While you may really be enjoying the Formula 1 season and what has been reduced to a Mercedes road show, race promoters from 17 nations assaulted the Spanish Grand Prix circuit this week let F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone know what they think of the current format of the series.
According the The Times, the meeting was held in Barcelona this weekend and the topic was about attendance at the races. The promoters have been very unsettled by the new sound and look of F1 as well as Mercedes AMG Petronas’s clear and comprehensive domination of the sport so far which could equate to low attendance numbers for the remaining 14 races.
That’s a big issue because the promoters make little or nothing from any contractually obligated track-side advertising or broadcast rights from the event and this leaves them holding the bag for ticket sales and concessions only. They pay dearly for the right to host the race with a 10% escalator, in some cases, each year and this can be in the range of $25 million per year. Taking that kind of gamble bets on the appeal of the series only and if it isn’t appealing, then tickets sales and the entire weekend becomes a big loss.
I can’t say I blame them for being concerned and the new format has left many F1 fans cold unless you happen to be a Mercedes or Lewis Hamilton fan or like hybrid powered cars and the direction the sport has taken with regards to technology and sustainability. If neither of those are as appealing as what F1 has traditionally meant, then you may be in the camp of frustration.
The ticket sales for Silverstone may be up this year given Lewis Hamilton’s terrific run of success but will that translate to all the other venues? Regardless of what is being printed, said and shared on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, there is a groundswell of fan disapproval that the promoters are becoming very wary of. Broadcast rights and advertising has already been bought and paid for so they have little choice but to grin and bear it but race promoters are the triage and feel the first initial impact of a less than savory racing series. Broadcast advertisers will be next in recognizing little ROI for their huge check they cut to F1 teams, circuits and more.
Time will tell and perhaps things will actually prove to be just fine but if I were a race promoter, I would have been in Spain asking for Mr. E’s help in protecting my investment as he’s the man who could get something done while FIA president Jean Todt argues over firing employees at teams in order to make F1 more affordable for little teams who don’t employ that many people.