Having hosted a grand prix every year since 1950—except for that time in 1980—Monza has served as the spiritual home of the Italian Grand Prix. That could change in 2016 if what Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone told Gazetta dello Sport holds true.
The soon-to-be 84-year-old head of Formula One Management told the Italian paper that a renewal of the contract may not happen in 2016 due to the prior contract being a financial disaster for Formula 1.
“It’s not good. I don’t think we’ll do another contract, as the old
one has been disastrous for us from a commercial point of view.
“So it’s bye-bye after 2016.”
Rumors have suggested that perhaps the circuit Mugello might serve as a healthy alternative but Ecclestone says he has seen no proposals from the Ferrari-owned track. There were rumblings a while ago about a possible street race in Rome as well but no mention of that in the article either.
What is more concerning are the comments Ecclestone made about the Italian TV viewership numbers:
“TV ratings are lower in Italy than elsewhere,” he said.
“TV channels have split with digital broadcasting, and there’s also Twitter, Facebook and other communication means, so young people are more distracted.
“How to improve Italian ratings? If Ferrari started to end up first and second in qualifying and races… TV ratings would improve everywhere. Ferrari is worldwide passion.”
While Ferrari’s lack of competitiveness may be partly to blame, I am wondering just how impacting the current version of F1 is on the Italian public as well. TV viewership has sharply decreased in 2014 according to Pirelli’s Paul Hembery and this isn’t due to Ferrari’s lack of competitiveness.
Certainly FOM knows the numbers but what F1 seems to struggle with is understanding the why’s behind the numbers. Suggestions about a lack of an App or social media presence have all been strewn about in conversations about F1’s ills but an App isn’t making the World Cup find 16 million viewers in the US. It’s sharp increase is due to a new interest in a sport and good product.
Italy should always be on the calendar and Monza should be the place the Italian Grand Prix calls home. It is in FOM’s better interest to keep Monza and continue to ramp up Italian interest in F1. For years the nations who hosted F1 races needed/wanted the product but with TV viewer ratings hitting new lows, F1 just may need/want the nations in what would be a real reversal in the business model proposition. Sure, it may be unrealistic to suggest that F1 needs these national investments but I am not sure how many more AsiaPac or emerging markets the series can handle in areas where F1 is not as popular as football (Soccer).
One last thing…keep in mind that this is typical of how Ecclestone operates prior to negotiations. Suggest they are losing the race in which to set the playing field for discussions.