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 .