This week’s Business of Motorsport is filled with the highs and the lows of this ever-changing sport. I look at the highs and the lows of the Miami Grand Prix, Michael Andretti’s attempts to enter a team in Formula 1, the reasons behind the cancellation of the Vancouver ePrix and more. There is news about the W Series, Supercars, the Mx-5 Cup, MotoGP as well as team and series sponsorship news. I also have a look at some of the Indycar teams looking forward to the month of May as well as the challenges based by an Asian-based team racing in Australia. It’s all business news racers can use.
Motorsport Industry News
- Liberty Media, Formula 1’s parent company as well as the parent company of the Atlanta Braves and SiriusXM, generated $2.19 billion in revenue in Q1 2022, a 6% increase year-over-year. According to Front Office Sports, “the company’s F1 business pocketed $360 million in revenue during the quarter, compared to $180 million in revenue for the same period the year prior. F1 also secured new sponsorship deals in Q1 with software company Salesforce, tech giant Lenovo, and MSC Cruises.”
- They also had, by all accounts a commercially successful inaugural Miami Grand Prix (coverage here, here, here, here and here) with huge TV ratings. The series is also looking at racing in South Africa and possibly plans to return to Germany in the wake of Porsche and Audi joining the series in 2026. They have also made a large bet on Las Vegas by purchasing land for a paddock right off the strip for $240 million USD. But Haas F1 boss Guenther Steiner has cautioned that F1 must be careful not to overextend itself in the United States. “I think if we do Vegas next year, three at the moment, as big a country as the U.S. is, you have to solidify what we have got. Not just try to do more, to do more. We need to get it better and better as well.” MotorTrend argues that F1 needs to be careful that corporate greed doesn’t turn it into NASCAR 2.0.
- Not everything was rosy at the Miami Grand Prix as reports are coming in that sponsors and teams have been left underwhelmed by the hospitality experience. “A lot of good things about Miami but teams and sponsors not happy with the quality of service in the Paddock Club, run locally rather than by the usual F1 organisation. Tickets are $13,000 so people expect 5 stars… First world problems I know, but lessons to be learned.” (Adam Cooper)
- As I have mentioned in the Business of Motorsport before, the growth of F1 in the United States has largely been attributed to the Netflix series Drive to Survive, which has recently announced a further two season renewal.
- Liberty Media are aware of the progress the sport has made in the United States and look forward to building on the momentum as explained in The Robb Report. “Formula 1 was always very tightly controlled and did not have a lot of access to fans, and we’ve tried to change that,” says Greg Maffei, president and CEO of Liberty Media, the company who bought Formula 1 in 2016 for a reported $4.4 billion. In a recent panel discussion with Robb Report and Sportico, titled Art of Luxury: Parallels in Performance, Maffei went on to say: “Some things we were smart with, like fan experiences, e-racing and fan festivals; some things we got very lucky on, like Drive to Survive [the Netflix reality-TV show], which built a whole new base of a much younger and gender-diverse audience. Lastly, the product on the track has gotten a lot better; we’ve seen a lot of competitive racing.”
- It has been a few weeks since I have talked about Michael Andretti’s nascent Formula 1 bid but he was active in the paddock of last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, making his case to everyone from FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem to various F1 team bosses. While Andretti has spoken positively about getting FIA support and direction, and Liberty has given hints it supports adding new teams but then semi-backtracking with saying that having Andretti in F1 is not a “pressing need,” Christian Horner and Toto Wolff will be harder to convince. “But we have 10 entries today. We divide the prize fund amongst those 10 entries. We have invested considerable amounts over the last 10 years. Each of the organisations that are sitting here on the podium has probably put more than a billion into their Formula 1 projects over the years. So it needs to be accretive if a team comes in, how can you demonstrate that you’re bringing in more money than it’s actually costing?” (Toto Wolff)
- While Porsche look set to start a partnership with Red Bull Racing when they enter the spoert in 2026, Audi are rumored to be looking to buy a team outright, with McLaren being the prime target. But according to McLaren Racing boss Zak Brown, the team is not for sale. While acknowledging they have had talks with Audi, an outright sale has been ruled out. “We did have conversations with Audi, and we’re not for sale. We’re very committed to our future and we’re doing really well on the track. Shareholders are making substantial investments to give our team the resources we need to get back to the front, and commercially we’re doing really well. Morale in the team is really good. We don’t have any interest in selling the racing team.” What has not been ruled out is an engine supply agreement with Audi when they join the series.
General Motorsport Industry News
- W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir was busy at last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix as she works to expand the footprint and impact of the W Series. “I want to see W Series as being part of a movement to promote women in all aspects of motorsports – we need more female mechanics and we’re getting much more female engineers,” she says. “Those programmes require years of training so we have to get women in right at the beginning, so they can be proficiently senior to run cars in W Series. I want more women involved in all aspects of motorsport.”
- The Automotive Hall of Fame is set to host a Women In Motorsports Symposium on June1, 2022. The event will celebrate the history and future of women in motorsports, with film screenings, panel discussions, vehicle displays and an afterglow event. All proceeds will benefit WIMNA, a nonprofit organization. Racer has all the details.
- To encourage female STEM graduates to pursue careers in engineering, mobility and motorsport, McLaren Applied has teamed up with Warwick University, Cranfield University and Females in Motorsport. As part of the initiative, they will host an event at McLaren Technology Centre on June 24 celebrating International Women in Engineering Day, and offering students a networking opportunity with experienced women already in STEM roles. The event aims to increase awareness of pathways for females to enter into these male-dominated fields. Women over the age of 18 and currently studying a STEM subject can apply by visiting https://www.femalesinmotorsport.com/ and submitting a 30-60 second video outlining why they enjoy studying their STEM-related subject and how they think they would benefit from the opportunity being offered.
- With the upcoming Indy 500, there were concerns that the race would not attract its traditional 33 cars but those fears have been allayed. Forbes explains how the Indianapolis 500 got its 33rd entrant.
- Ahead of this weekend’s Formula E Berlin ePrix, details have emerged about the reasons behind this year’s Vancouver ePrix cancellation. “The main reason was actually one of the stakeholders, which basically were going to do all the garages, we were told that the contract was signed a while ago, and it wasn’t.” said Formula E chief operating officer and deputy CEO, Alberto Longo when he spoke to The Race.
- Ryan Walkinshaw is adamant that Supercars can still attract new manufacturers for its Gen3 era despite his own team choosing to align with Ford. “Once there is proof in the pudding, the product is on the race track, and people realise that the products are great and the racing is good and the sport has an exciting future, that will only compound the interest of manufacturers that we spoke to. So, hopefully,” Walkinshaw added.
- With the recent launch of the Emira GT4, Lotus has announced their return to racing and claim ‘anything is possible!’ According to Richard Selwin, race program manager at Lotus, “We always get to Formula 1 fairly quickly in conversations,” he openly admits. “But I think we are a long way off that. We have a desire to go GT racing. Obviously Lotus is going all-electric in the very near future, so there could be an element of that. But let’s prove we can run in GT4. We’ve got confidence from the management, then we can look at what else we can do. Anything is possible.”
- In the wake of the Ukraine crisis and the resulting sanctions imposed on Russia, the sports sector has been particularly affected with a number of sports organizations and bodies deciding to sever ties with Russia and/or Russian individuals and entities. A key practical issue that is arising increasingly frequently is the extent to which parties must seek to find alternatives to comply with their contractual obligations and/or to mitigate their losses. This is particularly relevant where parties have often purchased tickets in advance and/or there are significant sponsorship or broadcasting deals in play. This is the topic addressed in LawinSport’s Force Majeure & Contractual Performance: How The Obligation To Use ‘Reasonable Endeavours’ Affects The Sports Sector.
- The IMSA round at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has proven to be a “great opportunity” for Lexus to have event sponsorship and additional activation according to its North American motorsports manager Jeff Bal. As he explained to Sportscar 365, “Our goal from day one has been to connect performance to the brand. We’ve focused our efforts to have a class-leading fan experience throughout the race weekend,” he said. Engaging our dealers and guests with the sport and the team builds advocacy. Doing so in new ways and creating new fans of the program and the series is a win for Lexus and for IMSA.”
- The shock reports that Suzuki were pulling out of MotoGP were never officially confirmed by the company. Until now. Suzuki has now confirmed that they are in discussions with Dorna over quitting MotoGP.
- In more positive MotoGP news, the series has announced that MotoGP reaches 40m followers across digital and social channels while the Aragon circuit has signed a new MotoGP contract.
- The Victorian Government has allocated funds towards the development of a Victorian ‘Home of Motorsport’. Motorsport Australia CEO Eugene Arocca said the funding was a “significant step in developing another important motorsport venue for Victoria.”
- Peugeot Sport has detailed how, before taking to the track for its pre-homologation test sessions, the 9X8 hybrid hypercar began life as a 51.1GB digital project, made up of 15,267 files stored on a hard drive. Professional Motorsport World Magazine has all the details.
Motorsport Sponsorship News
Series Sponsorship News
- Speed Cafe reports that Pizza Hut has been announced as the naming rights partner of the Repco Supercars Championship’s upcoming event at Winton Motor Raceway. “Pizza Hut Australia is a winning brand and by sponsoring this iconic Australian Supercars race we are celebrating our success and recognising the achievement of all our team members, franchise partners and restaurant support centre staff across Australia,” said Pizza Hut Australia CEO Phil Reed.
- Shell Recharge has announced its title sponsorship of the 2022 Shell Recharge Berlin E-Prix; the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship double-header set to take place in the German capital this weekend, on 14 & 15 May. “We share Formula E’s desire to deliver technological innovations from the racetrack to the road, so all electric vehicle drivers can benefit from them,” Istvan Kapitany, Global Executive Vice President Shell Mobility said. “Similar to Formula E, Shell Recharge has seen a huge surge in popularity across multiple markets, with the installation of a new charging point on average every 20 minutes, with plans to accelerate this roll out in the future.”
- Not to be left behind in the tech sponsorship field, the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires series has announced that Black Mirage has been named the official cyber security company for the Mazda-owned series. “We are thrilled to welcome Black Mirage to the Mazda MX-5 Cup family,” said Mazda Motorsports Program Manager Jonathan Applegate. “It is a company that is passionate about motorsports and I think they’ll find our paddock to be a diverse group of individuals that could benefit from its expertise.”
Team Sponsorship News
- The BWT Alpine F1 Team has partnered with fashion brand Berluti with the collaboration debuting at the Miami Grand Prix. “Drivers Fernando Alonso, two-time Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion, and Esteban Ocon, who took his maiden Formula 1 victory at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix, will, alongside the Executive team, wear a Berluti wardrobe on selected occasions. Composed of a formal suit and an informal jeans, embroidered shirt and cashmere blazer ensemble, the kit also features accessories and shoes including the new Eden lace-up as well as the classic Playtime sneaker and the iconic Alessandro lace-up court shoe, both displaying an Alpine-inspired blue patina. To top it all off, Berluti has also handcrafted a made-to-measure Venezia leather case – also with a blue patina – to contain the team’s steering wheels. This unique object is a first for Berluti, and also for Formula 1.”
- Red Bull — and now Oracle, which joined the Formula 1 team as a title sponsor in February in a deal worth a reported $500 million — have seen major benefits from Formula 1’s rapidly growing presence and fanbase in the U.S.
- Hard Rock International has announced a multi-year sponsorship deal with Red Bull on the Thursday prior to the Miami Grand Prix. “Keith Sheldon, president of entertainment of Hard Rock International, envisions its properties becoming Red Bull viewing parties during every F1 weekend. Ultimately, the brand wants to create at-track experiences and events at properties in corresponding F1 markets.”
- Williams Formula One team have marked the third year in partnership with Crew Clothing with the release of a new apparel collection. “Last year’s Crew Clothing x Williams Racing licensed collection was a huge success all over the world, with many styles selling out on the first day of launch,” said David Butler, chief executive of Crew Clothing.
- McLaren Racing has announced VMware, a provider of multi-cloud services for all apps, as an official partner of the McLaren Formula One team in a multi-year deal to be activated at the French Grand Prix in July. VMware will help McLaren manage, connect, protect, and deliver cloud-based apps the team relies on both at-track and at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking.
The Business of Running a Race Team
- DragonSpeed team owner Elton Julian explains how the Indycar and IMSA racing boom makes it tough to find crew for Indy one-offs like his. “There’s not many other teams that can come and do one-offs like they used to in the past. It’s going to be a tough one to navigate moving forward, I’m sure, for the Speedway, because as they galvanize these really quality, quality entries, full-budget, top drivers really focused at the 26 to 28 number, it’s going to be difficult. There’s going to have to be definite movement to make the possibility happen, to have available engines, to have available chassis and also to have some level of commitment from the biggest teams that they have to do it, or I don’t see how else you can.”
- Indianapolis TV station WISH TV has a great feature on Juncos Hollinger Racing and Richard Juncos. “His success comes after humble beginnings on and off the race track. After Argentina’s economy collapsed in 2001, Juncos lost everything, forcing him to chase his dreams in motorsports with only $400 in his pocket. Juncos landed his first job as a mechanic for a karting team in Miami.”
- Motorsport Week reports that the NTT IndyCar Series has a new team on the grid this season by the name of HMD Motorsports. While still running a highly successful Indy Lights program, which includes locking out two-thirds of the podium in both races held so far this season, the team is taking its first steps towards the dream of competing for wins in IndyCar as well. HMD has sensible management at the helm for the transition, ensuring the step up to the premiere series is done in a way that works best for the team. “We’re learning a lot on the HMD side for the IndyCar program,” said Mike Maurini, HMD Motorsports’ general manager. “What to do, what not to do, the people you need to talk to, what you can say, what you can’t say. A lot of learning with the people from Firestone and Honda. You can’t jump in with both feet, because you’d spend 20-30 million dollars.”
- Racer reports that Neil Enerson and his IndyCar driver son RC want to join the NTT IndyCar Series in 2023, and they’ve taken a major step forward in that plan. “A return to drive for Top Gun was ruled out by Enerson earlier in the year when it was revealed his father and his former team were embroiled in an ongoing custody battle over who owned the No.75 Dallara DW12 and the spare chassis that was purchased.”
- Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour entry, as the only overseas participant has been described as a “journey” to put together according to team director Darryl O’Young while speaking with Sportscar365. The team, which is based in Hong Kong but has its main shop at Sepang in Malaysia, is on-site for its second Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli race since the COVID-19 pandemic started, after entering the Indianapolis 8 Hour last October. “We were aiming for our key guys to be in. When you apply for visas two months in advance, you’d think they’d come through. Certain countries like the UK and Germany came back very fast, but others like Asian countries are a bit more complex.”