“Disgruntled” Race Organisers worried over future of F1

The F1 Promoters Organisation (F1PA) have stated their discontent at the current state of Formula One and their worries over the future of the sport.

In a scathing assessment of Formula One, there is a concern that the money F1PA is feeding into F1 to help host F1 races is going to be an unfruitful gamble, as they are unsure of the direction the sport is being taken by owners Liberty Media, and therefore weather F1 will be financially worth the investment for them. This concern is made ever more prominent by the fact that F1PA organises 16 of the current 21 races on the Formula One calendar.

One of those races is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The managing director of the Silverstone Circuit, Stuart Pringle, is also the chairman of the F1PA, and he has explained that the Organisation is “disgruntled” and that “we have great concerns over the future of the sport under the people who run it now.”

A particular reason for this unhappiness from the F1PA surrounding the sport has been cited as the lack of free-to-air coverage. As it is at the moment, German broadcaster RTL is the only free-to-air broadcaster showing all F1 races live, while in Italy, free-to-air TV has all but disappeared altogether – extremely unsettling considering that  Italy was the second-biggest TV market for F1 in Europe. In the UK, Channel 4 has lost live coverage for every race bar the British Grand Prix in 2019, with Sky taking exclusive rights to the rest of the races – Channel 4 will show highlights of the other 20 races as per the contract Sky signed in 2016 during Bernie Ecclestone’s reign at the helm of the sport.

Live TV views on Channel 4 dropped from 2.13 million in 2017 in 2017 to 2.10 in 2018 – Channel 4 broadcasted 10 live races in both years.

This particular statistic would certainly go in the F1PA’s favour, but the other statistics seem to show that, actually, the concern over TV coverage may not have as much substance as we might think. 611,000 viewers chose to watch Sky’s coverage in 2018 in races that they shared with Channel 4. On average, Sky’s viewing figures increased by 2.6 percent on 2017. This is an impressive stat considering that some of the mid-season races happened at a time when England Football Team were playing at the World Cup.

Max Verstappen kicks a football. Image courtesy of Dan Istitene/Getty Images via Redbull Content Pool

Overall, comparing the last two years, Sky’s average audience increased while Channel 4’s audience decreased, suggesting that the transition from free-to-air to pay TV may not be as drastic for F1 as is currently being made out.

However there is still ambiguity as to whether next year will represent positive viewing figures for F1 now that the coverage has switched to Pay TV. The extreme likelihood is that the change will not go anywhere towards enticing new viewers, and with the risk of current viewers falling out of love with the sport, this is a very dangerous time for Formula One.

It is this uncertainty which has prompted F1PA to express their damming views on the sport, and call into question whether the 16 races they fund, including historic races like Brazil, Italy and Britain, are worth the time and money, which brings into question what the future holds for our sport and, more chillingly, whether there is a future at all.

Also cited was Liberty Media’s plan to hold a Miami race, leaving many fearing that F1 is being taken excessively towards an American audience, and further away from its worldwide audience.

It what is a very important day for the sport, the F1PA will forward these concerns to F1 bosses in London today (Tuesday, 29 January).

Featured image courtesy of Sebastian Marko/Red Bull Content Pool

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