• Fopa optimistic after meeting with the sport’s owners
• Concerns remain over future of British Grand Prix
The race promoters in Formula One believe their criticism of the sport’s owner, Liberty Media, has proved to be worthwhile but expect the company to work more closely with them in future.
Liberty met the Formula One Promoters’ Association (Fopa) on Tuesday after the organisation had raised serious concerns at the way the sport was being run. Stuart Pringle, who is the managing director of the Silverstone circuit and chair of Fopa, was largely positive after the meeting.
“There is every indication the message has been received,” Pringle told the BBC. “We were frustrated that we felt we had no option but to take this sort of action. But actually we have had a very positive day. We believe our concerns will be looked at and we as a group of promoters do recognise that ultimately we are all striving for the same thing – a healthy sport. We want to work in a meaningful way to achieve that so we will work collaboratively with them going forward.”
Fopa represents 16 of the current 21 meetings on the F1 calendar and, after a meeting on Monday, issued a statement taking the sport’s owner to task. Liberty bought F1 in 2017 and has since been attempting to develop the sport but has yet to make any statement on the meeting with Fopa.
The group raised three major issues. There was concern that it was detrimental to the sport for fans to lose free access to content and broadcasting, of particular issue in the UK. Sky TV has exclusive rights to F1 from this year until 2024 with only the British Grand Prix set to be shown on free-to-air television on Channel 4. This was a deal, however, that Liberty inherited from the previous owners and arranged by Bernie Ecclestone.
Fopa also criticised a “lack of clarity on new initiatives in F1 and a lack of engagement with promoters on their implementation”. Promoters pay huge fees to host races, with Silverstone expected to pay approximately £20m for this year’s British Grand Prix. The fees are a major source of income for F1 but increasingly promoters have maintained they were unable to meet them.
Silverstone activated a break clause in their contract in 2017, arguing that the fees made hosting the grand prix unsustainable. They have yet to agree a new deal and, if they do not, this year will be the last British Grand Prix at the circuit which held the first F1 world championship race in 1950.
F1 has been attempting to agree a new race in Miami but is understood to be trying to use a profit-share model rather than a hosting fee, to which Fopa also objected. “New races should not be introduced to the detriment of existing events although the association is encouraged by the alternative business models being offered to prospective venues,” said the statement.
Alongside Silverstone, four other circuits have deals that end in 2019: Monza, Hockenheim, Barcelona and Mexico City. “If this continues, Formula Onewill be racing on second-rate circuits, if any at all,” Pringle said on Monday. “Everyone is disgruntled. Liberty’s ideas are disjointed. We have all been compliant and quiet hitherto, but we have great concerns about the future health of the sport under the people who run it now.”