The Appeal and Complication of Street Races

The appeal and complication of street races in F1, IndyCar and NASCAR are just part of what is included in this week’s Business of Motorsport. I also have news of fans’ increasing boredom with F1, Formula E’s look to Asia for expansion and when will motorsport be truly representative?

The Motorsport Law Roundup is packed full of news on Susie Wolff’s criminal complaint against the FIA, more on the Christian Horner complaint as the FIA looks to investigate and rumors of a secret clause in Max Verstappen’s contract.

All this plus the latest motorsport sponsorship news and partnerships and much more in this week;s edition of the Business of Motorsport on Motorsport Prospects.

Motorsport Industry News

Formula 1

2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Social Media Engagement

Blinkfire looks at the top social media highlights of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“Ferrari led the most popular posts on the grid, being present in the top five posts with the highest engagement. From Monday, March 4 to Sunday, March 11, after the race, Ferrari topped the Blinkfire’s Instagram engagement ranking, with an astonishing average of 279,868 engagements per post.”

The Appeal and Complication of Street Races

Buzz Radar has released the next part of their F1 report that asks the question, does F1 need Drive to Survive…to survive? Interestingly, Buzz Radar has also noted that the 2024 season has seen a 40% decline in online conversation between 2023 and 2024. Not only that but new fans are getting bored.

“Predictably, the increase in complaints about races being “boring” correlates strongly with Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s dominance in the sport. When the race outcome becomes consistent, we can see a clear pattern in the social data: the excitement of racing starts to wane and newer fans struggle to adjust to the lack of drama. They complain and eventually drift away.”

I have talked about the valuation of F1 teams recently in light of Zak Brown’s comments. Here are two articles of interest on the topic that explain how F1 teams went from a valuation of $1 to $1 Billion with a decade.

Olivia Hicks does a fascinating deep dive into the cost of of participating in Formula 1 for the drivers. “Per the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) super license regulations, the certification necessary to compete in F1, drivers must renew their racing license each season with a $11,249.42 base fee and an additional $2,271.52 per point scored.”

Business of Motorsport

Autosport Plus talked to embattled FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem to find out why he believes his mission to create a strong FIA is so important. It should be noted that the interview was conducted before the variance investigations against him were initiated and concluded (see the Motorsport Law Roundup for more details on that).

“I do my job. I do it quietly, getting where I want to take the FIA, repositioning it, being fair, being strong. We’re the owners of Formula 1. The FIA Formula 1 Championship,
we lease it, we’re the governor. We’re not a service provider.
A service provider is somebody you can bring into this building and tell them to clean the place – that’s a service provider. We’re not that.”

iSport Connect looks at the PR failures of Red Bull and F1 in general as they confront a growing scandal. “While acknowledging that an investigation was going on, Red Bull failed to follow a basic rule of crisis communications – do not leave a large information void that can be filled by third parties, lead to speculation and ultimately make the situation worse.”

Curious as to who the richest driver is on the F1 grid? Esquire Australia has your answer.

General Motorsport Industry News

The Appeal and Complication of Street Races

With IndyCar’s NBC deal expiring, the series is looking to conclude its next media deal with the preference being for having one broadcast partner. Miles confirmed to Front Office Sports that IndyCar had held conversations with three “major disruptive streamers” but said that it was unlikely the series would end up split between a traditional broadcaster and a streamer.

Meanwhile, the series is gearing up for their $1 Million Challenge at Thermal Club, an experiment offering one of the biggest purses in IndyCar history.

Teresa Xie of Bloomberg looks at why F1, NASCAR and IndyCar street races can be both an economic boon and a big headache. “Going forward, siting more circuits inside or near urban areas could help shrink auto racing’s considerable environmental footprint (which added up to more than 256,000 tons of C02 for F1 in 2019, much of it from travel and logistics). According to F1, half of the fans who attended the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix took public transportation to the recently expanded Circuit Zandvoort, for example — and 30% rode bicycles.”

Racer looks at what brings the world’s automakers to Formula E. “We decided 10 years ago when we started Formula E that we don’t want to spend any energy on the static parts of the car — the chassis, bodywork, aerodynamics — basically the opposite of Formula 1,” Sylvain Filippi, team principal of Envision Racing, tells RACER. “Here with aerodynamics, we don’t spend any time or resources whatsoever on it with the view that it’s not relevant to what we are trying to achieve, which is to improve electric cars.”

Formula E chief executive Jeff Dodds has said the Asian market is “underserved by motorsport” ahead of the series’ debut in Japan later this year. “For world championship motorsport, the Asian market is underserved,” Dodds told BlackBook Motorsport. “I definitely feel we can do more in Asia. Also, Asian markets [are] the fastest adopting EV [electric vehicle] markets in the world. In China, 80 to 85 per cent of new cars sold are electric vehicles already. The prime minister of Thailand [told me] that 40 per cent of new cars being sold in the Thai market are EV. It’s a perfect market for us.”

SpeedCafe reports that RACE (Racing Australia Consolidated Enterprises Ltd), the parent company of Supercars, recorded an after-tax loss of $2.7 million in 2022, its first year of ownership of the business and its various subsidiaries.

“While its 2023 annual report is yet to be filed, analysis by FIIG Debt Capital Markets, which issued the debt used by RACE to help fund the acquisition of Supercars from Archer Capital and the race teams in late-2021, shows improvements last year on a number of key metrics.”

Sticking with Supercars, Adrian Burgess has explained to SpeedCafe that the mental and physical toll of a tough 2023 led to his decision to depart the series. “I actually found what I thought was a good role for me,” said Burgess. “I really enjoyed the last role at Supercars as Head of Motorsport. But everything that went on last year… it was too much mentally and physically.”

As MotoGP embarks on its new season against the backdrop of sale rumors, BlackBook Motorsport analyses some of the key media, consumer and financial data to get a clearer picture of what a prospective buyer would be acquiring.

“After an extremely tough period caused by the pandemic, marked by a loss of €94.5 million (US$116 million) in 2020, the series has cause for optimism. Recent figures are not yet available, but the Italian publication La Repubblica has reported Dorna’s turnover reached €425 million (US$453 million) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) hit €161 million (US$171 million) in 2022.”

Marshall Pruett of Racer looks at how IMSA is attracting growing interest from prospective new entrants. “Representatives from the Roush Fenway Keselowski Cup team were among those seen or spoken to in the paddock across Wednesday and Thursday, and although he wouldn’t be drawn on the list of visitors, IMSA President John Doonan did confirm the series’ executive leadership has been busy meeting with those who’ve come to Sebring to explore joining IMSA in 2025.”

ORECA North America

Sebring 12 Hours race week proved to be a significant one for ORECA’s operations in the USA, as it was the first event for the new-look ORECA North America (ONA) organization supporting both its IMSA LMP2 and GTD Ferrari 296 GT3 customers.

“ORECA North America was originally a web store, but has been dormant for a few years,” Bart Hayden, ORECA’s LMP2 relationship manager, told DSC. “Now it has been re-awakened in its current guise and as of the beginning of 2024 is essentially overseeing all of the ORECA activities in the marketplace.”

The Nürburgring Endurance Series (NES) double header season opener, originally scheduled to take place this Saturday, has been canceled amidst what series organizers describe as “increasing hostility” against the fledgling championship.

“While the NES has accepted the challenge of a competitive series from the outset, hostility from various camps is steadily increasing. The NES therefore demands public clarification from all institutions involved that all persons are free to carry out their activities at any event as they wish without having to fear any consequences.”

Quick Takes on the Business of Motorsport This Week

Motorsport Law Roundup

A look at some of the legal and regulatory issues and analysis in Motorsport this week

Business of Motorsport

Susie Wolff has filed a criminal complaint against the FIA over allegations made against her at the end of last year. In a social media post issued ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, she said:

“I can confirm that I have personally filed a criminal complaint in the French courts on the 4 March in relation to the statements made about me by the FIA last December. There has still not been any transparency or accountability in relation to the conduct of the FIA and its personnel in this matter. I feel more than ever it is important to stand up, call out improper behaviour and make sure people are held to account.Whilst some may think silence absolves them from responsibility – it does not.”

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been cleared of any wrongdoing after allegations were made against him of interference in Formula 1 events last year.

In a statement issued by the FIA, it said: “After reviewing the results of the inquiries, the Ethics Committee were unanimous in their determination that there was no evidence to substantiate allegations of interference of any kind involving the FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Allegations against the FIA president were unsubstantiated and strong evidence beyond any reasonable doubt was presented to support the determination of the FIA Ethics Committee. The president’s complete co-operation, transparency, and compliance throughout the process during this investigation was greatly appreciated.”

Controversy continues to swell around the now dismissed complaint that was lodged against Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner as the complainant has apparently filed a motion to appeal the dismissal of her complaint as well as a grievance against the FIA.

The FIA meanwhile has issued the following statement as they evaluate the complaint against Horner:

“At the FIA, enquiries and complaints are received and managed by the Compliance Officer, and the Ethics Committee where appropriate,” read a statement from F1’s governing body. “Both bodies operate autonomously, guaranteeing strict confidentiality throughout the process. As a consequence, and in general, we are unable to confirm the receipt of any specific complaint and it is unlikely that we will be able to provide further comment on the complaints that we may receive from any parties.”

Former Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin has had sanctions against him lifted by the European Union’s General Court.

The General Court recalls that the ‘association’ criterion, applied in respect of Mr Nikita Mazepin, covers persons who are, generally speaking, linked by common interests.

In accordance with settled case-law, that criterion implies the existence of a link going beyond a family relationship, established in the light of a set of indicia sufficiently specific, precise and consistent.

In the circumstances of the present case, the General Court holds that the Council did not discharge its burden of proof to establish such a link.

The association between Mr Nikita Mazepin and his father is in no way established from an economic or capital perspective or by the existence of common interests linking them at the time when the maintaining acts were adopted.

Judgment of the General Court in Case T-743/22 | Mazepin v Council

The Appeal and Complication of Street Races

Stake F1 will change its entry name to Kick Sauber for the Australian Grand Prix this weekend. The name changes will take place in Australia, Spain, Belgium and Qatar. “We will be fully compliant with all the local applicable laws and where Stake is permitted. So where gambling advertising is prohibited, we will use a different name.”

Wall Racing has lodged an intent to appeal a Motorsport Australia decision which saw its lead driver, Tony D’Alberto, sit out the Tasmania Supercheap Auto TCR finale in protest.

After the decision was made to award full points for Race 1, Garry Rogers Motorsport protested this decision after the provisional results for Race 1 were released on Sunday morning. That protest was subsequently heard and upheld, with Stewards determining no points would be awarded for the opening race.

As part of the standard judicial process that is available to all competitors, Wall Racing has since lodged a notice of intention to appeal that decision, with a hearing to be scheduled prior to the next round of the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series at Race Phillip Island should the appeal documentation be provided in the prescribed time.

Given that the judicial process is continuing, the overall round standings for TCR remains provisional. Motorsport Australia will advise the outcome of any future judicial matters relating to this event.

AWC Race Tasmania – TCR judicial update

The results of the Formula E vote on whether drivers with clashing commitments to race in the WEC and Formula E Berlin double-header on the same weekend could race in both has been held with the result that the request was rejected. Unanimous approval was required for the exemption from the standard FIA rules.

According to The Race, 5 of the 11 teams voted against the request and many indicated zero sympathy to the teams who had drivers with clashing commitments. “We all went into this knowing that there was a clash,” Andretti’s Roger Griffiths insisted. “So, you’ve made your choice, you chose who you wanted to go with, you knew the consequences of your decision, so you’ve got to accept it. You can’t go crying about it when you suddenly realize what it actually means.”

I refrain from commenting on rumors in the Motorsport Law Roundup for the most part, but the rumors of a secret, unilateral exit clause in Max Verstappen’s contract with Red Bull Racing seems on the surface to beg incredulity. I find it hard to believe that a Board of Director member could unilaterally add an addendum to a contract that so fundamentally alters the essence of said contract after it has been signed without anybody noticing. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Verstappen for his part has stated that he intends to fulfill his contractual obligations and race for Red Bull for the duration of his contract.

Motorsport Sponsorship & Partnership News

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

Business of Motorsport
Business of Motorsport
Business of Motorsport
SpongeBob SquarePants Livery

Team & Manufacturer News

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

The Appeal and Complication of Street Races
The Appeal and Complication of Street Races
The Appeal and Complication of Street Races
The Appeal and Complication of Street Races

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.