Archive for June, 2011

Ferrari to INDYCAR, INDYCAR to Melbourne, F1 to Watkins Glenn

Ahh, the silly season.

One story that has given me more enjoyment this weekend than the Valencia Grand Prix, was the story that the venue promoters are uniting in opposition to the F1 Commission over engine revs. They are even threatening to move their events to INDYCAR.

I for one think this is an excellent idea. INDYCAR has sensible sanctioning fees built on the basic premise that promoters should be able to make money from putting on races. Contrast this with the F1 approach, which seems to necessitate government funding or bankruptcy and bailout.

I could actually see Melbourne switching to INDYCAR, particularly given the number of australian drivers gracing the series. Once Mark Webber departs the scene an INDYCAR / V8s double header is the logical way to go.

So which other races could make the switch? Austin, for one. Then there’s Sao Paulo which could alternate between Interlagos and their street circuit. Again, Brazil has its eyes just as firmly on drivers in INDYCAR as in F1.

Canada is trickier, as it already has more than enough races, although the Circuit Giles Villeneuve has been visited by American Open Wheel over the years.

So bring it on, get Ferrari into a red painted INDYCAR, and let’s go racing boys.

After all, it’s only a matter of time before Lewis moves to NASCAR. Isn’t it?

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Why the BBC should NOT pay for F1 rights

Rumour has it that the BBC is considering letting its right to broadcast Formula 1 in the UK lapse after the 2013 season. Whilst this may be kite flying by the BBC in an attempt to get the price of any renewal lowered, there are several very good reasons why the BBC should not be the F1 broadcaster in the UK.

  1. The F1 commercial rights holder is a debt funded private equity owned business with an extremely aggressive ‘profit maximisation’ objective. It will always try to obtain the best commercial terms for the rights it holds, even if that bankrupts its partners in the process (see the fate of countless event promoters from A1 ring to Spa to Indianapolis).
  2.  F1 teams (and the rights holder) depend on sponsorship money as part of their business model. The BBC carries no advertising, so sponsors are unable to leverage their sponsorship investment in the UK though advertising linked to the televised F1 events. The UK is the only major market where this is the case.
  3.  In an open market a bidder who is able to ‘factor in’  advertising income SHOULD be able to bid more for the rights than one who obtains nothing from advertising. Therefore any time the BBC wins rights to something like F1 in a competitive marketplace it has, by definition, overpaid for those rights because it cannot recover anything from advertising.

So there you have it. All the bleating about people not liking ad breaks interrupting coverage, or references to ‘crown jewel’ sports is irrelevant.

On a purely commercial basis, the BBC cannot win TV rights. It can only win by overpaying.

If ITV bid £10m and the BBC bid £10m, the BBC would have overpaid because of its inability to fund any of the fee from advertising income.

They shouldn’t host the national lottery (a programme with no inherent artistic value) for exactly the same reason.

On Watkins Glen

Yesterday’s Mobil1 car swap saw Lewis Hamilton driving Tony Stewart’s NASCAR sprint cup car and Tony driving Lewis’ McLaren from a few years back (from the low rear winged days before the F1 cars were beaten with the ugly stick).

The event shone a great spotlight on the former home of the US GP East and reminded me fondly of my own pilgrimage to the Watkins Glen circuit in upstate New York, to see the penultimate INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen. It’s sad that neither F1 or INDYCAR now visit the circuit, in the case of the loss of INDYCAR, this is probably because the circuit is owned by NASCAR’s International Speedway Corps.

The town of Watkins Glen sits on Seneca Lake, one of many ‘finger lakes’ in the region which carries the same name, and my home for the visit was the beautiful Harbor Hotel, which offered views of the lake, and the opportunity for alfresco dining in the summer sun. There was even a firework display the night before the race.

Image Courtesy http://www.fingerlakes.org/

The circuit itself is a 10 minute drive from the town and sits on high ground surrounded by farmland, woodland and villages. It’s a beautiful setting, more reminiscent of Brands Hatch than Silverstone in its charming surroundings.

It has a large infield and plenty of undulations which give the track such character. Spectator wise the RV is king, with the vast majority of INDYCAR attendees taking the RV / camping route. There are ample opportunities to park your RV with a direct view of the circuit so you don’t need a grandstand ticket. I understand there are more grandstands installed for the NASCAR events which obviously attract a much bigger crowd.

I sat in the pit straight grandstand overlooking pit road, it was a good vantage point, but not a great one, and if I went again I would station myself somewhere with a good view of one of the circuit’s amazing high speed banked corners.

The current president of the circuit made warm noises yesterday about his dream of seeing F1 cars return to the Glen, but I can’t see it happening to be honest. There’s no-one to put up the money, the circuit’s catchment area is too sparsely populated to attract anyone other than hardcore fans, and the works which would be required to bring the circuit up to standard in terms of runoff would in all likelihood ruin the circuit’s unique character and timeless quality.

I will return one day to Watkins Glen, maybe to see the annual historic grand prix. And I will always have great memories of the place.

On his Todt

Oh Jean, porquoi!? After a pretty uneventful first year as FIA chief, it’s come to this. Trying to give an unappreciative world an unwanted race in Bahrain.

And failing.

And looking a bit stupid in the process.

And making the sport look a bit stupid too.

And causing about 200,000 negative human rights related posts on Red Bull’s Facebook (being slain by Saudi security forces gives you wings?)

And making sponsors wonder why they’re bothering, rather than, say, sponsoring the golf.

I find it all quite quaint, a throwback to a bygone era of crazy and erratic sporting governance, it reminds one of FIFA in, well, 2011 actually.

Maybe Bernie could get Placido Domingo in to sort things out.

The sporting world benefits from strong autocratic and ruthless management, (just look at nascar) but it really helps when than management is able to distinguish its arse from its elbow.

CVC must love all this!