Felipe Massa Turns Closer to the Courts

Felipe Massa has reportedly taken the first step in potential legal action against Formula 1 and the FIA over the outcome of the 2008 world championship. How this will play out is anybody’s guess, but it is part of the Business of Motorsport this week.

I also look at how the Las Vegas Grand Prix is nearing completion of their track infrastructure, the status of a sale of Supercars, the economic impact of Extreme E in Scotland and a week in the life of a motorsport lawyer.

All this plus the latest motorsport sponsorship deals and partnerships, more legal woes in motorsport and whether motorsport will be in the Olympics in 2028.

All this and more in the Business of Motorsport Roundup on Motorsport Prospects. Its business news racers can use.

Motorsport Industry News

Formula 1

Business of Motorsport

The infrastructure is almost ready for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, much to the relief of local residents and workers. The paddock building is 80% complete and organizers are stating that the race will be “the biggest event in the world in 2023.”

Meanwhile, the more traditional and much loved Belgian circuit at Spa Francorchamps looks to have a long-term place on the F1 calendar according to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. “I think that we look at these surroundings and that is just magic so I think there will be a long-term future for Belgium.”

While Formula 1 is seeing “solid growth” in American TV viewership in 2023, Racer’s Chris Medland wonders where the baseline is for F1 in the United States now. “That word “organic” crops up again, and suggests promoters are not seeing fans swayed by solely the outcome of each race and the dominance of one team. Drive to Survive opened up so many stories that it’s clear there’s far more to F1 than just who wins, so it feels Red Bull’s dominance isn’t doing irreparable damage.”

With former Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer critical of Renault’s desire to control aspects of the Alpine Formula 1 team, saying it was “more than I’ve ever seen before” after leaving his role as team principal, The Race wonders out loud if Renault may just pull the plug on the whole thing. It’s not like they haven’t pulled out of F1 before.

Felipe Massa has reportedly taken a significant first step in legal action against Formula 1 and the FIA over the outcome of the 2008 world championship and that year’s tainted Singapore Grand Prix. “The priority appears to be seeking compensation for the loss of earnings caused by Massa missing out on that year’s title, rather than seeking to overturn any race or championship results.” According to Autosport, Massa has sent a letter to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, alleging that the two bodies’ “motive to avoid a scandal” has cost the now 42-year-old Brazilian tens of millions of euros in lost earnings and bonuses.

General Motorsport Industry News

Business of Motorsport

Australian touring car racing series Supercars Championship could be acquired by Sam and Yasser Shahin, who are said to be in talks over a possible takeover. Shahin has since responded to the rumor. “When we have something to say, we’ll say it, but at any one time, we don’t go talking publicly about those opportunities or where we are. So, I have no comment to make about that story or any others that have circulated.”

Richard S. James at Racer looks at the positives and challenges of the growth driving IMSA’s 2024 agenda. “It’s also necessary, given the burgeoning interest in the WeatherTech Championship and sports car racing in general. With the rules for IMSA and the FIA World Endurance Championship running in parallel in the top GTP/Hypercar class and, next year, in the GT classes as well, the interest among manufacturers and teams is at an all-time high. Speculation is rampant as to which manufacturers will be shut out of WEC’s new LMGT3 class, and IMSA has to figure out how to arrange classes for circuits that have limited capacity in pit lane and paddock. IMSA also has to manage the desires of those that wish to campaign a full season, or a full season of Michelin Endurance Cup, so they can do so.”

Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda has reiterated the Japanese marque’s long-term commitment to the World Rally Championship (WRC). “This is not just a marketing decision. After our 17-year absence, my desire to return to the WRC was based on two main reasons: to utilise the experience to produce better vehicles and for the development of our human resources. If we lose sight of these goals, we lose our company’s essence. Hence, our commitment to the WRC is long-term.”

Business of Motorsport
Hydro X Prix 2023 Photo: Extreme E

YouGov Sport’s recently published Economic Impact Study has demonstrated the positive financial impact of Extreme E’s Hydro X Prix event in Scotland. “The championship travelled to the country in May, and contributed a £31.06m total economic boost. Extreme E raced in the former open-cast Glenmuckloch mine in Dumfries and Galloway, which is set to be transformed into a Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH) plant and wind farm.”

Tony Stewart is looking to expand into the Southern Hemisphere as he lays out future plans for his SRX Series. “We have a little bit of interest from overseas to bring the SRX series over there,” Stewart said. “And I think doing a 10- or 12-race schedule in the U.S., and then having time to rerack, get everything ready, make sure that we have plenty of cars, parts, everything that we would need to go on an overseas trip like that and repeat the same thing with eight or 10 races, that would be an ultimate deal for me.”

Pioneering all-female W Series owed UK£15.8 million (US$20 million) at the time of its administration and it looks like the possibility of the series returning being highly unlikely. “As the administrators warn in their report, they are “unable to comment on the estimated return… until a sale of the assets has been concluded and the recoverability of the book debts established”.”

Sarah Franklin

Motorsport Legal lawyer Sarah Franklin explains what she does in A Week in The Life of a Motorsport Lawyer as well as providing some advice for race drivers in an exclusive article for Motorsport Prospects. “Generic contracts, in my opinion, often cause confusion and don’t include everything that is needed, so, particularly during the off season, I spend a lot of time negotiating and preparing bespoke contracts – often picking up things that they probably haven’t even thought of.”

Speaking of driver contracts, the Alex Palou saga took another twist as the Indycar driver has reportedly decided to not switch to McLaren from Chip Ganassi Racing in 2024, despite the reports of there being a contract in place. You can read some of the details in the links below.

Pratt Miller have announced the acquisition of a new Driver-in-the-Loop Simulator System. Scheduled for installation in the fall of 2023 and operational by January 2024, “this state-of-the-art DiL system supplied by AB Dynamics will revolutionize vehicle simulation capabilities for both motorsports and non-motorsports customers.” Once it is operational it will be “for hire” to any team looking to use it.

Racer is reporting that a senior trio of team executives are set to leave Arrow McLaren by the end of the year. “In the days leading up to last weekend’s race on the Indianapolis road course, competition director Billy Vincent, who also calls race strategy on Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 6 Chevy, informed the team that he will be leaving after the season finale on September 10. Vincent was announced in October of 2022 as one of the key team leaders to help steer Arrow McLaren as it reorganized its team structure under new race director Gavin Ward.”

Road & Track explains why international stars like Kamui Kobayashi are flocking to NASCAR. “I’m actually a big fan of NASCAR,” he told R&T. “My first motorsport to watch on TV when I was like four years old was an oval race. I would say: ‘That’s cool. I want to be a race-car driver.’ That’s why I’m here now. When I entered motorsports, obviously, you start in go-karts. Growing up in open wheel, the way you dream is Formula One. After you retire from Formula One, I did endurance races, but I was always thinking: ‘How can I get to NASCAR?’”

Motorsport could be headed to the Olympics as electric go-karting could reportedly be an Olympic sport at the LA 2028 Games. “Motorsport is under consideration alongside baseball-softball, lacrosse, breakdancing, karate, kickboxing, squash, cricket, and flag football. Per Reuters, the last sport’s top American representatives say that an official decision on which events will be added is expected in the coming weeks.”

Autosport International returns 11-14 January 2024 at the NEC Birmingham. “It’s a new show, a new look, and a whole new vibe. Five halls over four days, packed with Motorsport, Engineering, Performance and Live Action. Keep an eye out on social media to register for the latest announcements and ticket sale information.”

The 2024 SCCA National Convention will once again be presented in the popular virtual format, allowing all 50,000-plus Club members free access to every session of the more-than-weeklong gathering from Jan. 18-26. How popular is the virtual format? Nearly 900 members registered for the 2023 National Convention, which boasted an impressive 70-plus sessions. Those sessions were presented live, and then made available for all members to view in an on-demand format.

More information on the conventions can be found here.

Motorsport Sponsorship & Partnership News

Here are the latest motorsport sponsorship deals, partnerships and related analysis that were announced this week.

Business of Motorsport
Getty Images

The Business of Running a Race Team

Business of Motorsport

In announcing that he was stepping down as a full-time driver, Helio Caststroneves has announced that he will be taking a minority ownership role at Meyer-Shank Racing. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, no question about,” Castroneves said. “But this is another chapter in my career. I want to be very clear: I am not retiring, okay? I just want to make sure people understand that.”

Meyer Shank Racing team principal Mike Shank meanwhile admits that the team’s plans for competition in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship are still up in the air. “I don’t know what the odds are,” he said of his chances for remaining in the series beyond this season. “They float. It goes from 50-50 to 80 percent right now. It’s coming down to the last minute, which I don’t like a lot. That’s the way it is right now.”

The Williams team are reportedly embroiled in a complex legal battle in the United States, with a former employee bringing a $100 million lawsuit against them. “As reported by The Times, Williams Racing’s former marketing executive Claudia Schwarz has brought a $100m lawsuit against them for, in her view, attempts to ruin her reputation and force her out of the organisation while trying to avoid paying her out of contracts.”

Mercedes have offered an update on their factory developments that the team say will create a “world-class” facility for their team when finished.

Rob Thomas, Mercedes chief operations officer said: “The plans that have been recently communicated are just the next phase of a large programme that’s been running now for at least four years. When they are done, we’ll end up with facilities that are truly world-class. It is really important as a team that we create facilities for our people. Our people are our most important asset and having facilities where they can come to work and they are really proud to be there ultimately leads to performance.”

Team News

Here is a roundup of the latest team news from around the world of motorsport.

Business of Motorsport

Motorsport Movers & Shakers

Michelle Della Penna

Podium Life caught up with Michelle Della Penna, founder of the Della Penna Foundation to talk about legacy, women in motorsports and the mission of her foundation.

The people at the top know that motorsports needs to look more representative of the world it’s a part of. So, who is going to continue to step up and spend the money on initiatives like ours to make it happen? Slowly but surely change is inevitable. It’s the only way to keep our beloved sport alive. Become current and relevant or become obsolete and risk extinction. There are so many great organizations and programs out there working diligently to elicit change, now we just need the powers that be to step up and help realize it.”

Mark Boudreau
Author: Mark Boudreau

Mark is the publisher of Motorsport Prospects. As a former lawyer, he applies his legal background and research skills to assist race drivers by showcasing the resources they need to make their motorsport careers happen.