Bernie and America

I think that there will be three Formula 1 Grands Prix in the United States by 2016. The United States GP in Austin, the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey and the Long Beach Grand Prix in California. The only way to find out if I am right is to wait for three years, but I am confident that Bernie Ecclestone is not going to waste the opportunity to conquer the one place where Formula 1 should be big and is not. The signs have been there for a while. His goal is to create a solid package to market F1 in the Americas by adding races in America and Mexico to the existing events in Canada and Brazil. By doing that he has a package of races that can be sold to TV companies at much higher prices than is the case at the moment.

The United States remains the world’s largest consumer market with around 30 percent of global consumption. There are various estimates as to when other countries will catch up, with management consultancy McKinsey & Company reckoning that China will overtake Japan to become the second largest market in 2020, while the Boston Consulting Group says that this will happen in 2015, Euromonitor thinks it will happen this year. It is not that important who is right, because the key point is that even if China does overtake Japan, no-one is estimating that it will reach more than 22 percent of global consumption by 2020. Perhaps in terms of luxury cars and fancy handbags this will happen sooner but overall, the US remains ahead. In the longer term analysts reckon that India will outstrip both the US and China as it develops vast middle classes, but in the short- to mid-term it is fair to say that the US is still the place you want to be if you are selling consumer products. And that is a key part of what F1 does.

There is much negativity about the prospects of New Jersey and Long Beach. The problem with all these stories is that the people writing them do not seem to understand how the F1 business model works, no matter what claims they may make about being business experts. The suggestion that the Formula One group might buy the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach (GPALB) is patently ridiculous. This company has run the Grand Prix in Long Beach since the 1970s but at the moment it has no contract with IndyCar for 2014 and no contract with the City of Long Beach after 2015. The City has a non-binding option to extend to 2020 if it chooses to do so.

By all accounts, the Long Beach GP is not doing the business it used to do. Hotel rooms are not selling as much as they were and while the crowd is being boosted by giving away free tickets and putting on other support events, such as drifting, the race is not giving the city the same kind of returns as it used to do. It is a transient party audience rather than the high-spending race fans who used to be there each year.

And that is just on the ground. In terms of TV figures, the race is getting only tiny amount of coverage, compared to what could be achieved by Formula 1 and it is not just the numbers in this case, it is also about geographic reach. F1 will put the streets of Long Beach on TVs across the world.

There is little doubt that if the City was offered a Formula 1 race, at the right price, it would take it. If GPALB could raise the money needed to pay F1 race fees, it could switch back to Formula 1 and the City would almost certainly give it a new contract, but unless that happens, there is ample opportunity for a rival promotional company to step in and do a deal with the City.

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that in modern America there is not going to be financial assistance from the authorities. There may be tax breaks, loans and money to aid construction, but spending money on promoters is something of a no-no. Thus all the Grands Prix that take place on US soil require private funding. In the case of Austin private investors built the racing facility and then won grants from the state to promote economic growth. On the streets of New Jersey and Long Beach it will be a case of the local council doing the necessary building work and then renting the streets to promoters. The sort of money required for this is justifiable given the benefits that a race will bring to a region.

The trick is to find someone who gains enough from a Formula 1 race to pay the race fees, which are impressively large. That could be people who are involved in the hotel business or in retail. It can also be based on the effect that F1 will have on real estate prices in the area. A race can multiply land values and make very large profits for those with sufficient property to rent or sell. This is the raison d’être of the race in New Jersey, and the reason I believe the race will happen. There are billions of dollars to be made by the real estate developers who are paying the bills. A very large parking garage, which doubles as an F1 pit building, has already been completed. It is there. There is still a lot to be done, but I am confident that it will happen in 2014 and I am absolutely sure that Bernie is 100 percent behind the project, even if he is making negative noises on occasion. He has never been someone who talks a lot about deals that are in the pipeline. In my experience Bernie always talks down the races that he is keen to see happen, in order to make sure that expectations are not raised unnecessarily and to keep the pressure on the promoters to make things happen. I believe that New Jersey has the potential to do for F1 what Singapore did with its night race back in 2008.

Long Beach is more of a challenge because there are no obvious large real estate developments that need to have their value increased. But, bear in mind, investors in the race promotion, do not need to have local interest at heart. There are some parties who would like to see F1 successful in the United States who might be willing to invest in a race to ensure that the sport has three successful US venues in the near future.

I would not listen to the naysayers, even if they think Bernie has told them exclusive things.

In any case, time will tell…

163 thoughts on “Bernie and America

  1. MotoGP will have three rounds in America starting from this year. Hope F1 can get there too. What would it take for F1 to be held in a place like Laguna Seca or Road America though? Are those tracks not suited to hosting GPs? I recall Christiano Da Matta (I think) driving a Toyota F1 car at Laguna Seca flat out once. It was for show, but it wasn’t like he was holding back as I recall.

    1. Not a chance – neither come remotely close to F1’s required safety specifications. As an aside, Laguna is too short.

      Da Matta did not drive the Toyota at Laguna, that was Zonta, although da Matta was almost killed there.

      1. Road America is a fantastic course. I’ve attended CART races there (and I’ve been to F1 races in the States and Europe) and was amazed and enthralled. Road America is great! This is the sort of track F1 needs to be racing on to recapture what it once was.

        1. If by “recapture” what it “once was” you are including the high rate of fatalities in that era… then yes… those are the kind of tracks it should go back to.

          I agree that old tracks have significant “character” and give people “warm fuzzies” and demand drivers to have “balls”. But I disagree that it is a good idea to go back.

          1. Dale, of course I don’t want deaths, that’s absurd to even suggest and I’m a bit insulted by your comment. What I’m saying is that Road America is a classic track, with elevation changes, great turns, dicey bits, great spectating, and no tendencies to hire Tilke. It would certainly be possible to modify the back section (where there is no spectating) to make the track safer. But having said that, what do you mean by ‘go back’? F1 never went. CART did.

            Do you really like tracks like Abu Dhabi, Korea, China, et al? I don’t. I find them boring and visually unfriendly. Tilke has been the bane of F1, in my opinion. The group that designed the changes to Silverstone managed to keep the character of the track while improving the venue.

            Yes, I wish F1 could recapture some of the character it once had. Eau Rouge at Spa used to be a test of drivers; now its flat for everyone. I recall Jacque Villeneuve trying to take it flat and failing; that was pretty exciting. And it did show ‘balls’. What do you want, radio control?

            1. Well, Steve, really I was just pointing out the fact that there is a specific reason why they do not go to places like Laguna/Road America.

              Since you said it was the type of track F1 “needs” to be on, I did in fact assume you may not be aware of the safety protocols and modern regulations of Formula 1.

              I was not insinuating that you were a fan of deaths. I was merely pointing out that such tracks are deemed unfit for a Grand Prix in this day and age, and that what Formula One “once was” was dangerous. No reason to be insulted, as I never had intentions of insulting you.

              Now, what I meant by “go back” to “those types of tracks” should not be interpreted as “Road Atlanta” specifically. If I thought F1 should go back to “Road Atlanta” (this is assuming I actually thought F1 raced at Road Atlanta) I would have said “Road Atlanta”. But when someone says “those are the kind of tracks”, it is commonly interpreted as a generalization.

              I think Abu Dhabi is boring. Same with Korea. But Tilke has done some impressive work in the past. He is limited by what he can do with a track by the exact regulations I just mentioned above. I found Istanbul to be good. Same with Malaysia. Circuit of The Americas is one example of what he can do when he is given a good piece of land to work with. Although you could argue that Tavo Hellmund and Kevin Schwatz penned the original layout and concept. Tilke is an impressive engineer. He does not deserve to be bashed for doing only what he can within the rules given to him. Asphalt runoff zones are a requirement for new tracks to earn an FIA Grade 1 certification.

              If some guys could go out and start cutting some roads through trees and up and down hills with no FIA specifications controlling them… tracks may once again have that character you are talking about. Otherwise… you may as well get used to the modern racing circuit.

              Sorry to get you in a fuss.

        2. Yeah, I remember watching CART races at Road America on Eurosport back in the 90s and remember thinking “What a fantastic track, why can’t F1 race there?” but yeah, there are just too many reasons it will never happen… 😦

  2. Do you happen to know the latest on New Jersey Joe? Seems to have gone all quiet on that front, which has me worried as I’m saving up to go to it!

    1. I think its silent because there’s no negatives to report Stuart!

      Bernie will be sure to rock the boat when he feels the promotors are NOT working hard enough / paying soon enough. And when there are local problems with construction, permits or disgruntled neighbours we will sure enough hear of it as well.

      1. I have no doubt that you have good reason for what you are saying. I also have no doubt that Bernie is good at getting others to agree to bad business deals.

        BTW, I do agree with your belief that a well-run F1 race can have positive economic impact on the race hosting locale. The big elephant in the room which you seem to consistently ignore is whether such benefits outweigh the enormous Bernie-costs. It’s not a matter of what flows in, it’s a matter of the net when the money flow in both directions is considered. You seem to vastly emphasize the benefits while consistently ignoring the unfortunate matter of costs.

        This seems at odds with your no-nonsense approach to other aspects of F1. I understand that you have a parallel enterprise that is focused on the biz-side of F1. Does success in that area require that you downplay the negative aspects of Bernie’s wealth-extraction model?

        1. Blah blah blah…I read this claim over and over, I’ve been reading this claim on the internet since 1998. Well guess what the business model works because F1 keeps expanding and venue after venue keeps clamoring for a race…

          1. The business model works for FOM. But it’s not working for Korea. Didn’t work for Turkey or Magny Cours or Osterreichring or Valencia or Indianapolis or Fuji.

              1. It works for Monoco because it’s free. As you know many of the others are heavily subsidized by their respective governments and for a commercial entity many of the deals are not profitable for the promoter. That isn’t a long term sustainable business model for the promoter and eventually FOM may run out of potential clients and be forced to revise the way they do business. They can’t keep this model up forever. They’ll run out of clients.

      2. Im sorry Joe but it isnt enough just to say lets see who is right in three years. Anyone can say something like I bet that Mclaren will be bigger than Ferrari in three years – trust me. Its classic conversation over a beer but we want more than that here.

        Where is the evidence? Im not saying that there isnt any but I want to see it and by the looks of the comments here Im not the only one.

        I almost bought your argument but then your description about Ecclestone at the end snapped me back into reality: ‘He has never been someone who talks a lot about deals that are in the pipeline.’

        Gimme a break!!

        1. I don’t give a toss whether you believe it or not. I’m telling you that is what I think will happen and if I am convinced then there is sufficient evidence for me. If you don’t buy into that, then that’s fine. Come back in three years and apologise.

          1. If there is evidence then why not share it?

            I have certainly read plenty of evidence which disproves the idea that Ecclestone has never been someone who talks a lot about deals that are in the pipeline!

            I really couldnt believe you wrote that. I mean, cmon. its hard to avoid comments from Ecclestone about deals which he claims to have in the works.

            1. Believe what you want to believe. If you think I’m an idiot then don’t read this blog. I write it simply to help fans and I believe that F1 is going back to Long Beach. I don’t have to justify that belief or come up with evidence. This is what I think is going to happen. That does not warrant people being rude to me…

              1. I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m not being rude to you and if I have come across that way then I apologise.

                I did say that I have read plenty of comments from Ecclestone talking about deals in the pipeline and I have. I would be very happy to link to some if you want.

                I have also said that if you have got evidence then please share it with us. Im not the only one who is struggling to believe you on this so that would really help.

                1. Cster:

                  Evidence has already been brought forth. It was scattered throughout the post you just read. The thing is, evidence is not always interpreted the same by everyone. You can find evidence for the Big Bang Theory, but unless you have the knowledge, intellect, or wisdom to interpret it… it is meaningless.

                  The evidence that Joe has put forth may be meaningless to you. You may think it is just a “hunch”, or a “feeling”. Whatever you want to call it. You may not deem it to be “significant”.

                  But if you were Joe, and you had the 25+ years of wisdom and insider knowledge that comes from being right in the middle of it all… you would interpret it differently. Suddenly, something that is meaningless to some… becomes important to those with the knowledge to interpret it.

                  Who knows. Joe may be wrong. In three years we will find out. He is usually right. Like I said, wisdom is still a significant resource in a society that makes up their own facts and pushes opinion as the gospel. You don’t have to believe him… but you should respect the fact that he probably has a much better platform to form his F1 beliefs on than you do

                  But in the mean time, he does not have to prove it. He does not need to explain it. And telling someone that they should (as you have done)… can be interpreted as rude. Because it is expressing doubt in their judgement.

                  And when you say things like “gimme a break”… well… if that is not considered rude, it is certainly not polite.

                  1. Anyone can say that in three years McLaren will win another championship. Its different saying that they will win this year.

                    I’m not saying that there won’t be three races in the US but that theres no point in saying it if the evidence isnt cited. Im not the only one with this viewpoint as you can see if you read the comments below.

                    I stand by my comment about Ecclestone talking about deals which are in the pipeline. Do you seriously believe that he doesnt? If so then we can put that one to the test and we dont need to wait three years to find out the answer!

                  2. Im sorry but Joe has got it wrong this time. No one is perfect!

                    The facts speak for themselves and it is patent nonsense to say that Ecclestone ‘has never been someone who talks a lot about deals that are in the pipeline.’ End of.

                    1. Whatever. As I said before we will see in three years. I will happily admit if I am wrong. I trust you will do the same.

                    2. You must be getting tired of saying to people here that they should come back in three years.

                      I repeat, Im not saying that there wont be three races in the US in three years Im saying that it is nonsense tp say that Ecclestone ‘has never been someone who talks a lot about deals that are in the pipeline.’ In fact you have contradicted yourself.

      3. I agree. The US races always seem to draw good crowds compared to many races on the calendar.

        US TV figures may not be that great, but the TV market here is terrible, promotion for the events on TV is nonexistent and the broadcasts are mediocre and unexciting compared to Sky or BBC. It’s ripe for disruption.

      4. OK, Lets… F1 “may” eclipse IndyCar, but I say it’ll never come close to touching sports like Stadium Motocross and Monster Trucks in terms of fan base.

        1. What a ridiculous statement. F1 is so much bigger than Stadium Motocross and Monster Trucks that it is laughable to suggest otherwise, except perhaps in the United States of America. Contrary to popular belief over there, there is intelligent life beyond the horizon.

    1. @SteveW – That’s mostly because F1 has barely had a presence in the US for several years now. As Joe says when there are 2-3 races a year there and US sponsors are interested the profile and public interest will increase a lot. Why are you sorry?

  3. F-1 doesn’t need only severals GP in a given timezone to be successfull in the USA. It needs top american drivers and top american teams. I can’t see that happening in the short term.

    1. Give it a few years and we could have Rossi driving and Daly knocking on the door. Nasr could be another Brazilian driver to replace Massa once he retires, and we have got Perez and Gutierrez for Mexico. I can’t see a team happening for a long time, but if it did, there may be enough drivers to choose from if such a line up was desired. And I’m sure someone like Marco Andretti would give F1 a go if there was a chance there. Newgarden/de Silvestro would be a beast line up!

    2. Many of the top players in MLB are not American. It does not seem to have harmed its popularity at all, judging by the tv deals.

    3. I don’t know, it’s pretty tough to sell Formula One here in the states when 16 of the races start between midnight and 7am

      1. I live in the Eastern Time Zone and I love it that the majority of the races are at 8am Sunday morning and over by 10am. Summers are too short in Montreal and I don’t want to spend a sunny afternoon indoors in front of a monitor. Bonus: a 1 pm start in this time zone is prime time in Europe.

        1. Try living in the Pacific time zone. The races start at 5:00 am. 4:30 if you want to watch the pre-race and get some coffee.

              1. Yes, when I used to live on the west side; I remember the winter of ’07, when we had rain for 32 consecutive days. It’s 87° and sunny here in Yakima right now though. I’m just starting the BBQ.

    4. thank you for mentioning this Sombrero.
      it is my understanding that the one American who has the required superlicense is of italian-american heritage and has signed as a Friday warm-up driver with team CNN Caterham.
      according to my metrics, the recent NASCAR drive of MotoGP Champion Rossi has lit-up the awareness of speed freaks so that the name Rossi is implanted with a USA driver for branding purposes as the GP of America is scheduled to launch in 2014.
      however, yours truly seconds’ Joe’s contention that only ” time will tell…”

    1. Hopefully, if the IRL loses Long Beach, it may finally be the last straw and help run them out of business. The only way an “Indy car” series could potentially succeed again is if the current H-G owned and operated series goes away. That family is poison to open wheel auto racing.

  4. How about combining the three races into an “American world championship” to get the media interest on those three races? Should keep those with short spans of attention enthralled, then we can introduce the Canadian, Mexican and Brazilian race to a “world Championship of the Americas” for those with passports.

    1. Well, if not a “World”, but a “Regional” Championship within the World Championship could be plausible, IMHO. But it could only really work if there were seats to hire for local drivers.

      1. You miss the context – America loves the idea of everything in it’s borders being ‘the world’. Infact, for a subset of the population (the type whose world maps shows a picture of the country surrounded by ‘here be dragons’), the US *is* the world.

        This is why there are Baseball and Football World Series. It’s not the world playing.

  5. One reason that IndyCar (called “CART” at the time) was thriving before it was assasinated was that in it there were American STARS like Andretti, Foyt, Mears and the Unsers racing against Fittipaldi, Mansell, Piquet Sr. (a would-have-been) and other F1 drivers. If F1 wants lasting American interest, and can bend things around to, say, make overtaking happen, I’d say it next has to bend things around to recreate a contest that features some of the foregoing us-against-them drama. For starters. Sine qua non.

    1. The problem with this hypothesis is that one cannot simply take an American driver out of US racing and expect him (or her) to be competitive in F1. It did not work 20 years ago and it is not going to work now. The way of racing is very different and the only US drivers who have made it to F1 in the last 10 years have been those who lived and raced in Europe. At the moment there are several trying to do the same. Perhaps because they are racing in Europe they are not as well known as some of the US drivers but this does not mean that they are not any good.

      1. Thanks. I don’t want to hog any more column inches. But I’d pay for an all-day trans-Atlantic long distance call to argue over this general topic with you.

      2. Very interesting that Conor Daly has been driving in both Europe and the US. He won Star Mazda and then has been driving in GP3, with a chance to do very well this year, and recently had a good GP2 debut race in Malaysia. He’ll do the Indy 500 this year for Foyt, and is well placed for moving in either direction, should budget and impetus be there. I can almost see him waiting for F1 to grow in the US so he can have a chance, as he develops, to do well in GP2 and then F1 (having already done aero tests for Force India), while having a chance at Indy if F1 is not possible.

        1. “He’ll do the Indy 500 this year for Foyt…”

          He has to do the ROP first and then actually qualify before he can race.

      3. They would be competitive if they were allowed to do the same amount of testing that Montoya and Jacques did before they made the switch.

    2. The English Premier League has grown massively the past ten years here in the States without a star from the US, so I would believe F1 can do so too. The big thing with the EPL, though, is it was able to get good promotion from Fox and ABC/ESPN. I believe F1 can get that kind of coverage from NBC and I think that, more than anything, will determine the success of F1 here in the States.

      1. There are still plenty of Americans have played in the EPL in the past decade, though I concede that none of them have represented any of the very best teams around. Still helps bring some interest though, seeing the “day job” of the guys representing the country in international games.

        That and of course, the influence of “Football Jesus” Beckham.

  6. Bad rubbish again.

    You say “negativity”. We say, “We know the market and we know how things work here.”

    You might expect my treatise on how the Queen should conduct her business, based on my knowledge gained watching TV.

    1. Yeah, yeah. You know the market. Blah-blah-blah.
      Let’s talk in three years and see who got it right.

    2. It might be possible to make F1 work in the US if FOM does some actual marketing and gets the circus on better TV.

  7. Very sound reasoning from one of the best when it comes to reading Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone needs a full time business development manager just to look after such an American F1 master plan. Could that be Tavo Hellmund who kick started the successful Texan venture?

      1. I’m wondering if that Mexican deal is a full time occupation. IMO it would make sense to use the guy more generally in the American time zones.

        1. The Bernard might not want any one man (other than himself) getting too much power. Putting Hellmund in semi-direct competition with someone else seems more The Bernard’s style.

  8. There will not be an F1 race in New Jersey.

    When the current plan was first floated, I said I’ll believe it when I see/hear it. I’m sticking with that. A bunch of foreigners racing foreign cars on NJ streets for a sport with a history of fleecing local governments (hi Korea, Valencia…) to line the pockets of foreigners – no chance. It’s not happening.

    I wish it would, but no. They wouldn’t shut the streets of NJ to host the All-Mongolian Ping-Pong Championship either – despite Mongolian Ping-Ping being more popular here than F1.

      1. 50 quid says there will be no FIA Formula 1 race in New Jersey in 2014, 2015, or 2016. Seems like many of your readers might take that bet too, so if you’re *so* certain pony up, 50 quid off all of us would see you flying First Class for the 2017 season 🙂

    1. Gareth, you sound like the know-it-alls down here in Austin that said nobody would show up to a race of foreigners without an American team or American driver. Raceday attendance of 117,000+ screaming F1 fans sure shut them up…

      Perhaps they won’t race in NJ but it isn’t because nobody wants to see it – it would be because too many people want their hands in the pie.

      Joe’s entire article is about the power of the consummer and he sees that power in America (despite our current regime who is trying to make everyone equal). Bernie will get what he wants in the end but CoTA will last the longest because it is the best track in North America. I really don’t want another “street” race but am willing to watch and probably go to the west coast to see it.

      1. Really? The last time I saw a screaming F1 fan was at the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix. 😉

        1. LOL! Nice Anthony…

          I was in attendance for the USGP. A majority of the fans were screaming. In fact, at the start of the race, it was not unitl the cars were almost up to crest of Turn One before you could actually hear them. Why? Because all you could hear was screaming. This is not an exaggeration.

      2. Steve C, a key difference is the Austin track is/was built in the middle of nowhere, just some rattlesnakes inconvenienced by it. The proposed NJ race will inconvenience so many locals, the vast majority of whom don’t give half a hoot about F1, even if they have heard of it, with the local government spending money to accommodate a bunch of foreigners racing their foreigners cars. It won’t happen.

        A race in Central London is more likely, and that will never happen either.

        If the NJ race *does* go ahead, and I hope it does for purely selfish reasons, it will be well attended simply because of the ex-pat Europeans within 2 hours of the city.

        1. Seems like I remeber reading somewhere back a few months ago that there are only 9 (sounds low to me, too) houses with families that will have to make other plans for that weekend. BFD

  9. I’ve mentioned a lot of the things you’ve pointed out today, in reply to previous blogs 😉 I’m glad we’re in concert on those. One thing not mentioned however is that manufacturers all have been pressuring for a larger US exposure. Lets not forget that BMW, Honda, and Toyota’s withdrawal from the series was partially due to this and Mercedes-Benz, Rensult (via Nissan/Infinity), and Ferrari all have a major interest in the United States market and like BMW, Honda, and Toyota have let Mr. E know about this. Additionally, other sponsors in F1 feel likewise.
    As has been mentioned, the City of Long Beach is certainly not going to pony up any more money than they currently are for the IndyCar race. As I’ve mentioned previously, only a microscopic amount if this ever makes it back into the city’s bank account, even though it does greatly effect private business in the area. In a nutshell, the city itself will spend $X and may see 10 – 15%back in its account, when its all said and done. Lets not forget the city of Indianapolis who realized this.

    If private enterprise is to be enticed, a massive amount needs to be generated. Hotels certainly aren’t going to do this as their total amounts of invested revenue would be just way too massively offset in view filling rooms for a few days. Developers? Perhaps, but in order to maintain the race, it’s an annual investment we’re looking at, plus start up costs. However that’s what Long Beach requires in order to make F1 happen there. Without major outside investment, regardless of where it’s from, it won’t happen. Long Beach promoters and city officials referred to the rumors only three days ago as being “hot air”.

    1. They were answering questions about whether F1 would buy LBGPA, which was hot air. They did not answer the questions that I have raised.

  10. I think when you actually start tallying the costs and work needed for this, it doesn’t make sense for anyone except Bernie. And if that’s the case, Bernie will pass because he’s always the type to make sure someone else is paying for his ventures. Consider: the F1 sanctioning fee, the cost to rebuild the Long Beach track infrastructure to support today’s F1, the complete lack of a paddock area, and a pit lane that’s incredibly narrow, tight and at one point, has something like a sand trap in it.

    All of that cost would have to be shouldered by Long Beach officials who then would have the arduous task of paying for that and Bernie’s sanctioning fee at a venue shoehorned into a very tight space with limited seating options. Yes, they could charge more, and yes, the hotels would get a better cut, but in this era of American government it seems like no one with a half a brain would take financial risk like that. We’re not talking a few million dollars among friends here, but rather tens of millions going to Bernie’s cause with a faint hope that it would be made up. Even TV money, at the current pace of less than 1/2 million viewers in the US, has no chance of helping that cause.

    F1 in Long Beach would be a cool event and a nice return to historical roots. But F1 in Long Beach is mighty expensive for those who would have to build it.

  11. What you are missing in this article is the most important, why F1 left before. The city and grand prix assocation will not build permant garages like the series wants. And as a person living in SoCal your “analysis” of the race weekend is absloutelty dead wrong. Horribly written article.

  12. While I agree it would appear that Bernie is looking to add races in North America, Long Beach won’t be one of the venues. While the track might be made FIA compliant, it is the complete lack of facilities that will preclude the track from ever returning to the F1 calendar and there just isn’t available real estate to build them out. It has all of the downsides of Monaco without the glamor.

  13. I think three years is optimistic but three U S of A F1 races in five to seven years quite possibly. Is there any chance someone in Los Angeles or San Francisco may try to get an F1 race, assuming the IndyCar people don’t stop being their own worst enemy and get their act together.

  14. Looking at some statistics, it is amazing how big of a population these metropolitan areas are – New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City. I can fully imagine that there is a lot of money to be made on both sides of the coin – hence Bernie’s push to get F1 into these areas. 3 races in the US, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Montreal would be a great achievement. If Argentina weren’t in a bad way financially, I imagine they would also be in with a shot of having a race, making a potential 7 hosts in the American time zone! That would also keep the successful races on their toes..

  15. I think you are right about NJ but Long Beach is a different matter. You are correct about its financial fortunes, as the IndyCar series isn’t what is was, and it does not generate the cache it formerly provided. Certainly, the seeds are there. The question you haven’t answered is, what would the IndyCar series do to save its second-most important event (after the 500)? I hazard a guess that the kinds of expenditures and costs that F1 requires are too rich for Long Beach. The really big money in Southern California is currently investing in a football stadium for L.A; F1 is a novel idea but not on the front burner.

      1. I don’t profess to have superior knowledge, and I stated that I agreed with most of what you said. I said I was hazarding a guess, nothing more. I live in California and the fate of football is big news in L.A.. That’s all I’m saying.

  16. Bit puzzled about one thing Joe – you seem confident that real estate values will rise if F1 comes to New Jersey. I’m not sure they’ve risen in Melbourne in the vicinity of Albert Park. There’s such a Nimby atmosphere around these days that I’m not sure they wouldn’t fall. Isn’t that a big risk for the developers ?

          1. Melbourne is not a great example Joe; we have a pretty diversified economy, and a plethora of premier-scale sporting events throughout the year.
            Its also pretty expensive real estate market in general, which itself has enjoyed stable growth over the last 25 years, and of which Albert Park is towards the high-end of the market. This is primarily because of the immediate area’s attributes (park, golf course, beach, transport access, sports/aquatics centre, brand-new athletics centre, A1 schools, nightlife) in addition to the proximity to the actual CBD, rather than the actual race.
            Its primarily a residential area, and the GP activity hinders access to most of these for February-April (the most pleasant in terms of weather). In a commercial sense, no doubt retail and hospitality properties do benefit from the GP, but there is also a fair amount of corporate spaces which don’t get these benefits.
            Therefore its probably more rational to say now that those property prices would probably INCREASE (at least within that area of the city) if the GP left the city given they’ve had 15 years for the market to ‘price-in’ this.
            As an F1 nut, is pains me to say that Melbourne has the least to lose if they didn’t renew their GP license. That said, it did a lot for the city in its first 5 years.
            A better argument would be the overall economic benefit to the city, but it depends on where your starting point is though, Long Beach would surely benefit much more from the increase in consumer spending rather than real estate.
            I agree with your 3 USA GPs tip, if Bernie can hijack LBGP he’d do it without a second thought. If he can’t though i think a 3rd US Grand Prix ranks #2 (after Mexico) on the North American agenda for F1.

            1. I disagree that Melbourne would gain if F1 departed. I also disagree with the priority list.

    1. I don’t know about Australia but try and buy some dirt and tumble weeds around CoA since it opened.

  17. Hilton Hotels has some promotion deal with F1, I think. Maybe we’ll see Ms Paris smootching on the starting grid for the Long beach GP… Monaco of the west coast, lol.

  18. Sears Point! Lots of room to build all manner of things to fund the race fees, close enough in the short term to San Francisco etc. for there to be lots of hotel capacity. If it worked in Austin it could presumably work there…

    Although it’s only homologated to FIA Grade 2, I believe, and who knows whether it would even be possible to get it to Grade 1 without destroying the character of the circuit…

    1. Today, F1 goes to the people. People do not go to F1… Sears Point is out in the boonies.

      1. Well, not that far out in the boonies really. The track is maybe 25 miles from San Francisco. Depending on how you draw the bounds the SF Bay area is I believe the 4th largest area in the US.

        1. Second this. Mazda Raceway-Laguna Seca is the boonies. Sears Point is less than 40 minutes from millions of people who live in the SF area. But it won’t happen there for different reasons, namely the state of the circuit and the fact that it does not have the capital for the improvements or the fee.

          1. Not 40 minutes on a race day. Probably more like 3 hours and 40 minutes. Unless major access road construction would be performed.

          1. And it’s not relevant because the FOM business plan doesn’t care about having spectators. The FOM plan only cares about private/government payment of huge fees and TV rights. We get it. But we don’t like it. And there’s nothing we can do about it, since we don’t matter to FOM. Sucks.

            1. You don’t think F1 cars on the streets of New Jersey and Long Beach will be worth watching? Go to Monaco or Singapore if you doubt that.

              1. I didn’t say they wouldn’t be worth watching. I said FOM doesn’t care about the spectators, as you have explained many times in regard to their business plan. I have seen F1 cars at Long Beach, and it was worth watching.

  19. Having watched F1 since the mid-80’s, this is the first season I can recall where every race is in a different country. By the sounds of it, it might also be the last for a long time.

    I think it’s appropriate to have more than one race in the USA, but I’d hate to see it go the way of Moto GPs so called ‘world’ championship, almost half of which is in either the States or Spain. Catering to the market is one thing, but that’s a step too far.

    1. Yes and no. But I have seen 430 Grands Prix and I am well aware of what is required and it is all possible with a little vision…

  20. Joe,

    I have to say that I’m disappointed in the exchange going on here.
    It’s now patently obvious that you have a solid information from a reliable source that there will be changeover to a BE-approved promoter of the Long Beach event to one that will facilitate a switch to an F1 event.

    Terrific. Bravo. It’s why we read this blog and (some of us, though not me) subscribe to your E-zine. High quality information.

    But you have been disingenuous with us, encouraging us to view this changeover as some kind of natural “enterprise” (your word, repeated often) that will make economic sense:
    “The trick is to find someone who gains enough from a Formula 1 race to pay the race fees, which are impressively large. ”
    And then you chide us all for not thinking big enough, like there’s some kind of rational economic justification that we’re just not understanding.


    You’re the one who taught us that none of it will ever make sense and that Bernie has figured out how to get countries and city-states to front-up the money for races and venues in a way that socializes the expense, but privatizes the profits for Bernie and the teams. Sure, there’s some collateral benefit around the race like urban renewal or a spike in tourist dollars. But it’s mostly a party thrown by a government that hopes (against evidence) that there will be a long-term, indirect payback.

    And yet you keep putting the cart (your certainty of the Long Beach outcome) before the horse (some kind of rational economic justification for it).

    You can’t play your readers for fools and expect us to continue to respect you. And your earlier comment that [you] “don’t give a toss whether [we] believe it or not” is simply ludicrous, when you spend so much time trumpeting how you should be trusted because you attend the races and can separate the b*llsh*t from the flowers.

    Your whole business model IS based on us believing what you write and to say you don’t care whether we believe you beggars belief. Trust is why we read you and not the Daily Mail. It sure isn’t because you write like Shelley or Shakespeare.

    Don’t squander 430 Grands Prix of credibility by playing a silly game of “I’ve got a Secret.” and looking down your nose at your readers who are calling you on it.

    1. Barry,

      I don’t have a secret. I have a belief. I don’t know who will bankroll an F1 Grand Prix in Long Beach but I am absolutely sure that someone will. It is inevitable. It makes sense for everybody (apart from Indycar) – even for all the naysaying F1 fans there seem to be over there.

      Go back two years and all these people were banging on that Austin would never happen. It did and was a roaring success. At this point the naysayers always say “Well, of course, it was always going to happen”. Now they are all saying New Jersey will not happen. It is happening. And I am ridiculed for saying that Long Beach is a slam-dunk. This is why I said we’ll see in three years because I knew that the No Brigade would wail out the same old message.

      So, don’t anguish about my credibility. That is my job. Just understand that this is what I believe and then wait and see if I am right…

      1. … “don’t anguish about my credibility. That is my job. Just understand that this is what I believe and then wait and see if I am right…”

        🙂 How soon we forget!

        That statement could maybe go up the top of every page here, save a few raised blood pressures.

    2. Barry if you trust what Joe writes then sometimes you just have to believe and if your belief leads to distrust of Joe’s opinion on Joe’s blog then express your opinion as only yours. I don’t believe Joe is “playing us for fools” but I do think your letter is rude and more so, even if he did have inside information why would it be your business or “It just isn’t enough” Cster or any of these other twits that demand Joe justify himself.

      I don’t know who you or any of the other nobody’s posting on this blog are; but we are nobody’s. We get to interact with one of the few, true hard core F1 journalist (I’ve been reading Joe’s stuff for more then 20 years); it’s a FREE privilege, one of the very few. It’s simple, be respectful or say nothing.

      1. I made it clear in my comment that I respect Joe: “Trust is why we read you.”

        Joe’s explanation for his certainty about Long Beach is good enough for me.

        There were definitely naysayers about Austin. My own disbelief (as a long-time Austin resident) was based on the initial race date being scheduled for June – nonsensical from a medical point of view. And indeed, the race was moved to a safer time of year.

  21. 3 races in the States, another new one in Russia, what ones get dropped off the calander?
    Better not mess around with Silverstone.
    I understand profit but it seems to be just grabbing at large sums of money from “dodgy” governments to host races for a few years then nothing.
    America can see the races having to change so that more adverts can be squeezed in and other gimicks.
    Maybe spraying of a bottle of coke on the podium.
    An inflatable burger cam over the stadium.

    One good thing to come out of it is the seats in the stand should have plenty of room unlike some of the asian races.

    1. I think Shaun just insulted us Americans of larger size here.

      Yes, what events would get dropped? I don’t want to lose the old tracks either but Bernie is out to make money for the company and sometimes making money is a good thing (yes, sometimes).

      1. A twenty race calender should provide global races to suit all. Six or seven for Europe and the old school leather skull cap brigade. Six or seven for Asia and the new money Tilke brigade and six or seven for the Americas and ‘whatever they would be described as’ brigade. Point being; there’s enough to go around.

    2. I read that Silverstone is going to get a large wodge of Lottery money for even more refurbishment to block out even more of the view of the action to the fans, so obviously, it’s not going to disapperar any time soon

  22. I assume most of the people commenting here haven’t been reading your column for very long. I’ve been following this blog for a few years now, and it’s extremely rare that you post an article like this speculating that something will happen. Times when you do, you are usually proven to have been correct to some extent. You even start this column with the words “I think”, this is not the same as making a definitive statement guaranteeing something.

    The closest you usually come to speculation is when you post an entry analysing current rumours, and even then you clearly state why you are addressing those rumours. You obviously have good reasons for believing this will happen, so if you say to wait 3 years, we should all wait 3 years.

    For what it’s worth, I agree that there needs to be more races in the US and can easily believe that there will be 3 USGPs in 2016.

  23. The biggest part of negotiating any sporting arrangement that involves millions of dollars (at least here in the USofA, IMHO) is how much public money can the developers squeeze out of the deal.

    Why risk your own capital when you can obtain subsidies from local State and sometimes Federal sources? I dare say all of us would do the same.

    I believe (with no proof in hand) that has been the major hold up on New Jersey; that, and the local power brokers fighting over their their shares of baksheesh.

    1. I am not sure that is right about the New Jersey hold up. However you are right about subsidies.

  24. I feel a few people above came here to place unvouched bets against Joe’s position.

    Those aren’t good odds, fellas. Nota bene Joe has amended his position on this one, as to whether a new GP will be on the North American calendar. When the barometer swings, either slap on the tan cream or whip out your umbrella!

    What’s up with the naysayers? Does any country not want to have a top sport on their yard? I know Austin has yet to bed in, and prove long term worth. But it was one heck of a show.

    The most important aspect I think of having more North American races, is that no matter everyone with a sporting venue has a good look at what handouts they can beg, as opposed to many states buying in to F1, America is going to have a hard long look at what F1 is on about, and I think the sport needs that kind of scrutiny. Allowing a distinct amount of it is now in American financial hands, you’ve got the incentive, and I think the sport in general will benefit from being exposed to the culture, both positive and negatively biased.

    Maybe not three years – crikey that’s not even as long as Joe’s been hammering on this blog to gen up support for the obvious need for a real return to the States, and that’s merely this blog, which is not a new twist for Joe. But I’d reckon on near term action.

    As for the perennial issue of who pays, and issues as to state or government subsidy, well, despite there are vast funds being pumped into areas of the economy, not all so wisely, the simple facts of the current economy mean there’s a Bernie-tonne load more inquiring minds poking about into what is being spent, for what, why, where . . I personally think more US races bode well for a fresher realism in F1.

  25. Excuse my butting in again after claiming to be concerned about column space, but … I’m wondering if the projections discussed hinge on Bernie’s claimed immortality. Has he really got that much more oomph than the previous two popes?

    1. It would appear to be the case. Besides anyone who takes over and is logical would follow the same strategy in the US.

    2. Pope : gone, Sir Colin Davis : gone, Lord Ferg : gone, Mrs T : completely and utterly gone (phew). Only Bernie left. Oh, and the Queen. Hmmm.

  26. I commented on this same topic last week, but I think my (and some other folks’ here) position just needs firming up, in tangible numbers. First up, I’m not a naysayer by nature. I never really doubted that Austin would be built, since the correct folks (Tavo, Tilke, investors) seemed to be in place from the start. I’m thrilled it did get built, as it allows me to attend an F1 race without having to fly across an ocean (with its huge costs…though it occurs to me that I could go to Montreal, but it comes too soon after my annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis), and it’s a marvelous facility that’ll get used several times a year for other events that I like. My doubts with Austin (and therefore with Long Beach) are the long term viability of the F1 event, in the face of Bernie’s sanctioning fee. I fear that Austin will see the same cycle that Indianapolis saw as an F1 venue: big initial years, a slight tapering of attendance in years 3 and 4 as the newness comes off, and then the “revenue” line crosses beneath the “expense” line as the sanctioning fee escalates. At a certain point, the race no longer makes financial sense (this goes for every race, worldwide, Monaco probably excepted, though it’s on a whole other set of rules).

    The numbers: Long Beach is going to require, from many estimates I’ve heard, some tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure investment, maybe up to $100 million. Let’s call it $50 million, just to land in the middle of the range. Then, the initial sanctioning fee will likely be in the $20 million range, if what I’ve heard about other races holds true. Over the course of 5 years, that sanction fee will increase to $29.3 million, for a cumulative 5 year total of $122 million. Add in the initial $50 million investment, and you’ve got a 5 year price tag of $172 million to host the race, and you haven’t even spent a dime on the annual operating costs (several million dollars per year, I’m sure). Close to $200 million over 5 years is a number that will get thrown out of any municipality in America right now, especially for what is, in essence (and as much as I wish this weren’t true), an event for a niche sport. That leaves private investment. With US sponsorship dollars and ticket sales already being drawn toward Austin (and theoretically, next year, toward New Jersey, which I also hope happens, even if I don’t see how it works long term), I just don’t understand where the truckloads of cash are going to come from. Maybe I’m wrong. As you say, Joe, we will have to see, I just have my doubts.

    Really, I’m not calling BS on you or trying to call you out for poor journalism. You are my #1 source for F1 news and well founded gossip, as well as being the guy who can see through the smokescreens that others throw out, as you have been for some 10-15 years (I read you all through college on, and was thrilled when you started this blog). I find that you’re correct some 99% of the time. To boot, your World Atlas of Motor Racing has been on my shelf for some 20 years now (it’s well worth its going rate on Amazon, for anybody who doesn’t have a copy). I’m a fan. I trust you. I just don’t understand this one.

  27. The more I’ve pondered Joe’s post … the more I have come to a conclusion that the outcome only makes sense if you realize the actors may be acting in a manner different to many other races in Formula One.

    It’s not money coming from primarily the local government like happens for so many other races overseas.

    Nor is is a situation like New Jersey, where there is someone who stands to benefit from the real estate becoming more valuable around the track.

    “The trick is to find someone who gains enough from a Formula 1 race to pay the race fees, which are impressively large.”


    “But, bear in mind, investors in the race promotion, do not need to have local interest at heart. There are some parties who would like to see F1 successful in the United States who might be willing to invest in a race to ensure that the sport has three successful US venues in the near future.”

    So, perhaps, a current or upcoming Formula One engine manufacturer who would be able to justify their investment in F1 by increasing the exposure of F1 to the American market. They may lose money on the race, but a very large title sponsorship helps them sell more cars, it’s worth it. Just an example, but it seems like a possibility.

    Even with that, I do wonder where the money to fund the infrastructure improvements would come from. But again, if it’s an individual or group willing to act like the local government, it could happen.

    Witness Roger Penske repaving much of the circuit at Belle Isle after it fell apart during last year’s INDYCAR race. Sure, a smaller amount of money, but same idea. The world is full of rich people who spend their money in a way that makes no sense to me, and there only needs to be one for Long Beach. Doesn’t even have to be American if the checks clear…

  28. Hi Joe,

    Interesting read and I can see the benefits for all parties. My question is would Bernie compromise on his fee to make this happen?

      1. Thanks Joe. In my view business is generally about the simple questions. See you in long beach!

  29. Joe, understand you have superior insight to – the comings and going on regarding F1. So, I am not going to suggest(s) you are incorrect about Long Beach. However, I am going ask the question: what happen(s) if New Jersey, Long Beach, and Mexico City falls through? You might say that will never happen and those race(s) will occur. Is there that much – of a need to have more races? What if the revenue stream declines?

  30. Three years will tell. It’s not too much of a stretch to see the LBGP go back to F1 if they can find the deep pockets to make it happen. Even if they are given the race without a fee there is still quite a bit to do with infrastructure. New Jersey? We’ll see. One good lawsuit over permitting will hold that up. That is if they can get the money to finish the deal.

    Even as niche a sport as F1 is in the US three races in those markets would garner 100k plus on race day. No problem. That doesn’t mean though that F1 is poised to take the US by storm. Particularly in 3 years. Having races in the time zone in and of itself will help some, but where are the millions of viewers going to come from for F1 to reach critical mass? F1 is on network and basic cable for some races and still struggles to get a million viewers. Most races only get a few hundred thousand, considered a rounding error in the metrics of TV broadcast. CotA included. It’s not because of the TV package. It’s because few people are interested. The sponsors might like a narrow, high end demographic but you won’t get a better TV deal until it can compete for millions of fans. During NFL season and the peak of NASCAR season.

    US fans are ambivalent to F1 save for a small number of us (small compared to other sports in the US and F1 worldwide) and Connor Daly and Alex Rossi aren’t’ going to change that.

  31. A post I made elsewhere after defending Vettel following Malaysia because I, like most American race fans, hate team orders in auto racing.

    “I enjoy American racing a lot more as well as sportscars, but it was more “I want to go to a Grand Prix at least once”, so I went with my dad and a couple cousins that were big F1 fans. Schumacher was 1st, Barrichello was 2nd, after their last pitstops Barrichello made an attempt on Schumacher to take the lead, and from then you could tell he was told to slow down from the gap Schumacher opened up.

    Compared to the racing here, F1 is not value for money. That ticket was 50% more expensive than any other race I’d ever been to (and the USGP at the time was the cheapest ticket the whole F1 season, all of you that attend F1 races in other countries are getting screwed), the race is much shorter, the guy in 2nd wasn’t allowed to pass the guy in 1st, and then there was what happened the next year in 2005 that thankfully I didn’t attend but my cousins did. I watch F1 and accept it for what it is (save team orders, cars pulling off before the race starts, ride buyers en masse, and Ecclestone extorting governments for millions of dollars), it’s just I prefer Indycar and NASCAR because I consider it better racing and for attending live they’re cheaper, the racing in Indycar especially has been really good the past couple years.”

    Even if you’re going to take the “F1 is at the forefront of technology and that’s why you should watch” hilt, no it’s not, Le Mans has far more going on for developing technology than F1. If you view what races you watch as a business decision like I did above, F1 is third-best in this market. If F1 wants to conquer it, they need to understand the American philosophy on auto racing is different than the European philosophy first and foremost. Telling a person he can’t pass his teammate or to slow down and let his teammate win is sacreligious. You can argue to your heart’s delight the other way, power to you, but it’s not going to sell tickets to race fans.

    1. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah….this is the same Americana diatribe that has been spewed about F1 for decades…F1 only needs a presence in America…and that is what Bernie is working on. You can’t even compare IndyCar to F1. But your attitude is so typical of the arrogant clueless American who never travels…F1 is an institution, and whether you like it or not, it’s the top dog. It’s not going to do a thing to “americanize” it’s brand, why would it? F1 does not need America. Ferrari does, Mercedes does…a lot of the sponsors to…but that actual FIA Formula One World Championship grew to it’s current stature largely in spite of America…with it’s huge commercial success coming during the period there was no race here…ride buyers en masse? You are delusional if you think the race-craft is better in IndyCar…just down right delusional…

    2. I agree, IndyCar, Sportscar, and Nascar is a better value per $ spent by the everyday fan. You get entertaining races, access to the drivers, and much more fun…… Don’t get me wrong enjoyed my F1 visits when they were at Indy. But I struggle with paying anything more than $500+ for a ticket and no access to the cars.

      F1 has come a long way from my $85.00 I spent to sit on top of the pit lane at Watkin Glen in 1980… Now that the way F1 was and ought to be…..For the love of the “sport”….

  32. I’ll also add I very much doubt Long Beach being owned by F1 ever happens. Even discounting that’d require Bernie to be a promoter instead of a promoter paying him, the facilities need massive upgrades to meet F1 specification. Long Beach left in the mid-80s for CART per the promoters themselves because the costs of running F1 back then could ruin them if they had one bad year compared to CART where they could make about the same money with much less risk. We’re 30 years on now and that’s even more true.

    1. Indycar has been fading at Long Beach since the split. Gone are the 100k plus raceday crowds. They’re lucky to get 70k. Over the last few years they’ve been removing grandstand capacity every year. They’ve had to add sports cars to the program to keep interest. It’s a shell of its former self. If someone were to pony up the cash it’s not going to be too difficult to see the event becoming an F1 event.

  33. How’s this for a scenario that backs Joe’s blog. Chris Pook (the father of the Long Beach Grand Prix) has just been hired as business manager for New Jersey F1 race. Now connect the dots! Chris is a good friend of Bernie…so…first New Jersey, Long Beach next? Now one more for the road. Zack Brown, a well known sponsor placement expert in F1 and other motorsports has just been passed over as a manager of Indycar, and he has been quoted in the past about staging an F1 contest in Long Beach…things that make you go Hmmm…

    1. Depending to whom one speaks to in the Indycar paddock Brown passed on the job. Can’t say I blame him. Pook would be an asset for Long Beach if the city doesn’t renew with Kalkoven and Forsythe.

      1. What does Brown know about race organization? He’s a salesman. Pook makes things happen. Different skills.

        1. Zack would have had to take a heck of a pay cut with that job. Derrick will be a great addition to Indycar as top exec on the racing side. I’ve worked with Chris in the past. He’s as good as it gets, and his connections in Long Beach and Southern California are nonpereil. If anybody can pull off a F1 move, he’s the one! Joe will be proven right on this one if you ask me.

          1. If Long Beach doesn’t extend with Kalkoven and Forsythe Pook is the obvious choice to use connections and knowledge to land the contract.

        2. I was speaking with regards to the ICS slot of which Pook was never considered. Likewise to my knowledge Brown was never under consideration for an F1 race operations (or any race operations job) The ICS job is a management position, not an operations position. Bernard didn’t know about racing and made some good inroads, many of which are still in use right now. They’ve got guys like Barfield in operations, they need sales and marketing.

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