F1 Business Diary 2018: The Belgian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel wins Belgian Grand Prix in race is overshadowed by dramatic crash.

Sebastian Vettel won the Belgian Grand Prix in the first race after Formula One's midseason break. His Ferrari passed Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes on the first lap, before dominating the race thereafter.

However, the race is likely to be remembered for a three-way crash at the first corner of the first lap that saw Fernando Alonso's McLaren thrown into the air, landing on top of Charles Leclerc's Sauber.

The Monaco-born driver was fortunate to avoid serious injury, with Formula One's new Halo protection device proviong its worth as Alonso's car appeared to bounce off the top of helpless the Sauber. Nico Hulkenberg, the Renault driver, has been handed a ten-place grid penalty at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza for his role in the collision.

By winning race though, Vettel has closed the gap on fellow four-time world champion Hamilton to 17 points in the drivers’ championship.

Force India rescue could cost Liberty Media close to US$70 million

The rescue of the newly-named Racing Point Force India team by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll could see the Liberty Media, the ownership group of Formula One, left with an unexpected bill of US$67.3 million.

The origins of the possible bill lie in the team’s entitlement to receive prize money immediately. Haas, the newest team in the Formula One series prior to Racing Point’s arrival, secured a deal in 2016 that stated that the team would only begin to receive its full entitlement of prize money this year, since it had not previously been racing for long enough. Over the past two years, that figure has reached an estimated US$67.3 million.

Racing Point have entered as a brand new entity in buying out Force India, who were stripped of all previous constructors’ championship points. However, the new team has applied to receive full prize money entitlement immediately – a crucial revenue stream in Formula One. Such an agreement would then contradict the deal that Haas received two years ago.

Approval is yet to be given to the proposal to give Racing Point Force India their full claim. Should it be given, Haas would then be entitled to their two years’ worth of prize money – the estimated US$67.3 million.

On the track, it was a good weekend for Force India, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez securing fifth and sixth placed finishes.

Esteban Ocon finished fifth for Racing Point Force India after qualifying in third place.

Eleven Sports secure Portugal Formula One rights

International pay-TV network Eleven Sports has added to its portfolio of sporting rights by agreeing a three-deal with Formula One to provide live coverage in Portugal.

From the beginning of the 2019 season, Eleven will show every race exclusively, as well as practice and qualifying sessions from each Grand Prix. The coverage will be provided across the operator’s linear TV platforms, with a digital service also supplementing the deal.

The contract includes the guarantee of a full production, meaning that coverage will be shown live from the track, as well as featuring driver tracker technology and a pit lane channel.

The acquisition also sees Eleven Sports take on the rights to the Formula 2 and Formula 3 series for the same three-year period. The Andrea Radrizzani-owned company replaces Sport TV as the exclusive rights holder.

‘I don’t know how he did it,’ Bratches questions Ecclestone strategy

Sean Bratches, Formula One’s commercial boss, has said that he doesn’t know how former Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone managed to run the series, with no sign of any strategy or marketing plan.

“There was no business,” Bratches told German daily tabloid Bild.

“No digital structure, no market research, nothing. There was no strategy, only Bernie Ecclestone.

“Actually, you have to have a lot of respect for how he managed to do it at all. But it's also clear that Formula One survived in the 21st century but did not grow. Now we are building it up for the long term. The best days of Formula One are yet to come.”

Speaking of the future, the American admitted that it was now necessary to look at Formula One as an entertainment brand, with racing as its centrepiece.

He added: “Let's not have any misconceptions – we are now a media and entertainment group.”

Bernie Ecclestone left his role as chief executive of Formula One in January 2017.

Hockenheim Grand Prix in balance as talks progress

Talks for a German Grand Prix at Hockenheim are progressing positively, according to Bratches. The renewed efforts to secure a race at the track came after plans for an inaugural race next year in Miami fell through.

Talks had broken down at one stage, but Bratches said: “I'm an optimist. We have not yet published a calendar for 2019, but we will do that shortly. And while my German is not faultless, the talks have been quite good.

“We very much hope that we will have a Grand Prix again next year, but I cannot say more about it now. The discussions are still going on.”

In May 2018, the venue’s marketing director Jorn Teske admitted that the terms of Hockenheim’s Formula One deal could not continue in their current state. He said: “We're aiming to host a GP in the future, and we'd like to have it in the future, but the key point is we cannot prolong under current conditions.”

On plans for a Grand Prix in Miami in 2020, Bratches was equally upbeat. He added: “I am working closely with Stephen Ross and his team, as well as those in the relevant districts, to get the race going. We've made a lot of progress, but there is still a lot to do.”

Lewis Hamilton won this year's German Grand Prix.


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