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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.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • jonnowoody

    Oh brother.

  • The Captain

    {Palm on face} This man’s gotta go. I can’t say it enough, I feel formula 1 success has come in spite of Bernie, not because of him.

    And not to argue the point too much, but social media and communication tech have defiantly helped raise the popularity of the world cup in the US. Just last night I saw people checking scores on the Fifa app at the pub, and I know people who once they hear a game was really great, have gone home to watch the always available free replays with their OnDemand cable.

    • Kris S

      Just don’t pay attention to the troll. I mean, Mr. E.

  • SuperRoo

    Yep – just your standard race renewal process from Bernie:
    1. Incense local populace
    2. Whip media into a frenzy
    3. Offer a compromise to renew the contract for x% of GDP, and include one of the following: build new paddock facilities, change green flag time to some oddball hour, randomly shuffle race date
    4. Paint corny thank you sign on track to hide his true evil genius

  • Louis

    I went to see the F1 GP at Monza last year. Big crowd, passionate supporters and historic grounds. Loved everything about this circuit. Can’t think of it not being continued.

  • MIE

    What better* way to incentivise the tiffosi to support their local GP.

    * For a specific definition of ‘better’

  • Derek

    I’m going to take one line out of this article that I think says a lot, but doesn’t really relate to the Monza situation; “but an App isn’t making the World Cup find 16 million viewers in the US.” No, it’s the lack of a good network to carry the sport in the US. NBC has been nothing but negligent on their production of F1 the past two years. The advertisements is non-existent unless they are talking about a race that is happening in November! Where was the hype for Monacco? That’s the Super Bowl of F1 and there was barely a blip about it. At least last year the cast went to Southern France, but I think the only additional footage was to see Will Buxton straddle Lewis Hamilton on a waterski… And this week it’s being separated between their multiple cable channels? I guess that should be a good thing that they are covering it at all and not going onto their “other obligations” before the post race has even begun. I feel the experiment with NBC to make the sport more mainstream in the US was a great idea, but the lack of commitment by the network failed. Plus, Bob Varsha is a way better play-by-play announcer than Leigh Diffey(btw- can he go one race without completely drooling over Kevin Magnussen???)
    I don’t think this has been written about in a while and would just like to vent what my friends and I have been feeling over the past couple years.
    And I’m off my soapbox.

  • Tony Geinzer

    I believe that if Monza is not in F1, let alone Italy, I believe that the Global Community would be mad. Also, I think F1 Fans are tired of apologizing vfor Ferrari not doing it and Mercedes going Half Year by Half Year and Red Bull trying their hand at motors is Subminor, even more so than leaving NASCAR and Stock Car in a State of Abandonment.

  • Fortunately we have the Red Bull ring now.