28 years since its last race on the continent, Formula One has its eyes on a return to Africa.
Echoing the opinions of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, global director of race promotions Chloe Targett-Adams has described it as a “priority” that the series targets the continent.
Discussing the idea of an African Grand Prix in 2019, Formula One’s former commercial director Sean Bratches highlighted the potential of a return to the Kyalami circuit in South Africa as one possible location. At the time, he also said that authorities in Morocco had approached the series about taking a Grand Prix to Marrakech, where Formula E currently hosts a street race.
Formula One is also openly looking at expanding its reach in America, adding a second Grand Prix alongside the Austin-based event. A proposed Miami race was left off the calendar in 2021, but series chief executive Stefano Domenicali has said the global motorsport series remains focused on adding a second US race, with both Las Vegas and Indianapolis also currently under consideration.
“America is a work in progress,” Domenicali told Autoweek in a recent interview. “I really hope that we can give you a straight answer very, very soon. But, no question, that is a focus. The objective will be to increase to two American races. That is really the target.”
He added: “I cannot say today whether Vegas is better or worse to be honest. We are working very hard on that. Indianapolis is in the equation. That is why it is good we have a lot of elements, but it would be wrong and premature to say anything because otherwise we create expectations that we don’t want to create. What I can say is that the focus is definitely there.”
For the first time, Formula One will visit Saudi Arabia in 2021. It may be a controversial choice due to human rights issues, but a race in the kingdom comes with major and long-term financial backing. After agreeing a ten-year global partnership with state-backed oil company Saudi Aramco in March last year (reportedly worth between US$42 million and US$51 million a season) Targett-Adams recently said the series plans to race in Saudi Arabia “definitely a decade, if not longer”. With a street circuit being especially constructed for the race, Formula One’s annual swing of the Middle East is gaining strength.
Speaking at the recent BlackBook Virtual Summit, Targett-Adams also insisted Asia remains an important market for expansion. Formula One is due to host races in China, Singapore and Japan this year, with the proposed Vietnam race falling victim to both the pandemic and now political scandal.
However, Targett-Adams said of the Hanoi proposal: “We're hoping we'll get there eventually.”
Perhaps an important part of the reason why Formula One is so eager to extend its calendar? Well, owners Liberty Media announced that the series lost US$386 million in 2020. Fewer races, nearly no fans and a geographically compact calendar shrunk revenue by 44 per cent. Although it was an impressive feat to run 17 rounds during a global pandemic, the series will be keen to make up those losses with an extended calendar.
Encouragingly, sponsorship and marketing revenue enjoyed decent growth to leave Liberty Media feeling optimistic about Formula One’s future. Aiming to run a record of 23 races in 2021 certainly certainly backs that up.
Ferrari’s Le Mans return
Le Mans ‘66, part two? 50 years since they last competed, Scuderia Ferrari have announced they will return to the top class of the historic race in 2023. The Italian outfit have already started building their own hypercar and will join Toyota, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, Porsche and Audi in the class.
There could be new additions to Formula One too. Posche and parent company Volkswagen have recently shown interest in joining Formula One from 2025, if the new regulations align with its sustainability interests. The company has demonstrated a particular interest in e-fuels, which are part of Formula One’s long-term sustainability goals.
Sustainability is spreading
The motorsport industry is now actively reducing its traditionally high carbon emissions, with teams and brands across various series doing their bit to make motorsport more sustainable. The first race in the inaugural electric SUV series Extreme E season is on the horizon, due to start in early April, and has generated much interest around its push to encourage people to be more environmentally friendly. Freight being transported by boat and local education drives are some of the things the series is doing to promote environmental consciousness.
Nascar team Roush Fenway Racing recently announced that they achieved carbon neutrality last season after managing emissions and offsetting any carbon the team produced. Meeting internal sustainability standards, Roush Fenway has set an impressive example for the rest of the Nascar paddock to follow.
Showing it will leave no stone – or for that matter bottle – unturned as it bids to meet it sustainability targets, Formula One is now enforcing a ‘no single-use plastics’ policy at all official events.
Electric racing TV rights expansion
This year, so far, is proving to be the biggest yet in terms of electric racing. More series that ever are expanding into this sector, with Extreme E being one of the highlights. Encouragingly, all-electric series Formula E and Extreme E have both found broadcasters to be increasingly receptive.
Extreme E has only just penned a linear and digital broadcast rights deal with Sport TV Croatia, to add to deals with pay-TV network Sky Sports UK and major Brazilian broadcaster Globo TV amongst others.
In 2021, Formule E will be broadcast in 30 languages in 150 countries worldwide, including the 50 African territories covered by SuperSport – a series first. Formula E has also renewed its broad European territory deal with Discovery, secured continued free-to-air coverage in the UK with the BBC and inked a multi-year deal in Italy with pay-TV network Sky Italia.
A few innovative motorsport firsts have been launched since the last BlackBook Bulletin.
Formula E team DS Techeetah formed a unique partnership with trading platform eToro which sees the team’s money put into its account on the platform. Whether or not they receive any of it depends how DS Techeetah chose to invest it and their performance throughout the ongoing season.
Formula One’s Williams Racing also tried to get in on the innovation act, with the planned launch of their 2021 FW43B car supposed to be revealed via an augmented reality app, but this was pulled only hours before due to a hacker releasing the livery early.
- F1 TV OTT service gets 2021 revamp
- Le Mans 24 Hours postponed until August
- IndyCar’s St Petersburg race to allow 20,000 spectators
Long read… Jamie Chadwick talks Extreme E, W Series, and flying the flag for women in motorsport
At the recent BlackBook Motorsport Virtual Summit, Jamie Chadwick, Extreme E and W Series driver, spoke about her experience in motorsport.
She discussed W Series’ increasing impact on the wider motorsport industry, the upcoming Extreme E season and her role as one of the few women in professional motorsport.
Read the full feature here.