Formula 1 is having a moment.

In recent years the sport has seen tremendous growth, particularly in the United States. Thanks to interest generated by the Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive,” a thrilling Drivers’ Championship fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in 2021 that came down to the final laps of the season, and the availability of the sport across the globe due to the sport’s F1TV streaming service, F1 is experiencing substantial growth, and increased revenue.

Now, the sport’s stakeholders are looking at how they can capitalize on that growth, and propel the sport forward.

F1 and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the sport’s governing body, released a joint statement on Wednesday pointing to a “new strategic plan” aimed at delivering the “best outcome” for F1.

“The FIA Formula 1 World Championship has never been so strong and is growing globally and the FIA and Formula 1 are committed to delivering the best outcomes for the whole sport.

“To that end, both parties are developing a new strategic plan that will allow us to seize the opportunities and further enhance the potential for F1 in the years ahead.”

What might that entail, however?

From where we sit, there are three areas the parties could be looking to address in the coming weeks and months.

F1 Grand Prix of China

Photo by Song Haiyuan/MB Media/Getty Images

Continued global growth

At the outset, the interested parties will likely explore additional ways to expand the reach of F1 across the globe.

For years, the sport has referenced “emerging markets” when considering future plans, and most recently the United States was on that list. Only a few short seasons ago there was just one race — the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas — on the sport’s yearly calendar.

Now there are three, thanks to the addition of the Miami Grand Prix in 2022 and the Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023. While both races saw a bumpy beginning, both have been considered a success by the sport’s stakeholders, and this year’s edition of the Miami Grand Prix was yet another sellout. As explained by Tom Garfinkel, the CEO of the Miami Dolphins and Managing Partner of the Miami Grand Prix, this year’s race was another sellout, and the race promoters have gone to great lengths to cater to all fans of motorsport.

“Well, hopefully by the time they leave, they’re all race fans,” said Garfinkel during a media roundtable that included SB Nation ahead of the Miami Grand Prix.

“I think at the end of the day, the racing comes first. We wanted to produce a racetrack that delivered quality racing and where there was overtaking and where there’s exciting places to watch the racing,” described Garfinkel. “And then after that, we want to create a great experience around that and hopefully whether you’re a hardcore fan or whether you’re just a casual fan that wants to come out here and have a good time, you know, you can have both.”

However, the United States is one of a few potential emerging markets for the sport. China remains another, and the return of the Chinese Grand Prix to the schedule for 2024 after a four-year absence due to COVID-19 is another means of tapping into the growth of the sport in that nation.

As far as where the sport could look next, Africa has long been mentioned for a potential addition to the current calendar. The last installment of the South African Grand Prix was held in 1993, and that followed a lengthy pause between 1985 and 1992, during which many nations began boycotting events in South Africa due to Apartheid. According to multiple reports talks were underway for a race in South Africa for the 2024 season, but those were shelved due to the nation’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Two major figures in the sport, however, have long maintained that F1 needs to return to South Africa. “There are areas of the world that wants to have Formula 1, and I think that one area that we want to develop is the African area,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali back in 2022. “We are a world championship, and that’s an area where we are not there.”

Hamilton is another major figure in the F1 world pushing for a race in Africa.

“I like the direction personally that [F1] is going in,” said Hamilton ahead of last season’s Miami Grand Prix. “I’ve been here, like many people, here a long time. I like the change that we are seeing and it’s exciting coming to different parts of the world and different circuits.

“We’re on all the other continents, so I’m hoping we get to go to Africa soon and that will be an amazing experience for the whole circus to experience the culture there.”

Adding races in emerging markets is just one path available to F1 when it comes to expanding their global footprints, but the sport does have other pathways for finding new fans. Thanks to F1TV, the sport’s streaming service, fans across the globe can tune in for practice sessions, qualifying sessions, races, and more with a few clicks on their remote, or on their mouse. Fans can also choose from a variety of camera angles, including any driver’s on-board camera, to enhance their viewing experience.

In addition, F1 has already opened a few “F1 Arcade” locations, with two in the United Kingdom and the first US location in Boston. A second location in the United States is coming this summer, to Washington, D.C. These venues offer racing simulators, games, and more, along with a full restaurant experience.

It is a safe bet that expanding the sport’s footprint is at, or near, the top of their to-do list.

F1’s Net Zero campaign

In November of 2019, Formula 1 announced their ambitious “Net Zero” program, a push to make the sport carbon neutral by 2030. At the time of the announcement, a report indicated that the sport had produced 256,000 tons of CO2 emissions during the 2019 season.

The goal of Net Zero? Reduce that number to zero by 2030.

Last month the sport released their first Impact Report, outlining their progress towards achieving their goal by 2030. According to the Impact Report, the sport has made “significant progress” towards this goal. “Sustainability is one of the most important factors to us not only as a sport, but as a business.” said Domenicali last month. “It is no longer enough for us to simply deliver great action and wheel-to-wheel racing on the track, we need to ensure that we are doing so in a sustainable way so our sport can thrive long into the future.”

Specifically, the sport reported a 13% reduction in its carbon output, when compared to the 2018 season. With a goal of a 50% reduction, how might F1 finish the job? With a focus on “logistics,” which according to F1 accounts for almost half the sport’s total carbon footprint.

“For example, all F2 and F3 cars trialled a 55% sustainable fuel in partnership with Aramco, as Formula 1 took another step towards the use of 100% sustainable fuel in F1 cars in 2026, alongside the sport’s new power unit regulations,” reported the sport last month. “A new fleet of DHL biofuel-powered trucks also reduced logistics-related carbon emissions by an average of 83% during the European season.”

Furthermore individual races, including the new Las Vegas Grand Prix, have implemented programs aimed at achieving the Net Zero goal for the sport. The Austrian Grand Prix reduced carbon emissions by around 90% due to a pilot program, and the “solar farm at the Bahrain International Circuit produced 5.28 MW of clean energy between the 2022 and 2023 Grands Prix – enough renewable energy to cover all the circuit usage for F1 with significant capacity to spare.”

As for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, that race saw the use of “ … a first-of-its-kind water conservation [program] in efforts to implement technologies that can reduce, and eventually offset, outdoor water consumption at large-scale sporting events.”

As F1 continues its effort to expand the sport worldwide, they do so while also aiming to reduce their carbon footprint. This is a goal that the sport links to their future, and is sure to be part of the discussion between the FIA and the F1, as they aim to increase their global reach.

F1 Grand Prix of Miami - Sprint

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Expanding the grid

This could be one sticking point between the FIA and F1.

Last winter the FIA invited interested parties to apply for a spot on the grid in the future, and a number of potential F1 teams submitted bids.

After a lengthy review process the FIA approved a bid submitted in partnership between Andretti Global, and General Motors. The proposed Andretti Cadillac team, announced in January of 2023, was one step closer to becoming the 11th F1 team on the grid.

While that bid received backing from none other than FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem — who stated last January that “[a] new manufacturer will help make Formula 1 better and I see no reason why we shouldn’t welcome new teams, especially the Americans. We already have three races there this year” — the Andretti Cadillac bid stalled at the next stage of the process.

That was a review by Formula One Management (FOM), the sport’s commercial rights holders. In their announcement denying the bid, FOM stated their finding that the proposed Andretti Cadillac team would not be competitive:

“Our assessment process has established that the presence of an 11th team would not, on its own, provide value to the Championship. The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive. We do not believe that the Applicant would be a competitive participant.

“The need for any new team to take a compulsory power unit supply, potentially over a period of several seasons, would be damaging to the prestige and standing of the Championship.

“While the Andretti name carries some recognition for F1 fans, our research indicates that F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around.”

FOM also noted that the proposed team would be joining the grid as a customer team — meaning they would be relying on a power unit from another team — and that perhaps when the Cadillac power units are ready they would look favorably upon the situation. “We would look differently on an application for the entry of a team into the 2028 Championship with a GM power unit, either as a GM works team or as a GM customer team designing all allowable components in-house,” stated the FOM. “In this case there would be additional factors to consider in respect of the value that [Andretti-Cadillac] would bring to the Championship, in particular in respect of bringing a prestigious new OEM to the sport as a PU supplier.”

The proposed Andretti Cadillac team has forged ahead with their plans to join the grid, opening a new facility in Silverstone in April. Their bid has also found new support on Capitol Hill, with the House Judiciary Committee seeking answers from both F1 and Liberty Media regarding the denial of the Andretti Cadillac bid.

The ongoing situation regarding the Andretti Cadillac bid, and a potential expansion of the F1 field, might be right at the top of F1 and the FIA’s to-do list.

#FIA #working #strategic #plan

By David

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