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Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Mar 2012   |  1:26 pm GMT  |  8 comments

Just under a third of the Formula 1 calendar is now made up of races in Asia, yet Caterham’s Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes believes there is still scope for the sport to expand in that region of the world.

Before Fernandes’s country staged its first grand prix at the then state-of-the-art Sepang circuit in 1999 Japan was the only established Asian round, yet 13 years on and China, Singapore, Korea and India all now also hold races in their own right. The rise of Formula 1’s presence in Asia has gone hand-in-hand with a gradual shift away from the sport’s traditional European heartland to the point where calendar and cost pressures are now set to see Spain join Germany in alternating its two venues, a fate that could also befall Spa should a revived GP in neighbouring France get off the ground.

While other countries are in the queue elsewhere in the world to join the schedule, Fernandes has told the latest JA on F1 podcast some more wealthy Asian countries could yet look to join the F1 party. Asked in the exclusive interview if he thought the number of Asian races had reached a limit, he replied: “No, I can see many more. You have some rich countries who are not involved – Indonesia, I was just asked to go and look at a track in the Philippines… So I think there’s plenty more.

“And you’ve got all the, what I’d call the ‘stans’. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, all of those in north Asia.”

But although F1 now has a strong physical foothold in the region, Fernandes believes there is still massive work to be done in marketing the sport to would-be local fans. To that end, he reckons F1 can take influence from English football’s Premier League.

Asked what lessons could learn from the promotion of the EPL in Asia, Fernandes, who also owns QPR, said: “Pay TV is one to be honest. The accessibility of content and news is just ginormous. The fact that a lot of marketing is done here – the Premier League brings out clubs in the mid-season, even down to the tour of the Premier League – the Barclays Cup – is all done here.”

To hear more from Fernandes on the challenges for F1 in Asia, and Caterham’s aims of bringing affordable F1 technology to people in the region, and more from the key movers and shakers inside the sport listen to the April edition of the JA on F1 podcast here or download it directly .

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8 Comments
  1. goferet says:

    What the hell is going on in the murky world of F1 and how come all over a sudden we have every country on the goddamn globe wanting some free publicity as though ever country is experiencing some sort of economic boom.

    Well if what Fernandes says is true, I have no problem with F1 spreading it’s wings to other countries (fair is fair) I just have one condition —> A certain Tilke is kept very far away from the blue prints.

    However Bernie should keep in mind that taking F1 to countries especially those in Asia that have no or little history of motorsport e.g. open wheel racing are more likely than not to end up as ghost tracks as the fans get bored with seeing cars going round and round in circles after the debut race.

    On the other hand, I don’t care how much passionate fans one country has, it’s imperative not one single nation gets two races, ABSOLUTELY NOT so I totally co-sign on the rotation concept.

    As for the promotion of F1, there’s nothing that beats slashing the ticket prices.

    Forget, pay Tv & all that EPL kind of promotion, just cancel some zeros from the ticket price and voilà, the fans will come flooding in.

  2. Arcturis says:

    Difficult this one. While the issues caused by time differences for the tv audience in Europe are not insurmountable there is no doubt that right now there is money available for F1 in Asia floating around whether as government backed vanity projects or earnest attempts to showcase a high tech manufacturing in a country. On the commercial side it probably makes sense to have more Asian races at the expense of European races. What business ever thinks beyond the next 3 or years so? So from that side for F1 to maximise revenue- more Asia based races pays.

    But at what cost? probably not much if car manufacturers are looking to Asia for new markets – it would fit in with plans to sell in India, China, Malaysia and other countries as they develop cash rich mass markets.

    If so would the F1 teams relocate and base themselves in Asia? Probably.

    I guess the only salvation for F1 to remain a European based sport is in the audience. While the audience following F1 is principally in Europe then it makes sense not alienate that fan base by removing European races. The moment that the fanbase in Asia becomes larger – is the moment we lose a European focussed/based F1 championship.

    It cant be too far off. Being UK based – I personally am unlikely to follow a world championship based on races mostly outside Europe – for example I like cricket by have no affinity for the Indian IPL. But I am about to be replaced by 5 or 6 cash hungry motor enthusiasts in Asia and I don’t think F1 is too bothered by that, heritage or no heritage.

    1. franed says:

      I have to agree, F1 is not mainly a European sport any more. It is far easier for Bernie to deal with individual Asian countries than those in the EU, where he had his wings clipped by the competition commission.

      The other thing to realise is that the number of people attending a race is of almost no concern for Bernie, he (FOM) gets his fee up front, from the circuit/promoter and from the tv agreement plus the track-side advertising and the Paddock club via Allsport or APM. So if no one turns up it will not affect the finances of F1. (Except perhaps for the teams as sponsors withdraw due to the huge drop off in OTS (Opportunities To See) as F1 becomes non available on Free to Air tv, making the effectiveness of F1 questionable as an advertising medium.

  3. Miguel says:

    You say that “under a third of the Formula 1 calendar is now made up of races in Asia”, but you forgot the races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

    The correct figure is 40%.

    1. James Allen says:

      They are in Middle East not Asia!

      1. Aryan says:

        Really James? Would you like to reconsider that statement? That’s like saying Sheffield is in Yorkshire and not England!

        Last time I checked, Middle East is a geopolitical region, encompassing parts of Western Asia and Northern Africa. I have never heard of Middle East referred to as a separate continent.

        If you are talking about Asia the continent, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are as much a part of it as Tokyo and Singapore. If you want to to be more specific, by all means call it the Far East or East Asia or Pacific Asia or South East Asia or…, but that’s not the whole of Asia!

      2. Jeff says:

        Not according to FIFA

  4. motorosport fan says:

    Yes, he’s right, Asia will dominate the calendar in the years to come. However, what will matter how F1 is embraced in Asia and this will define F1′s future too. Infact Tony’s also spoken about how motorsport is not being marketed well enough to this new audience. If you’ve not read it, a good read is here http://bit.ly/zw02gX

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