of Asian business leaders who were there to hear from speakers including Bernie Ecclestone, Tony Fernandes, McLaren’s Ekrem Sami, and the marketing supremos of Shell, LG and Diageo.

The event was organised by SGX together with sponsorship agency JMI and it was attended by almost 200 delegates.

Ecclestone at the SGX Summit with Oswald Grubel of UBS bank

It was widely agreed that Singapore has performed miracles to establish itself as one of the most important events on the F1 calendar, equal with Monaco. This is the race that most CEOs from companies involved in the sport come to. Certainly for European execs, being seen to lord it up on boats in Monaco is now verboten within their companies, whereas Singapore is seen as a “must do”.

“People used to say, ‘Go west, young man,’ but now the world is moving east,” Ecclestone said. “Formula 1 has gone worldwide and we have opened a lot of people’s eyes to the sport, but it has taken us a long time to achieve that.”

For an increasing number of sponsors, the sport’s growing profile in Asia is a key reason to enter, certainly that was the case for UBS, which makes is debut this weekend on signage around the track.

From the Singapore side, the arrival of the F1 race here, now in its third season, has galvanised the business community, as the Minister of Trade Mr Iswaran observed,
“The impact of F1 is far reaching and can be felt beyond the tourism landscape,” he said. “It has galvanized companies and community groups to ride on its momentum and organize events around the F1 race to involve the community and businesses at large.”

One of the most impressive presentations was from the boss of the Singapore Sports Council, who showed how the country is backing up its flagship Grand Prix by investing in grass roots motorsport programmes. It’s quite clear that Singapore has a well thought out strategy based around the GP and it isn’t a white elephant. It’s been such a success already it’s hard to imagine where this GP will be in 10 years time. And by then the benefits of its grass roots programmes will have kicked in.

Almost a third of the races on the current F1 calendar take place in Asia, and next year the addition of India will continue that trend. Several of the speakers observed that as roughly a third of the global economy is in this region that balance is appropriate.

Naturally this comes at the cost of European races and striking the balance between races on classic circuits in Europe and ones which struggle to find a following is something F1 needs to achieve as it balances heritage with expansion.

But clearly not all races in this region are as successful as Singapore. Malaysia doesn’t do all that well in terms of ticket sales and certainly all the corporates now shun it in favour of Singapore. Likewise Japan. The race in Korea next month already looks something of a concern.

Fernandes and his Team Lotus are working hard to help the grass roots in his native Malaysia, so time will tell if the sport takes root there.

There is optimism about the race in India, however. A sports mad nation with its own F1 team – and potentially driver – it’s also a key market for many of the companies involved in F1. If they learn from the way Singapore has gone about things, then it should work out fine.

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73 Comments
  1. Ken Staveley says:

    After watching the on going fiasco of the building work etc. in India for the Commonwealth Games will the new F1 race track be completed in time for next years GP.

  2. Azlas says:

    I’m suprised to hear you mention Japan as not doing so well. Being an economic powerhouse and having a culture of ‘comitting yourself entirely to a particular hobby/sport’ I would have thought they were doing quite well. My friends who have been to races there have said they are some of the most enthusiastic (and polite!) fans around.

    I have to applaud singapore for what they have done though – definitely a future travel destination for me!

    1. Frenchie says:

      Yes, I agree that Japanese F1 fans are possibly the craziest about F1 (who on hearth would cheer so loudly for Yamamoto in a Spyker?) but Japan no longer has potential to increase its growth due to being a very mature economy.
      In that respect, I would liken Suzuka more to Silverstone than any Far-East race in that it is a great track with enough tradition and history now.
      I believe Singapore has experienced double digit growth for some time and definitely looks like it still has untapped potential.

  3. mtb says:

    The awarding of F1 races to the so-called ‘far-flung locations’ has irritated many people, but I am all for it! It is the F1 WORLD championship, not the F1 European and North American championship that so many fans of the sport long for.
    The success of the Singapore event is great for F1, and great for an audience that has traditionally been neglected by the F1 fraternity. Furthermore, the venue is packed with knowledgeable F1 enthusiasts, the majority of whom do not hail from the so-called ‘traditional F1 countries’ – proving wrong the argument that it is only people from the ‘traditional’ countries who can appreciate F1.
    I find risible the argument that an unfair situation has been created because the ‘far-flung locations’ enjoy unlimited government backing whereas the countries in which the so-called ‘traditional venues’ are located do not. The fact of the matter is that the ‘traditional’ F1 countries who have held GPs of various forms for around a century have had the financial wherewithal to do so generally because these countries have a history of imperialism: the wealth that was exploited from the ‘far-flung locations’ enabled, amongst other things, an automotive industry – and subsequently a motor racing scene  to form in these countries.
    Now that the standard of living in the former colonies is constantly increasing, and these countries are holding hugely successful F1 races, we are hearing that an unfair situation exists, that the people in these countries don’t understand F1, etc. It all smacks of, at best, snobbery!
    The world is changing, and the new additions to the F1 calendar reflect these changes. All the best to those who choose to adopt a fortress mentality – but I hope that you don’t isolate yourselves from reality as you will be missing out on so much!

    1. JimmiC says:

      I don’t think people object to tracks outside of the EU – I think the problem is that most of the new tracks are bland car parks with attendances in the tens rather than hundreds of thousands.

      1. Lynn says:

        Except for Singapore!

        Its just amazing there. The organization of the event is very well done! A beautiful place & GP to attend (maybe except for the humid weather).

        It also look so stunning on TV.

        This race weekend, a total of 244,000 tickets have been sold out. Hopefully this race stays on longer in the F1 calendar,

      2. mtb says:

        Unfortunately there are many F1 fans, not to mention the odd journalist (not James), who object to F1 races being held in ‘far-flung’ locations. Perhaps it is far-flung for them, but the reality is that the majority of TV viewers live outside of the EU. As for bland circuits, there are a few of them in the EU.

      3. Bec says:

        Singapore will sell 30,000 more race day tickets than Spa, Singapore appears 12 places higher in the TV viewing figures than Spa, 9 places higher than Monza, 5 places higher than Monaco, etc.

        In fact 7 of the bottom ten races for the lowest viewing figures are the European races.

      4. James Allen says:

        The race is a 240,000 sell out apparently and the Paddock Club tickets are going for two or three times face value. Whose figures are you quoting?

      5. Bec says:

        That’s 240,000 is for the 3 day event, race day is about 85,000, that’s the official race organisers figures.

        Spa race day was 52,000 … So that’s the “30,000 more race day tickets than Spa” Singapore will get, as I said.

        TV viewing figures are from the Audience Research Board.

  4. Ross says:

    I think it works both ways, Singapore looks amazing on tv when you are watching the race. People perception is now it is a place they would like to go visit or replace Bangkok or Hong Kong as a stop off on a trip to Australia.

    In reality it is one of the most boring and bland places you could ever wish to visit. You would only ever want to spend two days maximum there.

    The best thing about Singapore is the airport. Says it all.

    1. Frenchie says:

      A great stopover location indeed. If you know where to look though, you’d probably find there’s enough for a week.
      Next to the go karting we went to this morning is the Jurong Bird Prak, Tiger Brewery (with an hour or two of free drinking at the end of the tour) and a science museum.
      The Night Safari up north was awesome too. The East Coast Park is great for sports, the sea, BBQs/picnics and relaxing.
      Finally Singapore also is a shopping (despite being far less crafty than Europe or Aus) and a foodie mecca.

      Before coming over last year, I really didn’t think much of Singapore.
      If you came to the event, you might change your mind as Singaporeans really do embrace the event like no other country.

    2. JR says:

      Hear, hear. I’ve been there and would never choose to visit again. There are a thousand better destinations.

    3. Mike says:

      Tend to agree with you. Spent 3 nights there and it was plenty long enough to do everything there was to do (Raffles, Sentosa, etc).

      Then took the train to Bangkok – now that is worth doing!

  5. JR says:

    “Singapore has performed miracles to establish itself as one of the most important events on the F1 calendar, equal with Monaco.”

    Really? It’s the least interesting circuit of all in my view. I’d happily see it dropped from the calendar. The only thing that might make it interesting is some rain.

    1. Galapago555 says:

      “This is the race that most CEOs from companies involved in the sport come to”

      Seems it is not the least interesting venue for some other people…

    2. Frenchie says:

      Maybe we should start with Valencia. It has been a fairly boring race for 3 years.

      Singapore is very much like Monaco due to the walls and bumps which command respect from drivers.

      Something that TV does not do justice, is the stunning appearance of the cars under the floodlights. I was in Melbourne this year and the difference is significant. Only the Mercedes GP cars look average (obviously a different surface to others).

      The engine note also reverberates against the buildings between turns 3 and 5 then from turns 14 to 19. This makes it sound far more powerful than at other tracks.

      Definitely a better race to attend than watching on TV.

      1. Galapago555 says:

        Valencia was not exactly “boring” this year, IMO…

      2. Frenchie says:

        Webber flying, Kobayashi making two overtaking moves, Hamilton cheating and Alonso crying don’t really make this an exiting race as far as I am concerned.

        Most importantly, the track itself is dull.

        Singapore, besides the chicane at Turn 10 is actually quite exciting. Turns 5, 7 and 14 noticed their fair share of overtaking.

  6. gil dogon says:

    Well, it is no surprise Singapore is the best GP in the east, as Singapore itself, is the most “Western” place in the east (maybe except HK) and the street track itself is something of an instant classic. I do hope Indian GP can emulate some of this success, but my guess is it will not be as good, as it is not an atmospheric street circuit, rather another Tilkedrome …

  7. Ben G says:

    I admire Bernie’s expansion towards the growing markets of the East.

    But if putting on GPs in big markets was his priority, why does he consistently shun North America?

    1. Paul Kirk says:

      I totally agree, Ben, I’d be very pleased to see a couple of F1 races in USA at the expense of some of the races in Asia , and I’m really happy that Canada’s got their race back!
      PK.

    2. "for sure" says:

      Because the Americans have more sense than to pay Eccle$tones outrageous, loss guaranteeing fees.

      1. Steve Selasky says:

        Agreed. I think Singapore at best is the Monaco of the Asia. The rest of the tracks: will probably leave the schedule at some time….

        Steve

  8. Alan R says:

    Interesting article James. My question is re India and the noise re prep for the Commonwealth Games. Bearing this in mind how confident are you re India being ready? And, most importantly, if it is difficult to stop a dog walking across a bed (ref recent BBC website) will they cope with all the safety requirements? If I was an F1 driver I’d be a little concerned!

    1. James Allen says:

      As Bernie said this afternoon at SGX, the Commonwealth Games is government organisation, whereas he’s contracted to a private company with a history of delivery. We will see. I imagine that they will be on alert after what’s happened with the games anyway

  9. Rafael Lopez says:

    Completely off topic but wanted to share how disgusted I am at HRT. Yamamoto gets sick and instead of giving chandhok HIS seat back, they bring klien in???

    Chandhok deserves better. Here’s me wishing that he gets a force india drive!

    1. Mike says:

      Agree 100%

    2. Ben says:

      Yes, it is disappointing not to see Chandok in the car, however I heard a rumour that the reason he is not in the seat at the moment is due to a dispute between his sponsor and HRT.

      If that is the case, then it would explain why Klien was given the seat as HRT would not want Chandok to default back into the seat when Yamamoto is unable to drive as it would weaken their hand in resolving the issue in their favour.

    3. JimmiC says:

      If Chandhok doesn’t get a drive, he should be a pundit or an ambassador. The man is a breath of fresh air in the paddock and I look forward to every interview with him.

      1. mtb says:

        We hear a great deal of talk about how cerebral Button allegedly is. Whilst I am yet to see any evidence of this, it is clear to anyone who has listened to BBC Radio 5 Live that Chandok and Anthony Davidson are extremely intelligent individuals.

    4. Andy C says:

      Absolutely agree. I hope chandhok gets a drive next year elsewhere, and if I was Bruno senna I’d be looking elsewhere too.

      If they want to run Yamamoto and Klein let the do it.

  10. Frenchie says:

    Hi James,

    May I add that from a spectator point of view, Singapore’s organisation of the event is second to none. To give you an example, I am staying quite far away from the city centre this year (Paya Lebar MRT station) and was back at my hotel under 30 minutes with traffic). In comparison, Japan was hell. So is Silverstone (if you take the M1 back to London).

    The city skyline looks fantastic (unlike Melbourne) and the city promotes the event extremely well to the locals who embrace it as a result (ditto).

    It is hard to imagine a season without Singapore. You are quite right in comparing this to Monaco. Both are rubbish on TV with regards to racing but both reflects the glamour and glitz that are now F1 values. Farewell garagist friends.

  11. Baktru says:

    After 1.5 years here, the one word that comes to mind about Singapore is ‘efficient’. When Singapore sets its mind to do something, they just do it.

    Thanks to a company we work with, I got free tickets and I saw F1 cars actually being driven live for the first time this night at practice one.

    The whole organisation feels utterly Singaporean. It’s efficient. I saw the first two races here on TV and I was already impressed by how Spore pulled off this new race in the middle of the business district of the city, Live it is just more impressive.

    This IS in fact a special place.

    1. Lynn says:

      You are absolutely right!
      “Efficient” is a the way there.
      A special city.

  12. Chris Severin says:

    This report more than any other demonstrates the unfortunate truth that our beloved sport is controlled by more than simple Sporting interests. There is no doubt that suzuka is one of the best tracks but them having problems highlights the fine balance singapore has achieved between a good track/unique show and the finantial attraction the city has to those who pay the bills

  13. Frenchie says:

    Hi James,

    I’m not sure what the best way to contact you might be and am hoping your moderator will pick this post up.

    Being an Australian resident, I couldn’t participate and represent the UK fan view in the competition for the F1 fan forum in Abu Dhabi.
    I was wondering if you’d have a few minutes to spare this weekend to meet and talk F1 at large, and maybe get the opinions of a man who has been an F1 fan for a third of his life (I am 32), watches every single race and attend as many F1 events as financially possible.

    I imagine you have a very heavy schedule and it would be a real honour to have the opportunity to spend whatever time you have available (as I don’t want to keep you away from the action). Maybe lunch? There’s a great chinese restaurant at Marina Mandarin.

    Please let me know what suits you, if at all. I’m on holidays and can work around your schedule.

    The best way to contact me is via email dmarquez_uk@yahoo.co.uk or to find me via facebook.

    Sincerely,

    Damien (aka Frenchie)

  14. Inside Xtreme Matrix says:

    I started watching F1 at a young age, decades later, i know you can never use the word “IF” in F1, so much can change at a blink of an eye. No one knew Kimi would win the title in 2007, Lewis won on the last corner in 2008, Michael stole the title from Hakkinen in 2000 from a McLaren that was technically superior than anything else. A stall on the grid, a delay in pit stops, miss communication and poor decisions can turn the points table, I would never write off the top 5 leaders from taking the title, the ones that look more threatening are the bottom 3 as they know they have no room to relax.

    Its been a great season and those who lost out as being title contenders deserve some credit and patience is also the key. As Button once said that you fight amongst the best drivers in the world and beating them and taking the title is quiet something unbeliavable. Also for the fact that teams still put faith on these great drivers.

  15. wolypoly says:

    There are two factions that need to be catered for. Firstly the Corporate/Tourism/Paying customer at the event – all areas where a financial return is the main concern. Secondly there are the people all over the world who watch on TV. They are the people who are not well served by Singapore. Whilst not wishing to get involved in the Tilke discussion, Singapore is like Valencia on TV – watching cars lap in this tunnel of concrete and catch fencing with an occasional shot of an artistically lit buildings. At least Valencia is honest in showing it’s awfulness in daylight. So a message to organisers, fill your boots with the local currency by all means but please give a thought to the millions watching on TV.

  16. Rich C says:

    WHo dresses Bernie? As a billionaire is he surrounded by sycophants with no one to tell him he should wear dark socks with that outfit?

    1. AndrewB says:

      I couldn’t agree more! Or maybe he’s so very cool we don’t even get it…

    2. Peter G says:

      Spotted that as well :-)

    3. Racyboy says:

      He’s an 80yr old Billionaire….’nuff said.

      1. Andy C says:

        With a 30 year old Brazilian girlfriend
        :-)

  17. terryshep says:

    James, you amaze with the scope of your activities and yet you find time to provide us with all the insider information which you do. However, I do have concerns about Singapore.

    Am I the only person who finds the floodlit tunnel an aberration? I would be delighted to watch a Singapore F1 race in daylight under normal conditions, like a normal F1 race. Naturally, being an F1 fanatic, I watch this anyway but I have to ask, where are the run-offs which other circuits are obliged to provide at great expense, where’s the safety? Where are the debates about air fences and tarmac vs. gravel? As for the kerbs at the chicanes, how artificial do they have to be?

    Let’s be honest and admit that these lights are just a gimmick, we watch Malaysia, Oz and Japan regardless of the time of day. I’d better not mention the environmental impact of the floodlighting, had I?

    Having said all that, I’m glad the race is happening and I’m looking also forward to the 20-race season – as long as we don’t lose the traditional circuits on which F1 grew up and developed this wonderful image. I wonder, would F1 have quite the appeal it has without Silverstone, Monza, Spa, Monaco? I doubt it.

    1. AndrewB says:

      I don’t think floodlighting is necessarily a gimmick; I don’t know the numbers but it’s all about European TV audiences.

      In regards to Malaysia, and Suzuka, I’m sure Bernie would love to see them run 6-8 hours later if he could convince them! In Oz we’re now running a twilight race…just as the sunsets as a compromise (of which I feel the drivers get the short straw driving into a sunset). The continuation of the race was in jeopardy as they couldn’t fund (or convince local government it was sane) the floodlighting of the whole track.

      1. terryshep says:

        Andrew, I’m fed up hearing about this European audience excuse. The races are repeated anyway, I have never missed watching a GP at a normal time, no matter where it has been run.

        I applaud you Aussies for your good sense in turning down the floodlighting, though like you, I don’t think the late start is such a good idea. When a tough guy like Robert Kubica objects there must be some cause.

  18. Ivan says:

    There are many fans that do appreciate being able to attend a race without spending extra money on traveling and accommodation, so it’s a boon for some of us. Street circuits are almost a sure fire recipe for boring racing in any case, Monaco itself has the history behind it so end of the day, we find it hard to skip that race, right?

    As for me, I just got back home from the first day of the Singapore GP, and I have to say for the price of the ticket, the concerts itself are worth the premium.

    P.S: James, any meet the F1 fans session scheduled for Singapore?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not for this weekend, no.

  19. Harvey Yates says:

    “Business of Motorsport in Asia conference at the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX)

    Asian business leaders

    Bernie Ecclestone

    . . . marketing supremos of Shell, LG and Diageo.

    The event was organised by SGX together with sponsorship agency JMI and it was attended by almost 200 delegates.

    Caption
    Ecclestone at the SGX Summit with Oswald Grubel of UBS bank

    . . . most CEOs from companies involved in the sport come to.

    . . . being seen to lord it up on boats in Monaco is now verboten within their companies

    Ecclestone said

    For an increasing number of sponsors, the sport’s growing profile in Asia is a key reason to enter, certainly that was the case for UBS

    . . . galvanised the business community

    Minister of Trade Mr Iswaran observed,

    Almost a third of the races on the current F1 calendar take place in Asia, and next year the addition of India will continue that trend. Several of the speakers observed that as roughly a third of the global economy is in this region that balance is appropriate.”
    _________________

    F1, it seems, is packaged, wrapped, and sold to the highest bidder. It is a sad fate for what used to be called, with a degree of truth, a sport. Now everything depends on sell, sell, sell.

    There is a danger to all of this. Unless there is some degree of desire for the sport from the local grass roots, as soon as there is a better way to display their worth, businesses will move elsewhere. How long will Malaysia, Korea (for heaven’s sake), China and India last in F1?

    What happens when they discover a penchant for cycling when one of their nationals does well at the Olympics? Why should they stick with a sort that has no tradition and no one really bothers to go to?

    What will happen when their interlinked economies contract?

    Following the dollar is a short term expedient and, without a higher proportion of the money going to the teams, it will be self defeating.

    We have the absolutely ludicrous situation of more and more money coming from governments and Bernie, dear old Bernie, slating the self saem governments because of their lack of planning. Does he really think he is establishing the sport long term?

    Then we have economies being forced on the teams because their spending is unsustainable. And finally a 20-race season.

    Governments are fickle. They could pull the plug any time and then what? Go back to Imola if still exists? Rheims? We will lose European GPs and maybe that most frightening of eventualities, spectators as well.

    F1 has become television based almost entirely. When China can put on a race that is described as successful when there are more mechanics than spectators there is something seriously wrong.

    The only reason for going to these countries is money, and not money for the sport. Who wants to see actors and actresses interviewed in Brundle’s walkabout who confess to never having been to a GP before? Am I the only one who wants to give them a good slapping?

    I know I am tilting at windmills but this desire to go to countries purely for the money has the elements of disaster written all over it. Tradition is important to the sport and it is the only reason we put up with Monaco. What we don’t need is another one.

    We will lose Spa soon. The rickety stand, the poor parking, the even poorer access, and the lack of facilities for the spectators means little to the fans. Who would give up the tremendous thrill of Eau Rouge for the joy of peeing in a tiled toilet in a Tilke designed monstrosity? I mean, apart from bored business types who want more glamour than you get with football.

    Or, to put it succinctly: Asia is a big risk and it could end up costing us circuits and the sport.

    Or, shorter still: Ecclestone is destroying our sport.

    I’m off now to look for a sharp knife.

    1. terryshep says:

      I couldn’t possibly agree more with Mr Yates, nor have put it better myself.

      F1 without the European tradition has already been tried. Broadly similar cars to F1, famous drivers, racing in faraway places, all it lacked was the history. It was called A1GP. Remember that? Just another car race. People don’t tune in to read sponsor’s adverts.

      1. James Allen says:

        Yes, but that had no heritage. F1 needs to be in the right markets and as 30% of the world’s economy is in Asia then we should be there, likewise USA. However the sport needs to balance the needs of the fans as well as the business. European fan bases are mature and well developed and the grass roots are well established. Emerging countries must build that from scratch. But why should they be denied the opportunity?

      2. mtb says:

        Well said James!

      3. terryshep says:

        Precisely my point, James, it had no heritage. I think you’ve answered that perfectly.

        So there is a burgeoning interest in racing is there, MTB? Tell me, do they have 100,000 spectators at these burgeoning meetings? Is this attendance simply the sight of some cars racing which brings these numbers out? Why is F1 so interesting? Does it owe anything to the history, or just local advertising?

        Believe me, I have nothing against the proliferation of F1 as long as it can be managed without cutting out traditional European circuits. The more the merrier, I say, new circuits, new challenges, I’m all for them. Just let’s not forget our history.

        As for the ageing demographic in the UK, did you check the camera views of the 110,000 crowd at Silverstone? Many bearded oldies there?

        Gentlemen, we are all F1 enthusiasts. Let’s not fall out over this, we’ll watch & enjoy races in Samarkand if they can pay Bernie enough. The fact is that to expand, businesses need to sell more. I remember Bernie saying that 16 races were enough, shortly we’ll have 20. With the relentless march of interest rates, maybe we’ll soon have 22 or 24, with race personnel doubling in size and to hell with costs!

        I don’t want to argue with anyone about why or what about F1, I just want to watch it. I care about it, I want to see it continue. F1 now is not what I started to watch in the Fifties but most of the developments have been positive, I am happy with what we have now. I just don’t want to abandon the historic circuits for more autodromes.

      4. Harvey Yates says:

        James,

        MTB makes an interesting point, below, about spectator demographics. How about that as an off-season article? It is difficult to remember the age range at my first GP in 1966. I was 19 so anyone anyone over 25 was considered past it.

        My assumption was that you had to have paid off your mortgage before being able to buy a weekend ticket to a GP in recent years, hence the greater display of grey hair.

        I was hooked on GP racing at my first GP. Up until then I had seen sports cars as the ultimate. It is unfortunate that with prices as they are there is less likelihood of youngsters going or being taken to a GP race and so becoming lifelong fans.

        Or, perhaps, an article to worry your readers: whether F1 will retain it pre-eminence in motor sport in Europe if international demands change it too much.

        I remember being a lone voice in my group of motorsport fans in the 80s when Group C tore up the circuits, sometimes literally. And with Jags, Merc and Astons jostling for position into Coppice one could understand why. No worries at the moment though with diesels whispering around the tracks but come 2012 it might be different.

      5. mtb says:

        Huh? You think that A1GP cars were broadly similar to F1, and that the drivers in the series were famous? Which drivers are you referring to – Alex Yoong? Liuzzi? Klien? As for the cars, I would have thought that they were closer to Indy cars than F1 cars.

        A1GP was viewed by people in these “faraway places” as a second-rate series, with second-rate cars, second-rate drivers and incredibly dull races.

        As for “faraway places” – far away in comparison to where exactly? The majority of people who watch F1 on television live OUTSIDE OF EUROPE.

    2. mtb says:

      “Unless there is some degree of desire for the sport from the local grass roots, as soon as there is a better way to display their worth, businesses will move elsewhere. How long will Malaysia, Korea (for heaven’s sake), China and India last in F1?”

      Well, there is a burgeoning motor sports scene in some of these countries – Team Lotus ultimately plans to integrate itself with the Malaysian motor sport scene.

      “What happens when they discover a penchant for cycling when one of their nationals does well at the Olympics?”

      The demographic that appeals to F1 in the UK is ageing. How much increased interest in F1 has both Hamilton and Button winning the championship caused in the UK?

      Over 100,000 people will be attending the Singapore GP tomorrow despite Singapore neither having a driver or a team competing in F1.

      “What will happen when their interlinked economies contract?”

      What about the debt-ridden countries in Europe?

      1. Harvey Yates says:

        MTB:

        Thanks for your reply.

        You ask,

        “The demographic that appeals to F1 in the UK is ageing. How much increased interest in F1 has both Hamilton and Button winning the championship caused in the UK?”

        At the moment my impression is that there appears to be no falling off of enthusiasm for the sport amongst late 20s and 30s in Britain. Certainly there are considerably more F1 fans than when I was that age. Silverstone sold out again this year they said.

        But if what you suggest is true and that F1 is falling in popularity in Britain then this is where the efforts should be concentrated. Why not drop the prices, bus people in? It is done in some midlle and far eastern countries. Indeed, this rush for money is pushing prices up to beyond that which most people can justify.

        You also stated: “Over 100,000 people will be attending the Singapore GP tomorrow despite Singapore neither having a driver nor a team competing in F1.”

        And what about China? Korea? And the others with little or no knowledge or interest in the sport.

        I asked:

        What will happen when [the Asian] interlinked economies contract?

        And you asked in reply:

        “What about the debt-ridden countries in Europe?”

        F1 depends on the debt-laden countries in Europe to a great extent. Further, history shows us that F1 continues during recessions and comes out stronger at the end. British teams and circuits fought off everything the government could do to them in the middle 80s and gave us some years and races that are still talked of today.

        The only strategy that CVC/FOM seems to have is to follow the dollar. If this is the best way to ensure the longevity of F1 then so be it but I have strong doubts that it is. We have six or seven German drivers in F1 at the moment yet the German GP in under threat because of the rush for quick returns.

        Going to countries where governments fund races is all very well but my point is, and I believe it is one that is very strong, what happens when the money dries as it is wont to do when states bankroll such things?

        By all means continue where there are queues at the turn-stiles but I am bewildered as to why hotel lights and buildings shaped like speakers seem so important. However, we should pick venues with care. We should ask what long term benefits the venues can offer F1 and not just what they can afford.

        The corporate suites may be full but such support is transient. When the sound of engines fills the stadium the talk around the table is of food.

        Some years ago I was invited to the Formula Paddock Club at Silverstone. As the engines started for qually I asked our table’s host what my seat number was in the stands.

        “Your first time here?” he asked. The viewing area under Bridge, then without the open stand, was packed with spectators and I was able to stand at the front of the corporate stand without blocking anyone’s view.

        How long before golf, air races, or the next up an coming must see takes such people away from F1? Will the government funding go with them? After all the purpose of the massive subsidy is to increase business. There is no interest in the sport itself.

        If the sport fails in Europe and moves its centre abroad then it might still be called F1 but that will mean little. It will be something entirely different.

        I have absolutely no evidence to support this, apart from years of reading about F1 and the way it is financed, but I think the choice of Korea, China, Russia and the next circuit has more to do with politics and the 2012 Concord agreement than a desire to increase the enjoyment for those who follow F1.

      2. mtb says:

        According to the reports that I have read in The Paddock magazine, the ‘average’ F1 fan across Europe is ageing. On my trips to Brands Hatch for the BTCC, the WTCC and the DTM, fans below the age of 40 have been a clear minority – I accept that these categories are not F1, but the trends are similar to what has been reported for F1. However, on my trips to F1 races, I have always noticed that the number of people over 40 exceed the number of people under 40 by a considerable margin. Of course, there may be specific reasons for this – such as younger people having families to bring up, lacking the finances necessary to attend F1 races nowadays.

        James may be better informed than me on the issue of demographics.

        On the topic of bussing people in – I couldn’t agree with you more! Whenever I used to go to Silverstone, I always caught the train to Northampton and then the bus from Northampton train station to the circuit. The service was irregular and expensive (£7-8 return for a 25 minute journey). I once wrote to the BRDC, suggesting that it provide a free of charge bus service from Northampton and Milton Keynes train stations to the circuit, and received an obnoxious letter which informed me that the gentlemen of the BRDC could not be held accountable for the prices charged by a private company that is independent of the organisation. This is one of the many reasons why I lost faith in the BRDC, and was not upset to hear that Silverstone had lost the right to hold the race.

        When I attended the Bahrain GP, I was told that students had been given free tickets. However, many did not attend, either through lack of interest or because Sunday is a week day there. Bahrain is a small country, and the appetite for F1 there will probably remain small. But the Middle East is an increasingly important region for the prestige car manufacturers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the likes of Ferrari and M-B were against taking a race away from the region.

        China is also an important market for car manufacturers, indeed it is China that has been keeping some prestige manufacturers in the black. Longer term, I believe that a grass roots motor racing scene will be established in China. The haves will be looking for ways to flaunt their wealth in the same manner that the European aristocrats did so a century ago.

        As for ticket prices, I agree – they are ridiculous, and it is a symptom of the ‘highest bidder’ syndrome. (There was a time when I would attend two to three races a year, now I occasionally attend one.) But crying poor, as the BRDC regularly did, isn’t going to solve the problem. It is up to the ‘traditional’ circuits to find a way around the problem. Furthermore, one of the reasons why many of the ‘traditional’ countries were able to develop a motor racing scene was because of the wealth obtained through the colonising of a number of the countries that are now holding races. A century ago the aristocrats of Europe bought cars and raced them – finances obtained through ‘overseas interests’ were undoubtedly used many of these people. So it could be argued that the ‘traditional countries’ enjoyed an unfair advantage for a long time.

        The majority of the F1 TV viewers nowadays live outside of Europe, so the balance of F1 support is definitely shifting. In some cases, support undoubtedly is shallow and will move on to something else – but the same can happen anywhere. Thirty years ago cricket was almost a religion in the Caribbean, nowadays the West Indies team plays to paltry home crowds. The same could happen to F1 in the UK. F1 was huge in Germany for just under a decade, but interest there has been in steady decline despite, as you point out, the presence of seven German drivers. There will always be people like you who have F1 in your DNA, but it is those who come and go who, even in the UK, who will dictate the trends.

        On the issue of the relative economic futures of Europe and other regions of the world, I am afraid that I don’t have much faith in Europe. However, this is not the place to go into that. If you are still reading, then I don’t want to bore you much longer.

        I think that F1 will be maintain an audience in the ‘new’ countries than golf, air racing, etc for the same reasons that it developed an audience in Europe – as the car becomes more common the number of people who develop an interest in automobiles and want to see them driven at the limits by the best drivers in the world will increase.

        I will finish off by thanking you for your comments – it is good to see that there are people on this site who can disagree with me in a mature and polite manner.

  20. Glen D says:

    The Singapore race certainly seems to have struck a cord and is becoming one of the must see races of the season.

    With Korea this year and India coming in nexti do wonder what the future holds for the European GP.
    With Bernie saying that 20 gp’s is the limit, something has to give with the US GP in Austin coming in for 2012. I wonder if Malaysia, Japan, Hungary could give way for the US. Even though i dont link the Hungarian GP, loosing another european gp would not bod well.
    Then were does it leave the potential of a Russian gp that has been mooted over the last few years?

    James – Which one do you think will be going to make way for the US of A?

    1. JimmiC says:

      Of the three, I’d lose Malaysia

    2. woah!!! says:

      I believe Malaysian GP have contract until 2015.

  21. KNF says:

    Speaking about the Singapore government leading a drive to grow grassroots level motorsport (i.e. karting and lower formulae), it’s not really that well publicized in the local press. There are snippets of well-funded youngsters doing well in karting, but nothing more beyond that.

    I would suppose that once the Changi Circuit is completed, we would see more activity in this area, especially if F3/F2/GP3 teams set up shop here (good news for a mechanical engineer trying to get into the industry like me)…

  22. Gate 21 says:

    I’d even go so far as to say HALF (9/19) the calendar is Asian based. Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia, China, Turkey, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Abu Dhabi.

    On another point, whilst it many be a newly discovered location to much of the world, Singapore has been the antipodean stop-off point to Europe for a long time. It has been well known to many of us in Australia and New Zealand.

  23. Although we must acknowledge the importance of Asian markets for F1 sponsors and the need to build an audience there, it is simply crazy for Bernie to push events where the grandstands are deserted and the scenery more akin to a computer game, at the expense of European races playing to full houses.

    For the foreseeable future the larger proportion of the fan base for F1 will remain in Europe.

    Why do I get the impression that Bernie resents this ?

    PS Will we get F1 in HD on the BBC next year ?
    If not, can you ask Bernie when ?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not in 2011, as far as I know. Not many of the broadcasters taking F1 have HD platforms, apparently. Not enough to justify the cost anyway

  24. Steve Selasky says:

    James, I agree there must be an effort to find a balance between the various markets of the world. Asia, MiddleEast, Europe, and the Americas….

    I however believe that the business model is unsustainable. High race fees with races taking huge losses? And not to mention high ticket prices that most fans can’t pay. Singapore and Monaco might be the exception.
    But I recall empty stands at Monza.

    Races will continued to be rotated – at the expense of building a heritage and following.

    Like others have said – we will eventually lose Spa and Monza if this keeps up.

    I have been following F1 since 1976 and love the sport and appreciate it’s rich history.

    However, I must say – what the sport has evolved to in terms of rules, treatment of fans, media centers, and tracks is overkill.
    Geeze, those motorhomes are palaces!

    The reality is …. the world is entering a deleveraging period – where people are not spending the money. Ok, F1 is trying to contain cost with some rules.

    So to expect the same revenue stream in this period is not going to happen. Yeah, I understand CVC has big debt that needs servicing. Too bad, who told them to buy F1 anyways?

    In the end it is just my opinion that the current business model is unsustainable and I suspect others agree. The tough part is making the change.

    1. James Allen says:

      There are two types of losses – those sustained by governments and those by private companies. The former are sustainable in the wider economic benefit F1 races bring. The latter are not.

      1. Steve Selasky says:

        James,

        I agree for the short term – that governments can sustain the losses.

        However, for the long term I don’t see 20 countries forwarding the economic support necessary to put an F1 race on.

        In addition, let say you our able to get 1/2 the calendar compromised of government sponsored races that may or may not be there at a given point of time – how does a team market the exposure for a potential sponsor if F1 is chasing the money w/out concern for whether the market makes sense?

        In closing, I understand your point. Still stand by the business model is unsustainable.

        Thanks for the opportunity to comment…

        Steve…

      2. James Allen says:

        I do agree that there is a limit to what venues can pay and as their only way of making back the money is ticket sales, the tipping point is when the tickets don’t sell because they are too expensive. Many people would say we are there already. On raceday in Monza main stand was €500, which is really ridiculous.

  25. Rich C says:

    I’m no fan of some of Bernie’s choices for venues, but there’s an awful strong thread of Euro-centrism-anti-foreigners thinking that runs through the comments on this site. Some of you folks need to think outside your little box!

    Certainly some of the places in the middle east are not such hot venues – its a pretty miserable area in general. But Money talks, and fancy cars sell big there, so I understand it.

    And, if you’re going to be an international “sport” you can’t ignore the 1/5 of humanity in China, or the billion or so ppl in the worlds largest democracy, India. And these ppl all need cars, so I understand those places too.

    There are some terrific tracks in Europe. Spa is just about my fav, but whats the marketing point of racing in a small place like Belgium when these other huge places don’t have a race? And, tell me why Spain should have 2 races and Argentina, home of possibly the most famous driver ever, has none?

    It’d be great to have more races on this side of the pond, too, but perhaps theres too much competition from already-entrenched series and F1 just can’t cut it? I’m hoping the one in Texas works out, but who knows.

    Some of you chaps need to lift your sights a tad – there *is an entire world out there.

  26. Jason C says:

    I’ve got to say, I think Singapore and F1 is a perfect fit, and I think of that race as a real fixture.

    How to expand the calendar further without excluding F1′s most historic and enthusiastic races? Well perhaps a bit of creativity in the calendar could be considered. What about having several of the races earmarked as annual fixtures, for exmple Britain, Italy, Monaco, Japan, Belgium, Singapore, Canada. Beyond that have a 2-year rotation rather than 1. With 20 race slots per year, that would leave 26 race slots to be filled over 2 years. I’m not suggesting we have a 2-year championship, just the venue rotation.

    As for the Singapore vs Korea / India expreiences, it’s not really a very fair comparison. Think of the degree of control the government in Singapore has over everything vs that in India and Korea. Much like Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and China. However, if I were in FOM I would be looking at the Commonwealth games feeling slightly nervous.

  27. MJL says:

    I don’t really mind where the events are so long as the track is a good one and provides exciting races. On that basis, I wouldn’t miss Valencia or Hungary. Two utterly tedious circuits that bore me to tears. Ditto Barcelona, but they surely have the space to revamp it and perhaps add some overtaking spots? Singapore is a good event because it is unique. I don’t want to see lots of copycat night races, though, because then the novelty would wear off rather quickly. I really do think that France merits a grand prix and would love to see Austria back in the mix. There should be at least 1 race in Africa surely…

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