By on January 3, 2017

Formula One USA

If you live in the United States, odds are that you prefer NASCAR over Formula One. However, if you occupy space anywhere else in the world, the opposite is likely true.

Liberty Media, the American company that purchased Formula One for $8 billion earlier this year, is planning to flip the script and revamp the motorsport to better appeal to everyone — especially Yankees.

The strategy revolves around stretching the traditional weekend of practice, qualifying, and actual race into a full week’s worth of events and coverage, aping the stock car strategy of turning a single competition into an automotive Burning Man.  

A Formula One senior executive discussed the plan to boost sponsorship and poach fans from NASCAR with the Financial Timesexplaining that the company planned to make each Grand Prix the auto racing “equivalent of the Super Bowl.”

The exec also said F1 is considering launching additional Grand Prix events in big U.S. markets — perhaps New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Another essential element is to improve marketing and online outreach for the current fanbase while doing everything possible to sell the sport to newbies in America.

“There’s no marketing, no research, no data, no digital platforms,” the unnamed executive said. “This sport has unique global content and hasn’t done enough to take advantage of that. We need to build the rivalries and enable people to understand the technology that goes into the sport.”

However, the key strategy revolves around turning Formula One into a happening for automotive enthusiasts, with GP races becoming cultural events on par with the Super Bowl or World Cup — something even non-motorsport fans can enjoy.

“We want to create destination events, not just a race, that people feel they have to be at,” the shadowy exec told the Financial Times.

[Image: Federation Internationale de l’Automobile]

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40 Comments on “The Americanization of Formula One: New Owner Wants it to Become a ‘Destination Event’...”


  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    You don’t buy something like F1 unless you think it can make even more money. But, this is all marketing jargon and posturing. NASCAR isn’t even drawing like it used to. Not to say there isn’t potential, because the U.S. could support two races, but only if the other race is in the east and preferably at Watkins Glenn. To think they can drag a race out into a week is crazy, most Americans barely take a week of vacation each year. They do need to get the drivers front and center with fans though. The current F1 is so focused on the C-Suite people it’s comical. The teams are even barricaded from their driver in the parc-ferme.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The concept of the plan seems legit, but the logistics are iffy, especially considering the arcane technical details one needs to know to really get into F1.

    That said, I think all forms of motorsport could use some more clever marketing. As a MotoGP fan, I’d love to see Valentino Rossi or Cal Crutchlow do the late night circuit after their American race weekends. There are a lot of personalities in motorsports that Americans have no visibility of.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    “Destination event”….

    Oh, like Mickey!

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Wikipedia has an interesting history of Formula One. At present, Formula One and the World Drivers’ Championship are the same thing. Prior to 1981, they were separate. There used to be many Formula One races that did not qualify for the Championship. From 1950 to 1960, the Indianapolis 500 counted toward the Championship. Formula One has expanded by adding more countries with races rather than adding more races in the same countries.

  • avatar

    I think one of the big roadblocks for F1 is that your average ‘Merican can’t relate to Renault, Ferrari or even Mercedes-Benz, really (at least from a motorsport standpoint); they have no context. But when you’re talkin Blue Ovals and Bowties, they are all in. Until Ford and Chevy get involved, F1 is probably going to remain for hardcore motorsport fans only, stateside. Still, Chevrolet is HUGE in Indycar, and Indycar can’t even get arrested around here. The comments I hear most among NASCAR fans are in regards to how the “cars” don’t look like cars.

    I wish Liberty Media all the luck in the world, but that’s going to be an uphill battle.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @Matt Posky,
    Obviously not many here would know that F1 already is that outside the US. They are not just races but Events. Maybe the new US owners are going to do that with races in the US?

  • avatar

    If they want F1 to appeal to Americans their first order of business ought to be an American driver and second a race east of the Mississippi.

    I’m assuming they know enough about TV to realize they need a TV package that will prioritize Formula One over Nascar (unlike NBC currently or Fox previously).

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Lets see… They want to grow their business, and they will do that by borrowing ideas from NASCAR? They should have a look at NASCAR’s growth over the past 10 years. It’s all been downhill.

    Can they focus on the basics first? F1’s US TV package is laughably bad. We get UK coverage in Canada, but every time I have the poor luck of being stuck in the US on race day I am appalled at how second-rate the show is.

    They also need to fix the rules. It seems like penalties are handed out on the basis of popularity rather than what actually happens on-track. I realize that’s a FIA matter, but Liberty Media can influence them.

    I would go a different way. Simplify, ditch all the gimmicks (push-to-pass, mandatory tyres, etc). make it pure and lean and mean and people will respect it more, and watch it more.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    So, serious question: What IS the appear of NASCAR, specifically? Is it the easily understood, “simple” tech they use? Is it because they are much closer to being a “street” car than a formula car could ever be? Or soemthing else?

    I *love* F1 racing, because it’s the closest we’ll ever get to supercar racing – the tracks are varied, and the tech is awesome. Watching NASCAR, though, feels a bit like watching a cycling competition – everyone more or less driving the same, in roughly the same positions, until something happens. They’re both sports I just can’t get engaged in watching.

    I’ve only driven autocross myself, but I can’t imagine driving a NASCAR track would really hold my interest, either, so I suppose I’m just not the target audience. But, perhaps I’m missing something about its appeal?

    • 0 avatar
      markogts

      I tend to have better things to do on Sundays than to watch cars running laps, however, more often than not, NASCAR have lots of lead changes, and spectacular accidents. Compared to it, F1 is as engaging as watching public transport busses in town. Circuits have lost their original connection with the landscape they were born in, aerodynamics has made impossible to draft in high speed curves, so the following car is at disadvantage, no overtaking anymore. The cars are extra light so any small contact destroys all, pilots are less prone to risk. Search on youtube “Villeneuve vs Arnoux”: this was Formula 1, and it will never come back.

    • 0 avatar

      The major appeal is fan access to the drivers, drivers who for the most part act like real people, not stuck up prima donnas. Anyone with an extra $30 can go in the “Fan Zone” garage area and have a chance to get a an autograph or picture with “their driver”. At Daytona all the garages have windows in them so you can watch the team work on the car, if the drivers aren’t busy they come to the window and sign autographs. You can watch pre-race inspection from about 10 feet away. You can walk out on pit road before the race, walk on the track & sign the finish line and watch driver introductions close up. Before the race starts you can chose to stay in the infield or take a seat in the grandstands. None of this will ever happen in F1.

      I went to an F1 race in Melbourne Australia and it was the most boring race I’ve ever seen, or should I say didn’t see, because I could only see a small portion of the track. In NASCAR you can see the whole track and have a clear view of the pit stops. “Rubbin’ is racin” and that never happens in F1. I’ve been involved in racing all my life with everything from go-peds to unlimited hydroplanes and F-1 doesn’t do it for me. That’s saying a lot from a guy that would race cockroaches if he had a chance.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      NASCAR seems boring, until you realize that the cars are at the edge of losing control all the time. They aren’t just going around in circles, they are doing the same things that you would do in an empty parking lot after a snowfall, except at 200 MPH.

      And then you get stuff like Clint Boyer finishing the Daytona 500 upside down and on fire. You never see that in F1!

      The drivers were appealing back when they were allowed to express themselves. Those days are gone. Now they get fined for saying anything more than their car number and sponsor names. Some of them have a wicked sense of humor, unlike the friendless automatons in F1.

      NASCAR is multi-generational. Good drivers can last well into their 40s. It’s also more competitive, in that more than one or two teams have a shot at winning on any given day.

      I like both series, but, to be honest, I only actively follow F1. I can only take so much of NASCAR’s dumbed-down coverage, and there are too many events on the calendar.

  • avatar
    mtmmo

    John Malone, Liberty owner, billionaire, and Trump buddy, wouldn’t drop $8 billion on F1 unless he saw something others don’t. Rumor has it Liberty has been working with Trump administration on internet streaming taxation and regulation. That’s likely figuring into their F1 promotion plans.
    If promoting F1 helps creates jobs then I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump himself personally gets behind it. This is what happens when you have a President who understands business and loves America.

  • avatar
    SnarkyRichard

    Because it worked so well with soccer . Good luck ! The tech of GP is certainly cool , but with very few lead changes the actual racing save the wild starts from a complete stop is BORING !

    • 0 avatar
      manu06

      It must be working for soccer. NBC sports owns the rights to the EPL and seem to be very pleased with the results. Probably as many
      soccer games on US TV now from all over the world as football now.

      • 0 avatar
        SnarkyRichard

        The 2015 women’s World Cup viewership averaged 25.4 million peaking at close to 31 million in the U.S. The last super bowl had 114.4 million U.S. viewers . Those soccer games on seemingly every day who can know what their viewership numbers are or the cost to televise , but I’m guessing they aren’t touching the 7 billion per year the tv networks pay the NFL . If they ever have ala carte cable tv the first channels I’d get rid of would be those useless reality channels ,home shopping channels , infomercial channels , rerun channels , biased news channels , and sports channels I never watch. Those alone must be at least a dozen or more . Surfing , soccer , golf , hockey , college sports , tennis , extreme sports , bullfighting , rodeo , etc . These channels only exist because the channels you want (NFL Network/NFL Redzone) only come in a package .

  • avatar
    markogts

    Didn’t the F1 circus learn the lesson in 1991 with the super failure of Phoenix Grand prix? Americans were not interested in F1 when there were Senna and Clinton, why would be now any different with Trump and those current remote controlled button pushers?

  • avatar
    jammyjo

    Need to add “Bobby” to every driver’s name – Lewis Bobby, Sebastian Bobby, Kimi Bobby, etc.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    If some entity paid $8 billion for F1, they are dumber than my cat. The real worth is closer to $0.1 billion, but too much money coupled with too little mental horsepower sometimes makes bad decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      mtmmo

      And that’s why John Malone is a billionaire while you’re posting on TTAC about your cat. I don’t doubt your expertise when it comes to knowing about “too little mental horsepower” however your F1 valuation leaves a lot to be desired.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    HaHaHa…
    Good old boys drinking beer on their tailgates loudly discussing who’s KERS is best.
    F1 cars that wear soap-box livery on 1/2 mile tracks.
    The UCI grand tours will my future TV watching

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I’ll just be direct (did anyone expect anything else from me):

    All auto racing is B-O-R-I-N-G as a spectator sport.

    This holds true from NASCAR to FORMULA ONE to RALLY & ENDURANCE RACING (24 Hours of Le Mans, Dakar Rally, etc).

    I’m reasonably a gearhead, and grew up in the nucleus of one of the largest hubs of the automotive world (Oakland County, Michigan, within 30 miles of the GHQ of General Motors, Ford, Chrysler-AMC/FCA, and tuner shops and Woodward Avenue and Tier I, II & III suppliers, all giving out free tickets to Indianapolis 500 and other race events and the free food/booze/swag after parties).

    I grew up in a neighborhood that had 40% of the households led by an executive of General Motors, and another 40% led by a manager, accountant, attorney, or other professional working for a supplier or owning a tool & die shop or hydroforming or stamping facility.

    But professional auto racing has always been a snooze-a-thon, even live.

  • avatar
    markf

    Might want to start with getting an actual American driver in F1. Then try to make it less boring than watching paint dry

  • avatar
    stuki

    F1’s positioning as an unrepentant “rich guy’s” motorsport, is already as good as it gets these days. Attempting to appeal to an ever more destitute middle class who cold once afford a Chevy and a Nascar ticket, is about as suicidal as it gets. Unless costs drop A LOT.

    Were it not for Bernie’s personal acumen at courting potentates from all manners of weird locales, into subsidizing the show by promising sizzle, it would have been so upside down it would tip over in a week or two. In America, how the heck do they expect to set up at multiple tracks all over the most expensive locales (Cali, New York) and expect to get any kind of return? When every Tom, Dick at mail order law degree Harry within 500 miles, aims to gunk up the works unless he gets a cut?

    The whole West is dead for high end motorsports, like Japan has been for decades. You need a booming population of well paid people with a link to industry to feed a fanbase for that stuff. Lawyers suing track operators over noise violations and their clients poppeti vaiijues will never do it. Neither does octogenarians concerned Asimo is pushing their wheelchair a bit too fast with the latest battery tune.

    $8 billion isn’t the world of money to recoup if that’s all that’s sunk into this. But to imagine there’s enough financial headroom to turn F1, with current cost and power structures, into some kind of 20X priced Limbaugh era Nascar revival, is just crazy.

    Once Bernie’s gone, F1 in anything resembling it’s current form, will drift apart. People used to talk about Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field…..” F1 is in another league altogether. The economics don’t work for anyone, if you take away the personal connections, the favors owed, the exclusiveness, executives boinking high priced gold diggers in exotic locales behind Bernie’s press and security walls….. The whole show is full bore Hefner Heyday Playboy. In an era where even camsite economics are hard to make work. Heck, even if every single facet is frozen and left exactly as when Bernie leaves, just the excuse that it’s now taken over by a bunch of boring Americans with their lawyers and Nascar sensibilities, will cause half the necessary participants to bolt for less expensive pastures. Where they’ll sit around reminiscing about the good old days when, man, F1 was really something…..

    • 0 avatar

      We are all thinking NASCAR back in the 60’s, when the cars on the track resembled what lived in the local dealer (I know, I know) and win Sunday sell Monday was a thing.

      F1 has zero relation to that for the mass market in 2017

    • 0 avatar
      Dudebro

      “In an era where even camsite economics are hard to make work.”

      “If you don’t tip, we won’t start our engines…”

      (clicks on next free bright shiny object)

  • avatar

    Bernie got $8 Billion for something that just hasn’t gained traction in the US market, ever ? Nice, someone has to buy those mega-yachts. His will look good at Monaco next year….

  • avatar
    bultaco

    I think it would help if constructors had more latitude in car design and engine type like they had in the 60s and 70s. Today’s F1 is just very expensive spec racer series with identical cars and dull-sounding engines. Go on YouTube and listen to a Matra V12 or Cosworth V8 and you’ll hear what I mean.

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