This week in the Business of Motorsport Roundup I look at rumors of Ford and Porsche in F1, the revival of Lola and the legal definition of what is considered an F1 seat in a loan agreement signed by F1 driver Nyck de Vries.
I also look at changes coming to this year’s Miami Grand Prix, a peek into the factory of Radical Motorsport, the expansion of United Autosports and the latest motorsport deals and partnerships.
All this and more in the Business of Motorsport Roundup on Motorsport Prospects. As always, its business news racers can use.
Motorsport Industry News
I have mentioned in previous columns the rumor that Ford is planning a return but in Ford is returning to Formula 1?, Cars-Power have some more details plus stunning car renderings by Sean Bull Design. “Ford is interested in returning to the Formula 1 championship at the “big door”, and that door should be opened for them by Red Bull, whose contract with Honda expires in 2025, before the rulebook is changed.”
Speaking of F1 manufacturer rumors, Williams had to respond to the rumors that they were pairing up with Porsche. “The rumours that Williams Racing is up for sale are inaccurate,” a Williams spokesperson told Motorsport Week. “We are open to any discussions regarding the supply of engines with manufacturers from 2026 when the new engine regulations come in.”
The news that greets any rumor surrounding Porsche in F1 sets social media off in a frenzy. Autosport Plus explains what the Porsche social media frenzy says about F1’s manufacturer allure. “Porsche whipped up a frenzy thanks to a cryptic social media post last week and, although it turned out to be a false alarm, it also highlighted why manufacturers remain such an important element in terms of the attraction that they bring to F1. It is little wonder that several other manufacturers are bidding for a slice of the action.”
In the latest developments in the Michael Andretti/GM F1 team saga, GM President Mark Reuss states any complaints about their participation in F1 being “badge racing” are uninformed. “We have styled/designed the most beautiful cars. We have engineered a massive transformation to electrified power cube. We work hand in hand with our race teams. We are committed.”
Andretti may have a new ally to add to his slim total amongst current F1 team principals as Toto Woll has come out to say that the GM/Cadillac’s tie-up with his F1 bid is a statement. “Cadillac and GM, that’s a statement,” Wolff said. “Certainly them joining forces with Andretti is definitely a positive, gives it another angle that may or may not be beneficial for Formula 1, but nobody would ever question GM or Cadillac’s pedigree in motorsport and obviously as a global auto company.”
In case you were not aware, Motorsport Week is reporting that Ferrari has reversed their stance on the 2026 F1 engine regulations. “However, in a change of events, Corriere has disclosed Ferrari has now come around to signing a pre-agreement with the sport’s governing body, the FIA.”
Having been the first to feel the sting of a “minor” cost cap breach, Red Bull explain how the cost cap has changed F1’s development ‘discipline’. “That’s changed tack a little bit. So our engineering discipline has changed to adapt to those rules. What we’ve taken on in previous years, we just can’t take on now.”
If you think that F1’s Pat Symonds has sympathy for the team’s cost cap complaints, you would be mistaken. “I spent 42 years as an inventor in Formula 1, I always had a cost cap – we called it a budget. And that was the amount we are allowed to spend,” Symonds said on stage at Autosport International. “And I remember one year we had a very, very good development programme going, and we had one of those periods in Monza onwards, I can’t remember what year it was [but] it was in the 90s, and we just had accident after accident after accident. The budget didn’t change, so we had to stop the development programme we were working on – so I have slightly less than zero sympathy.”
While they didn’t change the track layout, Miami Grand Prix organizers are repaving the track and sprucing up the paddock facilities. “There were parts of the race track where there was one line where there should have been the possibility to overtake, and so we weren’t happy with that. We’re going to go through with the investment and expense to go ahead and repave it in an effort to get it where it races better.”
Former HRT manager Manfredi Ravetto has suggested in GPblog that it would be harder to add new F1 teams today. “We then asked Ravetto to imagine if things would have been different. If those three teams had tried their adventure in the present day. The former team principal replied: ‘Difficult to answer. Certainly, the budget cap is something that, if effective, should theoretically help, but it is still a very young instrument with aspects to be contextualised.” He added: “Apart from anything else, I think perhaps it would be even more difficult today, back then it was more manageable even from a commercial point of view because small teams could still access ‘small’ sponsors and somehow make do with them, whereas today you can no longer make ends meet and small teams have great difficulty attracting big sponsors.”
Maybe one option for a new team is to design a Formula 1 car on the cloud? “Veteran race engineer Nicolas Perrin took his interest in F1 a step ahead! He used Onshape to build an F1 car design that sports + technology enthusiasts can access and model from anywhere around the world.”
The McLaren Formula One team have partnered with Entain, a global sports betting, gaming and interactive entertainment group, to launch a program to help reignite the careers of women returning to roles in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
There is no doubt that the Netflix series Drive to Survive has had an enormous impact on the popularity of F1 but Planet F1 asks, is Netflix’s Drive to Survive nearing the end of the road? “Drive to Survive is supposed to serve as a fly-on-the-wall documentary but has been so fixated on creating its own narrative, it too has become a character in the very subject it is trying to portray.”
I don’t normally delve into the lives of drivers in The Business of Motorsport but this definitely touches on the business side of being a driver. AlphaTauri Formula 1 driver Nyck de Vries is embroiled in a legal dispute with an investor in his junior career ahead of the 2023 F1 season. He is facing a lawsuit from a Dutch real estate magnate over a €250,000 loan used to support him in his junior racing career. Terms of the agreement included payment of 3% interest a year and a slice of any future earnings de Vries would make should he reach F1, Dutch newspaper FD reported. Crucially, the loan was to be waived completely if de Vries was not an F1 driver by 2022.
This will be interesting to watch develop although I am sure that ultimately it will be settled out of court. I think the following quote from Autosport probably plays more importance to the reasons behind this lawsuit than the plaintiff would like to admit but of course, this is just speculation. “Bedaux also claimed that another factor involved is that de Vries politely declined Schothorst’s offer to become his F1 manager.”
In addition contracts always revolve around the definition of words and usually disputes arise around the differing definitions of a particular word. This is why it is important that “F1 Seat” to have been clearly defined and agreed on by both parties. “Schothorst is contesting the definition of ‘F1 seat’ as he believes De Vries to have secured one in 2022, thus meaning the terms of the initial €250k loan would still be valid.”
General Motorsport Industry News
In Reviving Lola, The Greatest Racing Car Company Time Forgot, Road & Track looks at the attempt to revive the late great racing manufacturer Lola. Bechtolsheimer’s intent for this brand? “To bring Lola back to what it was: a well-respected constructor of race cars and an innovator in motorsport.” There is more change going on in the automobile industry than at any time since the Model T. “That means opportunity,” he says. “The key area of innovation that the automobile industry needs is energy efficiency. Motorsport has always been the place where innovation happens, and anything that’s driving efficiency is something I am interested in. Electrification is not the only solution. Motorsport’s role is to explore how far can we take electrification but also to explore what are the other alternatives. What can we do with hydrogen? There’s going to be a hydrogen class at Le Mans in 2025.”
Radical Motorsport has announced the appointment of Mental Motorsports as its new official dealer in Marbella, Spain. “Mental Motorsports first opened in 2020 to offer motorsport enthusiasts across southern Spain and Portugal a chance to join likeminded people on road trips, trackdays and race weekends. Almost three years on, their Andalucian-based clubhouse has become the ultimate meeting place for petrolheads, and their exclusive car club has grown to over 200 members. The appointment of Mental Motorsports as Radical Spain builds on their last two years of success and is a well-deserved addition to the southern Europe Radical market.”
Speaking of Radical Motorsport, Hagerty goes behind the scenes at the factory to look at 25 years of perfecting speed at Radical Sportscars. “Nineteen years later and Radical has just celebrated its 25th birthday. Radical Sportscars was started in 1997 by amateur racers and engineers Phil Abbott and Mick Hyde who wanted to build a racing car that would be affordable but highly competitive. The result was the Radical 1100 Clubsport, powered by a Kawasaki motorcycle engine. As often happens, other racers were impressed by the cars’ performance and wanted their own Radicals. Eventually, enough 1100 Clubsports were sold to make it worthwhile creating a one-make series for them.”
64th & Social has merged with Pace to form Pace Six Four, a specialist motorsport marketing agency that offers a full suite of commercial, marketing and communications services to clients across the industry.
Motorsport Network, a global digital platform in automotive and motorsport with over 62 million monthly unique users, has today launched a report, “Elite Motorsport in 2023”, pulling out some key trends and findings from the recent Global Fan surveys it has conducted with F1, INDYCAR and MotoGP.
- The report shows that all three series are witnessing greater numbers of younger fans and female fans are also being drawn to the sport. There were double the number of responses to the most recent F1 survey compared to the 2017 version.
- Dedicated motorsport websites are now the fans’ most used media source, ahead of TV. Twitter is the most popular social media platform, ahead of Facebook and Instagram
- Race attendance is high among INDYCAR and MotoGP fans; 48% of INDYCAR fans have attended a race in the last five years and 41% of MotoGP fans.
- The majority of fans of INDYCAR, MotoGP and F1 believe that their sport develops safety initiatives that benefit society as a whole, while 66% of F1 fans believe that F1 should play a leading role in the drive towards developing fully sustainable fuels. These will be introduced to the sport in 2026.
Sport Business talks to GridRival chief executive officer and co-founder Ross Fruin about how GridRival brings daily fantasy to motorsport fans. “Fantasy sports and sports-betting startup for motorsports fans looks to offer a platform dedicated solely to a subset of sports largely ignored by mainstream daily fantasy and sports betting companies. Shawn Medow reports.”
Motorsport Sponsorship & Partnership News
Formula E and DHL have agreed to a multi-year partnership extension. DHL has been Formula E’s official logistics partner since September 2013, helping to deliver the electric racing series in its early form. DHL will utilise biofuels for all road and sea freight this season, although air freight will make up most of Formula E’s logistics.
I mentioned this last week in context of their Hypercar program but Ferrari have unveiled a multi-year partnership with Genesys that includes their Formula 1 team. The deal involves Ferrari’s Hypercar endurance racing program, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Genesys gains branding on the Formula One’s team car.
Ferrari have also announced a partnership with Harman Automotive. As the official in-cabin experience partner of Ferrari, Harman Automotive, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, will focus on delivering its hardware and software across Ferrari’s vehicle lineup.
Autosport Plus looks at the crypto sponsor collapse that shocked F1. “Cryptocurrency exchanges and NFTs hit F1 in a sponsorship wave in 2021 but, as Mark Gallagher explains, the tide seems to be on its way out.”
One of the motorsports industry’s most trusted and innovative transporter manufacturer and service providers, Evolve Transporters, is continuing its long-standing tradition of supporting top racing teams and organizations by becoming a Proud Partner of IMSA, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. The Ohio-Based Transporter Manufacturer and Service Provider Will Have an On-Site Presence at IMSA Events to Showcase and Service Its Motorsports Transport Solutions
Merchants Fleet, the fastest growing fleet management company in North America, has joined United Autosports as an official sponsor. The new sponsorship underscores Merchants Fleet’s dedication to enduring excellence for its employees and clients throughout North America. Endurance is a driving theme for the company and aligns with United Autosports’ world-class record of speed, strength and agility as winners of the FIA World Endurance Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The British Superbike Championship has signed a two-year extension with Hel Performance, the brake line fittings manufacturer, until 2024. The deal includes trackside branding and the presence of its race support truck at all 11 races. Hel Performance will also continue to hold the title rights of the British Junior Supersport Championship
MotoGP’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team have announced a multi-year collaboration with ExxonMobil. The length of the deal is not confirmed, but ExxonMobil will be working on sustainable fuels for 2027. The company will also assist the team in a transition to advanced fuel componentry from 2024.
Formula E and Band have signed a multi-year broadcasting deal with Grupo Bandeirantes to show the all-electric series in Brazil.
VEIDEC AB will join NXT Gen Cup as official supplier of Green World chemical products. “Our focus is to ensure a safe working environment for people in the racing paddock, by providing our chemical solutions of Green World. Partnering with NXT Gen Cup will give us the opportunity of testing our products in the tough conditions of motorsport, while being part of educating and developing the future racing generation.”
The Business of Running a Race Team
Title-winning Lamborghini squad FFF Racing Team has ceased operations, according to a statement on the organization’s social media channels. “On the day we announce the end of our racing activities, we would like to thank all those who have accompanied us along the way: from the drivers to the engineers, from the mechanics to the fans, you have all supported us by pushing us towards even more ambitious goals. It was a hell of a ride: we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!”
United Autosports is gearing up for another year of expansion in 2023, with key investments and personnel appointments driving the company to the next stage of its business journey. “What does that look like? (1) To continue building a world-renowned motorsport business, (2) race in the most competitive championships around the world and (3) secure a factory deal with a car manufacturer to compete in the very top tier of sportscar endurance racing.”
The HMD Motorsports team will have a big new home for its eight-car Indy NXT program by the end of summer. Currently housed in a 6500 sq. ft. shop, the team founded by Henry Malukas is set for a tenfold increase in space as it starts the renovation process on a 65,000 sq. ft. building in Brownsburg, Indiana.
Motorsport Movers & Shakers
The FIA has released details of the new structure in Formula 1 following a transitional period. Nikolas Tombazis has been appointed Single Seater Director, Steve Nielsen is to join the FIA as Sporting Director, and Tim Goss, Federico Lodi and François Sicard are set for Director positions in the Technical, Financial and Strategy and Operations Departments.
Williams Racing has announced that James Vowles is becoming its new Team Principal. James will join the team on 20 February, ahead of the first Grand Prix in Bahrain. Autosport looks at the change that Vowles is making his priority at Williams F1.
NASCAR announced several personnel moves this week, including naming Elton Sawyer its senior vice president of competition. Sawyer replaces Scott Miller in the role. Miller will oversee the newly formed role of competition strategist within the NASCAR competition team.
To strengthen its senior leadership team at a point of exponential growth, Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) – the producer of the road-legal, single-seater Mono supercar – has appointed Mike Flewitt as chairman of the board.