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There’s no doubt that a day of Formula 1 in the streets of London sounds like a great idea and a lot of fun for the British fans. Driving the team cars around Whitehall, musical acts, technology and innovation showcases and a host of other features sounds terrific.

Perhaps new owners, Liberty Media, are thinking this could be the kind of week-long event that each race could offer with entertainment and events that focus on F1 within the nations that they race. Intriguing that the race is in Silverstone but they’ve gone to the epicenter of the UK and one wonders if taking F1 to the streets of NY even though the race is in Austin might be a goal.

A couple of thoughts did cross my mind as I read about the announcement.

Timing

If I were a British fan and had a day or two notice to get to London, that would be quite a challenge to be honest. I certainly understand the discretion needed but I’m curious why they weren’t promoting this earlier. This way more fans could attend as they would have more time to arrange their work schedules etc.

Silverstone out

While choosing a massive fan experience event with London to celebrate the British Grand Prix and the intrinsically intimate and symbiotic nature of the British relationship with the series, it comes on the day that Silverstone executed its break clause and will, as we stand, not be hosting the British Grand Prix after 2019. It’s a bit like heading to London to celebrate a racing series that just announced it won’t be racing in the UK any longer. Now, we both know that this may not be the end result but on the surface of it, that’s where we stand.

The formula One Group were not happy about the announcement and heaped some scorn on the BRDC which could signal a very tenuous negotiating period between now and 2019:

“The week leading up to the British Grand Prix should be a week of great celebration for F1 and Silverstone,” said the F1G.

“We deeply regret that Silverstone has chosen instead to use this week to posture and position themselves and invoke a break clause that will take effect in three years’ time.

“We offered to extend the current deadlines in order to focus on everything that is great about Silverstone and Formula 1.

“Regretfully the Silverstone management has chosen to look for a short-term advantage to benefit their position.”

The statement held the door open for talks with Silverstone to continue.

“Our focus is still to preserve the British Grand Prix,” it added.

“We will carry on negotiating with the promoter in good faith and in private to reach a fair and equitable solution.”

If Luca di Montezemolo were in the F1G, he would have said that the BRDC is engaging in “polemics”. Not a happy bunch of campers over there at F1G. While the closing statement suggests a possible future deal, I can’t imagine the BRDC is happy with being scolded publicly. Then again, F1G boss, Chase Carey, isn’t happy about the culture of F1 doing all its negotiating in public.

I read a very nice piece by Kevin Eason at the Standard and Chase was not keen on how F1 traditionally does its public sparring and negotiation.

“This seems to be a sport that likes to posture in public — I’m not sure why,” says Carey. “My method is to have the strongest relationship by doing things in private and then explain in public why you did it.

“Our preference would have been to have a quiet conversation to talk about ways to go forward.

“It is a sport that loves to negotiate in public: to talk first and act second. Bernie might have had some of the best of the one-liners, but there are plenty of others in the sport competing with him. There is a lot of message planting and positioning.”

At some level, this is how it’s always been and while it can be contentious, I’m not sure I would want the over-veneered character and homogenized, processed media and fan experience of NASCAR for F1. In and effort to Americanize F1, you run the risk of turning it into NASCAR where everything is done in secrete and then secreted out to fans through patronizing media press releases and heavily reigned teams and drivers.

Chances are that ten teams spending $100m or more per season will always mean that their issues will be taken to the press if not abated and the risk of becoming a contrived NASCAR experience will never reach British shores but then again, if Silverstone doesn’t work this out, F1’s only claim to the UK may be where they hang their hat in between races.

The economic, educational and collateral benefit of F1 and a British Grand Prix are barely measurable for the UK. It is, in this Yank’s opinion, critical that a British Grand Prix is held and Silverstone is best poised to do it.

London

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of racing through the streets of London is a cool concept but this growing penchant for less expensive street circuits is starting to wear a little thin on me. There is nothing like a purpose-built circuit and while Austin’s COTA may be, if rumors are true, struggling with the economics of it all, the races there are galactically better than the ones on a roval or in a street in Detroit.

Domino effect

The BRDC doesn’t like the price they pay for F1. I understand that but once the F1G starts making deals in which they take big haircuts to keep the races, then all the tracks, Austin included, will be looking for break clauses and big discounts to keep the races on their tracks. If Silverstone gets a race for $10m per year, there isn’t a track currently contractually bound that won’t legally seek some restitution for the $20m they are currently paying.

The F1G bought a series that was near implosion with its exorbitant race sanctioning fees and far-flung locations to find willing emerging markets who could be fleeced for a quick 3-10 year deal for $250m. On the heels of this difficult-to-sustain model, the F1G is also said to be looking to re-classify the prize money distribution for teams and that’s going to go over like a lead balloon.

Regardless, Carey says he’s not considering the concept of renegotiation anyway.

“We are not a soft touch,” says Carey. “We are not renegotiating deals. These agreements were reached fairly between adult organisations, but we want to support the event in the best way we can.

“The [financial] model in the past was to negotiate an agreement, get paid and then hand over the race. These races are the platform through which the fans follow the sport and it is important we contribute and engage, but it will take different forms because we have 21 different partners.”

Lewis Out?

Lewis Hamilton has been getting his share of consternation on social media Tuesday over the London F1 Experience as he tweeted:

‘To my loving fans, I can’t wait to see you at Silverstone. Until then, I’m away on a two-day break. God bless you all. Love, Lewis.’

Many have taken this tweet as an indication that he will not be attending the London event even though Jolyon Palmer, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button will be along with all the other teams and drivers in F1. Some media suggest this exposes a rift that actually exists within the team and Lewis Hamilton. I’ve no idea if that is the case but it will be strange if all the drivers show in London and Lewis does not, it’s a bit of a command performance, no?

Hat Tip: Kevin Eason at Standard

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Johnny Higgs

    …..he’s simply a prick !

  • bobmendon

    “I’m curious why they weren’t promoting this earlier.” The answer is really quite simple if you stop and think about recent events in the UK. By waiting to the last minute, it gives people with bad intentions, less time to plan.

    • Ah, well there is that. Makes me sad if that’s a reason. Surely there is another reason? I know they’ve been working fast and furious on these fan experiences and trying to create these marketing activations on the fly starting earlier this year but these kinds of details take lots of coordination for sure.

  • Ian Robinson

    My thoughts are that they will sort a deal with Silverstone relatively quickly as there really is no other place thats set up enough here in Blighty and there’s no way that they would allow there not to be a “Home” GP on the calendar? (that said i do love Donnington and Brands but they just dont have the facilities)
    As for a London GP, please god no!!!!!! its the worst idea ever, you wouldnt be able to see anything (as a spectator) it would cause massive amounts of disruption to the normal working public and costs millions in lost revenue to the businesses that rely upon being able to get in and around London on a daily basis. (its bad enough here already!)

    As For Lewis, He’ll be spending time with his family up the road in Stevenage away from prying eyes and as he lives in Monaco i guess he doesnt like slumming it on the estate where he slept on the sofa ;)

  • jakobusvdl

    If this is a test run of the ‘week of fun’ that Liberty plan when GP comes to town, perhaps they didn’t want to attract too many people, so they can iron the bumps out?
    Running it in London seems to odd, I’m sure that Silverstone would rather have had any additional events out at the circuit, so that they benefit directly. Perhaps that can be part of the public negotiations.
    With Hamilton, if the planning was very last minute, perhaps he’d already made other commitments that he couldn’t get out of?

    • Ian Robinson

      Being a F1 fan, going to Silverstone and living near London, I’ver heard nothing to do with this event in London.

      • jakobusvdl

        That must be irritating, will you be able to get along at this short notice?

        • Ian Robinson

          I wish, work plans now as leaving Friday for the GP so got one less day to get things done.

          • jakobusvdl

            Bummer, this might be a one off if Silverstone do withdraw from the calender.
            Enjoy the GP, I’ll look out for you on the TV, will you be wearing an F1B shirt?

          • Ian Robinson

            Unfortunately not, I’ll be wearing a “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” shirt or be the only McLaren supporter lol

          • MIE

            I believe I could hear you cheer at the end of Q1. :)

          • Ian Robinson

            Believe me I got half the grandstand looking round, I didn’t realise how loud I shouted lol highlight of the weekend so far.

            I’m still pickled from yesterday but I can hear the cars running, I should go and see what that’s all about lol

    • puptentacle

      If there were “other commitments”, wouldn’t he have said that instead of “I’m taking two days off”?

      • jakobusvdl

        If that were the case we’d have to conclude that Johnny Higgs’ (see his comment below) may be right ;-)

  • charlie white

    Like in comedy, timing is everything. And the timing for these two events is crucial. The BRDC pulled the proverbial trigger on the contract break on Silverstone with FOM. Then, there’s a special one-day F1 demonstration affair in central London which includes (from what I read) all the teams. Could it be Liberty Media is testing the waters of public interest for a potential street race through London? Would they use such an event as leverage on the BRDC and Silverstone?

    • jakobusvdl

      Interesting theory, but a London City GP? The logistics would be a nightmare (as Ian R points out below).

      • charlie white

        The idea has been proposed before years ago when Bernie threatened to yank it from Silverstone. Logistically, it can’t be any worse than Monaco.

        The city survived 2 weeks of 2014 Olympic Games. Judging by today’s turn-out for the demonstration, I’m sure Liberty Media is giving the idea some consideration.

        • jakobusvdl

          You’re quite right Charlie, I do recall it being talked about some time ago, another of Bernie’s brain waves, medals, sprinklers, and city GP’s……..
          And a promoters GLC would make a fortune from congestion charges; 20 cars, FP1, 2 & 3, plus Quali, and 70+ laps GP!

  • jakobusvdl

    Whodthunk, even with three guys at the top, its hard going to keep all the F1 plates spinning. 83year old Bernie was doing it all alone, if only he’d used his powers for good……..

  • Shocks&Awe

    Amazing that Chase still has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to Bernie.
    And isn’t it a bit hypocritical to complain about others posturing in public, in an interview?

    I don’t know Chase Carey from a hole in the wall, but the more he opens his mouth the less confidence I have that he can steer this ship with any kind of skill.

    Time will tell, I suppose. But I give him 2 years before he gets pushed out.

  • Schumi Toronto

    Here’s hoping there’s a “Toronto Live” event coming, before an upcoming Montreal Grand Prix! Yeah I know – wishful thinking! But why should “that Province” (my Canada EXCLUDES Quebec!) get all the F1 fun?