F1 and the private sector

A lot of people think that the fees for Formula 1 races are excessive and I tend to agree in some cases, but when you compare what a country gets for, say, an Olympic Games, or a World Cup, compared with what they need to invest, F1 seems to be a pretty cheap option. The problem is that for reasons that we can only guess at cities don’t want to give money to the Formula One group, while they are more than happy to pay the demands of the IOC or FIFA. It is billions on the one hand and tens of millions on the other. Why is that? Particularly when an Olympics or a World Cup are done and gone in just a few days, while F1 keeps coming back, year in, year out. TV audiences are not really the answer either. It seems to be more about civic ego: a Mayor or a Prime Minister can fluff up his feathers as having been the one to win the city the Olympics etc etc. The IOC and FIFA demand massive infrastructure investments and I suppose that might be part of the attraction as this forces cities to make changes that they want to make, rather than constantly putting them off. London, for example, has developed much of the old docklands that ought to have been done earlier, but the Olympics gave them the excuse. This creates jobs and visitors. Getting private enterprise to invest in these events is a tough call. There are the big sponsors, of course, but public-private partnerships for other things do not seem to be that successful. Perhaps they are and we just don’t hear about them.

Of late, however, I have being hearing whispers of new plans for a Formula 1 event in the Bay Area of California and, more specifically, down in the Santa Clara/San Jose area of Silicon Valley. It has been clear for a long time that F1 needs to get more races in the United States and , obviously the most likely places for the sport to visit and be successful are the two coasts, which have a rather more outward-looking attitude and would most appreciate F1’s European chic and glamour.

Sadly, attempts to have races in New Jersey, Long Beach and Anaheim have all flopped because of the amount of money that was being demanded, and because there are very few public bodies that can afford F1 scale money for a sporting event or which would deem such an event to be worth the cash being demanded. The race in Austin has got some state backing, but the state politicians are looking at cutting this back because it was all agreed by a different administration and the new folk don’t want to pay the money any longer. This is short-sighted but to be expected.

So how can an event be funded in the US? The only answer is really private money with, perhaps, a little bit of public money being used to facilitate things.This is the only model that will work, but who has the kind of money that is required for an F1 promoter these days? Right now, the city of Boston is planning for an IndyCar race around the streets, but the city is only paying for modifications for some of the “street furniture” and is recouping money, in theory, on renting the streets and the necessary services to the promoters. But then IndyCar fees are not that expensive so the promoter thinks it can make a go of it. This is great news for IndyCar, which needs a presence in urban areas on the East Coast.

Deals in Formula 1 are now running at levels at which even some despots cannot afford to pay for a race. Having said that, there are some very good examples of business models that do work for F1. They are complicated but they work. Canada, for example, is funded by at least four different levels of government, plus tourist boards and chambers of commerce. They all pull together to make the race happen. That has been true for some of the European races as well, notably Spain and Monza. Almost no races operate without a public subsidy. Silverstone is unique in that respect. Singapore is partially funded by an entrepreneur who owns shops, restaurants and hotels all around Singapore, with the government kicking in the rest, although if the race makes profits that money will go to the government. These have to be the kind of arrangements today and for new races to be successful one needs to find people to pay. There have beens one pretty imaginative ideas, but not all have worked. One that I thought was genius was using F1 to give drab places sparkle and by doing so raise the land/house prices. That was the logic behind the races in New Jersey, India and Korea

It was interesting, therefore, to see that Apple, which never sponsors sport, has been involved in the funding of the upcoming Super Bowl 50, to be held in the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers, 40 miles south of the city itself.

The city of Santa Clara decided to create a tax-exempt public authority called the Stadium Authority, some years ago in order to build a new stadium. It cost $1.3 billion, which is a lot more than your average F1 track. Ninety percent of this money was funded by the sale of stadium assets, a hotel tax, the 49ers and the NFL. The City of Santa Clara contributed only $114 million in public contributions. Levi Strauss purchased the naming rights to the stadium for 20 years for $220 million.

Lots of local companies were involved in the Super Bowl bid. The Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, registered as a  nonprofit organization, which is useful for tax purposes, has raised around $50 million for the bid from Bay Area companies and has already pledged $12 million  to more than 100 local non-profits companies, aiming to be create a solid legacy and the image of being philanthropic, rather than just sucking up money. A lot of the donors want publicity but some just want to help the community but stay low-profile. It is all probably tax write-offs anyway…

But if these companies were willing to pay to bring the Super Bowl to the city, it is a safe bet that they would invest also in a motor racing facility that would benefit the local area.  Such events are of huge value to local communities and the big technology companies want to help that. Apple does not use sponsorship because it considers its brand to be more valuable than the other brands is would be associating with.

Silicon Valley is the home of a string of the world’s largest high-tech corporations, as well as thousands of startup companies. The area attracts one-third of all venture capital investment in the United States and the cluster features glogal giants such as Apple, Google, Yahoo!, AMD, Cisco, eBay, Electronic Arts, Adobe Systems, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Oracle Corporation, Telsa, Symantec and many others.

In this world $500 million over a 10 year period would not be a huge amount of money and all that is really required is for someone to put it all together to give the area an association with the glitzy high-tech world of F1, which is sexy technology rather than nerdy technology for which the region is better known.

It would obviously help that there is a good chance that Alexander Rossi, a young Californian driver, could be racing, and that there will be Haas F1, part of an industrial empire, headquartered in California, albeit in the south.

There would, therefore, seem to be plenty of potential to create some kind of bayside park, a semi-permanent facility that would follow the lines on an Albert Park or a Circuit Gilles Villeneuve…

Time will tell.



135 thoughts on “F1 and the private sector

  1. Great idea. Do you think these companies could also host a technology fair at the same time showcasing all their latest wares.

    1. LOL.

      Joe, as someone who works for one of the companies you mentioned I do think you’re drawing a very long bow. An area awash with money, and awash with conference and tourist dollars does not need any of the supposed benefits of F1.

      And given Apple and Google are about to become the largest car manufacturers in the world, and they’ll be electric, you’d be much more likely to get them involved in Formula-E. But even then why are the two most recognisable companies in the world going to get involved with a far lesser “brand”?

      But sure, a F1 race and a technology fare to raise awareness. LOL.

        1. “And given Apple and Google are about to become the largest car manufacturers in the world,”

          LOL, Katherine, now THAT is funny

      1. ‘And given Apple and Google are about to become the largest car manufacturers in the world..’ – LOL, that is a big claim. I admire your confidence.

        1. To Gary and Jakub let me share with you an infamous quote from John Markoff, the then CEO of Palm and leading smart phone maker regarding Apple and Google’s prospects on the mobile phone market. At the time the iPhone and Android phone hadn’t been introduced.

          “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

          Palm doesn’t exist anymore and Apple and Google completely own the mobile phone market. They’ve just about wiped every other phone maker off the face of the planet.

          It is no secret that Apple and Google are building cars. Why is it so hard to believe they’re going to dominate? In Apple and Google you don’t just have the two biggest technology companies, but the biggest company and the 4th biggest company. Why are they not going to succeed? Because PC guys are not going to just figure it out?

            1. Sorry. Misattributed that. It most certainly was said by the CEO of Palm Ed Colligan. Checkout the comments of the Nokia management too. Where are those companies today?

          1. Weall yeah Katerine. Google and apple are “the biggest companies” but more for their “market value” than for actually making things. And off course for turning a very nice profit recently.

            Now, I don’t want to “LOL” the idea that these two (who knows who else) are going to enter the car market and turn it upside down like the iPhone did. But lets not forget that those are quite a bit different markets, with different things playing a role.

            If Apple is going to bring an “iCar” it will want (or rather need) to make a profit from it in short notice, or burn up cash reserves and sink that nice market value. Its not like a manufacturer who looks at being at least ok with seeing their factories turn out products even if it doesn’t make as much money as hoped. Apple would buy everything from someone manufacturing it somewhere else.
            And then you have the way how cars usually have a live expectancy measured in years, not in months. So you cannot actually sell the same people a new device every year in huge amounts. Then there is the fact that cars are a bit bigger, changing your logistics.
            And lets not forget about the safety aspects, environmental rules, dealing with service networks and handling recalls etc.

            As an interesting article I read yesterday stated – its easier to take over the layers below than it is to take over the layer above.

            I can see how something like iOS and Android taking over what goes on inside the car though. And clearly the manufacturers are aware (and trying to fight it).

            Now, IF they do turn the private transportation sector on its head and we suddenly see masses of people ditching CIE and going for batteried cars, I think we would all breath up. But I just cannot see that happen as fast as you seem to do.

            1. Apple makes close to 250 million computing devices each year. They know all about scale, manufacturing and supply chain. Google make a similar number, directly and through their 3rd party partners.

              To put that in perspective Mercedes sell about 1.5 million cars a year. Why can Apple and Google pump out 250+ million computing devices each but not a couple of million cars.

              Apple is the leading battery technology company on the planet. That is in terms of both development and consumption.

              Apple is the most profitable company in the history of the planet. Google isn’t far behind.

              No money in the car industry? That is nonsense peddled by car manufacturers to shack down governments. Car manufacturers aren’t doing it to loose money or for charity. And you can be sure as night follows day Apple and Google aren’t doing for good feelings. They’re doing it because there is money to be made.

              Apple has been hiring up every car industry veteran, and raiding Telsa, BMW and Mercedes talent for the past 5 years.

              Google’s got, albeit ugly, test platforms driving around.

              Why is this hard to believe?

              Laugh all you want but this is coming. Apple and Google will turn the industry on its head and be the leading car makers.

              1. The big question is will they actually give away cars and recoup the money by selling subscriptions for their advanced systems? The car industry does seem to understand that they need to move fast or risk extinction. Cars do not have to remain as brands, they can simply be iPhones on wheels…

                1. What a nightmarish vision of an iCar. Millions of cars all dressed up to look pretty and the technology dumbed down so the average joe doesn’t realise it’s just off the shelf tech, dressed up with different names.. perhaps an ‘iSight windscreen’, ‘Retina lights’, ‘focus pixels’ on your ‘retina’ instrument display’, they’ll charge you way more than anyone else for a larger battery capacity (memory on the iphone..). They’ll probably even be available in ‘Rose Gold’, too..

          2. Thanks for your thoughts. I can assure you that Google and Apple are not going to be the world’s largest automobile manufacturers. System suppliers of software, sure. And in any case, if they understood the economics of the automobile industry they wouldn’t be interested.

            1. I just saw a TV rumor report this morning on the Apple car, with a sales price ostensibly set at $95,000 per car.
              Regardless of the innovation they may market, this is hardly a populist price point, and sales will reflect that as well.

  2. Athletics etc celebrates the individual accomplishments of individual people. F1 celebrates the accomplishments of very large and (often) profitable companies. F1 drivers often earn very well; Olympians often earn very poorly.

    Which do you think limited public funds should be spent on?

      1. Joe, the vast majority of Olympian’s don’t earn any money at all. One or two superstars get well paid, sure, but the Olympics is marked by mass participation by extremely talented and dedicated people who earn little to nothing from their sport, and in many cases have to embark on huge fundraising efforts to gather together the money themselves. Having known a couple of people who have taken part in Olympic events I can tell you that for the massive, and I mean around 99%, majority being an Olympian is far from being a path to fame and riches. Imagine having no money for anything except training and competing; imagine having to skip family events because training comes first, year after year.

        So yes, in comparison, F1 engineers, managers, PR goons, and even journalists look exceedingly well paid. Sometimes what this blog does is remind me that even experienced people can know surprisingly little about things outside their own field of knowledge.

        1. You have no idea what your taking about. I really think that sometimes I should give up allowing comments because all I ever seem to get is a bunch of negative naysayers

              1. Two. One British runner and one Russian snowboarder, neither are rolling in money. I have also met (and indeed been coached by) a number of other Olympians. When you have seen what some of them, even medal winners, are driving, you don’t even broach the subject of how rich their international career made them…

                There are a very few elite track and field athletes that get to take part in Diamond Series events and actually make money, but these are a tiny proportion of the competitors in the same events at any given Olympics. Other sports may have some very wealthy participants, but basketball, tennis, soccer and the like are not really what the Olympics are about, and those sports are well supported by major national and international competitions away from the Olympic cycle. By far and away the majority of regular Olympic athletes remain very close to the original amateur ethos because, frankly, how much money do you imagine there is sloshing around in the international bobsleigh/shooting/modern pentathlon/whatever circuit anyway? The Olympics thrive on bringing obscure sports into the open, and giving people like us the chance to cheer for people like us.

                1. Success tends to bring money, but it’s not always in contractual form. Sometimes it’s in tax-free carrier bags… Whether you agree with that or not really the point because that is a story I have heard from several, not to mention done of the drug stuff. Anyway, as we are now seeing with Dick Pound’s investigations athletics is not about Angels with frilly wings…

          1. Its a tough one Joe in that F1’s senior figures have done much to disenfranchise its core following. This has had a knock on effect in terms of of the posts received on this blog. It is interesting to note how readers post very positive comments on articles that are critical of F1’s situation, yet turn very quickly on ‘good news’ articles. While you’re clearly doing your very best to maintain a positive aura, this doesn’t appear to resonate with several readers at this moment in time who feel disengaged from F1 as a whole. I doubt most of the comments are directed specifically at your erudite suggestions, rather they are venting their overall frustration with F1 as it stands today (and don’t want to be told the future is bright when that doesn’t align with their current sentiment or feelings). Hope this helps provide an additional perspective and motivation to maintain your diligent work covering Formula 1.

            1. @Bob your are completely correct in many cases I think.
              No doubt Joe does an amazing job in his writing and reporting, it provides such an excellent insight and a voice of credibility to that insight.

              However, even Joe has stated just recently that the CRH couldn’t give a toss about us the spectators, viewers, punters, fans as we are not ‘his’ customers. I don’t own a TV station or a country and as such I am simply not worth any attention or amenity when it comes to user experience, the show, say on how F1 should or could be and least of when it comes to receiving any value for money in trying to watch or attended any of these ‘races’ as they are loosely described these days.

              Contempt breeds contempt and with the above in mind I actually think it’s time that the fans who are the biggest stakeholders in the game should actually just vote with their feet / eyeballs / wallets / clicks and walk away to send a clear message that F1 is broken as a sporting and entertainment proposition. There are signs that this is actually starting to happen but perhaps a coordinated walk out would be even more effective in demonstrating to the CRH and CVC that enough is enough because at the end of the day if no one’s watching – no one cares and thus valuations for the F1 Sporting Property as a business will drop dramatically. Revenues will fall based on the above mentioned diminishing valuations and thus TV stations will not be willing to pay, sponsors will leave and teams will struggle, manufactures will get worried about their investments and cut back or collectively the teams and car makers will then in turn say enough is enough and force positive change.

              time for a revolt.

  3. There is a good showcase for different type of event:
    Sochi hosted Olympics (winter one, but still counts)
    Exposure: 15 days,
    F1 race: Has been twice on calendar, total exposure 3 days/year.
    And should host 3 group games in FIFA 2018 plus 1/8 and 1/4 finals games. Total exposure 5 days.

    F1 already provided better exposure to Sochi that FIFA2018 will do.

    By the time of FIFA cup F1 will provide more Sochi exposure to world that Wnter Games did.

    However there are more Olympics games merchandise that F1 race Merchandise.
    I have my F1 tickets from Montreal somewhere and McLaren merchandize from event, not tied to Montreal at all.
    However I have Vancouver 2010 cup, Sochi 2014 cup, and several ‘support our Olympic team in YouNameHostCity’ mittens around.
    Olympics leave deeper footprints in the snow.
    So TV shows are named after Lilyhammer, not after Mokpo.

    1. I think you need to open your blinkers a little. The Russian GP will probably go on for a few more years… and then your calculations will be irrelevant.

  4. Although the best and most easily adapted bayfront site in the area is outside the Santa Clara or San Jose city limits…

  5. I think one of the issue may be that FOM isn’t a particularly good counterpart for a public private transaction. The most successful PPP companies succeed as much because they know how to talk the public sector’s language as for any real commercial insight. That’s why there is so little overlap between true commercial developers and PPP type developers.

    Also the very fact that FOM has hungry private equity backers and a conspicuously dodgy figurehead is enough to scare off governments in many jurisdictions.

    I actually think European countries probably have a bigger challenge here than the US, which is quite good at holding its nose to get a good outcome with a less than reputable developer if the deal is right.

    The best bet for the US and F1 would be a non aggression pact and cooperation agreement with nascar and its masters. They are invested in US sports car racing, so why not get them in for 51% of F1. Maybe a Grand Prix of Daytona to kick things off followed by a new iSC funded racetrack as part of one of the deals you suggest

    1. Bernie doesn’t care about the fans. His customers are the race promoters, the sponsors and the TV companies.

      1. Short sighted. He needs his customers to have a successfully and sustainable business model, otherwise the pennies eventually stop flowing in…

  6. As a former resident of “the Santa Clara/San Jose area of Silicon Valley” I’d like to know exactly where this circuit would be, there’s not exactly much spare room. And Formula-E is much, much, more in tune with local culture.

    Local petrolheads go to Laguna Seca for their fun. With the dwindling interest in F1 it will a viable F1 track soon! 🙂

      1. This reminds me of the situation a few years ago, when a race in New Jersey was being touted. There were several people, myself included, who know the area and the people, who said “never going to happen” until they were blue in the face, only to be dismissed as blinkered pessimists.

        Sitting in France looking at Google Earth does not give any idea of whether an area is suitable for a race. Take it from someone who knows, any big open spaces around San Jose are still open for a good reason, not reserved on the off-chance that one day Bernie Eccelstone will come along one day to fleece the locals!

          1. Ho, ho, ho (as you might put it). You, yourself, said that you didn’t know where to put a circuit and that Gareth should check Google maps. So his comment was absolutely, entirely, and precisely correct and fair.

            He is also spot on with respect to your own petulant and blinkered behaviour during the New Jersey farce. Even when provided with photographic evidence that concrete structures were being built on the ‘track’, and that your much touted parking-cum-pit garage building actually had retail stores at ground level and not nice open spaces, you still called people ‘naysayers’. I’m beginning to think that this is your unthinking go-to pejorative that you roll out whenever you have no proper answer.

            Block comments here if you like, but if you want to spout asinine and ill-informed opinions and never have them challenged by anybody perhaps you ought to go work for Trump.

            1. No. He was taking a swipe at me, trying to make out that I don’t know about the area. How the hell would he know what I know or do not know? How does he know that I haven’t lived there? He doesn’t. How the hell do you know whether New Jersey came close to happening or not? It is always possible that you are someone who was involved and you do know more than I do, but the vast majority of the time, people who comment on the blog are not involved. They are just normal people who know what they have read and they sometimes think that their opinion is better than the opinions of others. Fine. Have they done any actual talking to anyone involved? Have they even been to these places they spout forth about? Most of the time, they are just negative people, getting excited because I offer them a platform and they like to get on their soapboxes and preach negativity. I know the names of my regulars and I know what I am going to get. It’s very predictable. Today there were just a stream of these naysayers one after another after another. They know all the answers and anyone who dares to dream or even imagine is wrong or naive or asinine and Ill-informed. Well, am I? I am not making this stuff up. People are trying to do something in the area I mention. Will it work? Who knows? Maybe they will succeed, maybe they will fail, but at least they are trying. It is much easier to sit at home and come up with reasons why things won’t happen, rather than trying to make exciting new ideas work. The negativity gets me down because negative people suck the life out of those with dreams, ambitions and energy. If you disagree with me, fine. I don’t care. I let you disagree but this blog is my house and you are a guest in it. You can come in and enjoy what you get. It’s not a right, it is a privilege. But don’t come in and think that you can say that you don’t like the brand of beer I’m serving and that the curtains are horrible or that I’m an idiot. Don’t be rude or disrespectful. You have been both and I could block you, but what’s the point? You’re here (I hope) because you like the sport. Well, maybe, just maybe, I can convince you to be positive about things… But, be warned, if you adopt the same attitude again, your soapbox might get kicked from under you… That’s only fair.

              1. Well said Joe. It’s one thing to discuss matters intelligently. There’s no reason to be insulting or disrespectful however, especially to Joe, who some might be reminded is our host.

              2. Gareth’s comment to you was establishing his credentials, and from his comments he certainly seems to understand how the west coast of North America differs from Texas. As I am also a west coast resident (current) I know this too, so I am now inclined to believe that he knows a little of which he speaks. I certainly didn’t read it as a swipe. As we know from following your blog, you live in France and have done for many years. You are right to say that we do not know if you are a former resident of the area, but since nothing in any bio of you that I have ever seen has ever mentioned you living over there I’d be surprised. If you are a former resident of the Bay area, when was this?

                As for new things and knee-jerk negativity, there are quite a few who visit this blog regularly who had nice things to say about Formula E when it arrived. You were not among them, if you remember. It seems to be doing quite nicely at the moment though. Similarly, people have embraced many credible events and ideas, such as Austin, the return of Mexico, Haas, Singapore, Aston Martin F1 and the like, even if some of them ultimately don’t happen. Many of us, however, have been following this circus for long enough to be able to smell a rat now and again, especially when the USA is involved. There have been far too many new US races proposed over the years, and only one that appears to have succeeded. And let’s not even start with USF1, shall we?

                If you look back, I think a lot of people were quite enthusiastic about the New Jersey race initially, especially after Red Bull sent a car over there to burn the place up a bit. Unfortunately, that PR stunt appears to have alerted the residents that something was afoot, so the local press started asking questions. Questions like “have you applied for any permits?” From what I read, the answer was “no”, and this for a street race that was due to take place in fewer than 12 months. At that point there was more than a little rattiness about the whole plan, so people started looking harder at the physical evidence because, yes, we don’t get to talk to the people in charge. All of the physical evidence said that the race wouldn’t happen. Sure, Bernie can ship a bunch of catch fencing over, and people can keep talking like the race was a go, but talk is cheap. Concrete planters buried in the start-finish straight and a boutique where the cars were supposed to be parked is rather more substantial, and yet rather than address the evidence presented to you, you carried on haranguing the ‘naysayers’ and providing no evidence of your own other than the usual F1 journalists’ unattributed assurances from, well, who knows. Did they have any sort of financial involvement with the race?

                I am very passionate about this sport, its history and its future. I have been following F1 for over 30 years, including attending what races I can afford and subscribing to oh so many magazines (including GP+). I remain exceedingly positive about many things. I like the new cars, am amazed by the efficient engines, don’t care about the slightly muted noise (heck, if you can enjoy watching a race of straight-4 Climax FPF-engined ’60s cigars, you rapidly realize that the noise and the quality of ‘the show’ are entirely unconnected), I actually see the benefit of DRS and am very grateful that the quality of racing we have now is far, far better than during the Schumacher years. I look forward to plans to reinstate the French GP if they can be brought to pass, I hope that another race can be found somewhere on the Pacific seaboard. However, I am not someone who will follow whatever flights of fancy that take me (or are fed to me by promoters wanting to generate hype), so I am realistic about the chances of an F1 visit to my hometown, despite the fact that the old Vancouver Indycar circuit is still almost completely intact, and mostly runs through land that is covered by parking lots and sports stadia. Why am I pessimistic about this? Because I know my neighbours and I know this town. Isn’t that where we came in?

              3. Playing devil’s advocate, how do we know what Gareth knows or doesn’t know? Its rather disparaging to label others as ‘just normal people’ when little is known about them either. For all we know they may be rather extraordinary people. John C for example had not simply read something and formed an opionion, he had direct interaction with Olympians on a regular basis – yet an (erroneous) assumption was made.

                Everyone makes mistakes of judgement, the truly great individuals are those who demonstrate the humility to admit this and learn from such experiences. Those who resolutely stick to their guns will be seen in a different light. Ironically, the situation F1 finds itself in is a very good example of this.

                1. He can speak for himself. He doesn’t need an advocate. Just as John C said that he knew some Olympians… The problem with the Internet is that anyone can be anything they want to be. How do we know that John C really knows Olympians? I’m happy to believe him, but there are too many people hiding behind monikers pretending to experts that one never knows, unless they can prove it. I prove that I am what I claim to be, others can too.

                  1. Not speaking/advocating for anyone here, merely making an observational comment. Irrespective of anyone’s credentials (proven or otherwise), it is always prudent to scrutinize and challenge when a claim or notion is made – particularly when there are gaps in terms of data points/sources or inconsistencies. To do otherwise smacks of a lack of individual thought. Would you rather your readers think for themselves and form their own opinions (based on the information you provide in conjuntion with their own personal experiences) or simply accept what you provide them verbatim and be sycophants? I know you’ve debated about retaining the comments section to this blog. In some ways, it demonstrates to me that you are open to debate and to have your view point challenged/scrutinized – that transparency is refreshing in the world of Formula 1. I hope you continue to retain this format going forwards.

          2. Joe, you (rightly) mock writers who unthinkingly regurgitate whatever claptrap they are fed. You claim to have knowledge of the Bay Area. Please critically apply your knowledge to the story you wrote.

            Oh hang on, perhaps F1 could race around the Stanford campus? I’m sure Stanford would love to host the cancer stick salesman running Ferrari, Flavio Briatore’s clients, the perennially jail dodging Vijay Mallya, and whatever Kardashians Lewis Hamilton brings along, all with those polluting 6mpg cars.

            Now a race of autonomous EVs, Google vs. Yahoo vs. Cisco vs. Intel vs. Apple vs. HP vs. IBM – *that* would get some serious local support!

            1. If F1 turned up in The area, they’d be climbing over one another like rats to get paddock passes. That’s the way it is.

            2. I wonder if the big Silicon tech giants have too much to risk putting themselves in a competition with each other in the sort of tech sector they’re already looking to compete with each other in (if that makes any sense). Would Apple and Google want to risk embarrassing themselves by looking much worse than the other?

          3. I guess Joe, everyone around here forgets that San Jose has already had open wheel racing in the past and the event would have continued had the group not merged with another. Yes there were problems with the track – that was due to the short time frames on planning and can be fixed, but the fan count was good and the fans I talked to loved the racing. Heck of a nice spot for a vacation as well. Beats the heck out of Long Beach / LA by a mile! With proper marketing and the mean avg income of the area – F1 could be a better fit here than all of the other areas in the US bandied about – certainly better then NJ.

            1. Yay! A positive response. So good to see that. I still think NJ would make a great venue, but we need some iconic events in the US, and not 200 miles from a major city. I agree that there are some super circuits in the US but sport needs to go to the people these days because not enough of the people will go to the sport.

      2. It’s a lot harder to build a race track over here than maybe you realize.

        They could build one in Texas because, well, it’s Texas. In Texas, you can also walk around in public with loaded guns for all to see… handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, you name it… no training, license, or permit required.

        California is on a different planet than Texas. There will be obstacles that you can’t even imagine. It would take forever if most people there actually want it built. And most people there won’t want it. (Trust me on this one…)

        1. As far as I understand it, its not Joe Saward Esq, who is planning to build a racetrack in downtown SF. He is just reporting the fact that it is under discussion. He has also not expressed himself on the viability or whether or not it will happen, just given his opinion that it would be a good thing.

          I don’t get all the negativity wrt to this… as fans of the sport surely we should be exited at the mere possibility of a race in a high profile venue, rather than another Bahrain/India/Azerbaijan/Sochi that people are so critical of….

          1. @redline… I think you might have missed Para#9 in which Joe expressed confidence that Bay Area companies who are willing to spend big on the Super Bowl would be happy to spend on a race track in the area.

            There’s not a chance in hell of that happening. Is this a case of me being negative? Well, I guess so… just like it was when I said that BE scheduling Austin #2 and #3 the way he did would bite back sooner rather than later, Texas-style.

            I’ve lived here my entire life, and have resided in various parts of the nation. I have a sense of how the various sub-parts of America’s view things and do things. Now, I realize that pessimists always say they’re just being realistic… but, honestly, I’m generally a pretty optimistic person. (No kidding, I really am… but I understand you have no way to know that.)

            It’s just that F1 behaving as it does makes it hard to maintain… at least re: the US anyway. They act as if they don’t have even half a clue.

            However, if they can cobble together a race somewhere in California, I’ll be pleased to enjoy it… for as long as it might last…

            1. It really rather depends on who is doing the work. Chris Pook and Tavo Hellmund have managed to achieve great things, despite the blunt approach of the Formula One group. I see no reason why the people in the area in question cannot be shown the value of F1. Nor do I see why they would contribute to a super bowl fund and not to something that would be even bigger and better for the locals.

  7. > But if these companies were willing to pay to bring the
    > Super Bowl ‘to the city, it is a safe bet that they would ‘
    > invest also in a motor racing facility that would benefit ‘
    > the local area.

    Sorry to disagree, but I think this is wishful thinking in the extreme.

    As for Texas being shortsighted, I don’t think so. The shortsighted party is F1 who charges too much to permit any sensible business model, and demands instead a subsidy model. Once F1 had the state subsidy, they poisoned the well by acting arrogantly about scheduling. The deterioration of the relationship in Texas is 100% on F1 for its failure to simply act like a good neighbor.

    I really wish there was a sound scenario for F1 in the US. Sadly, I expect the pattern of F1 self-destructing over here to continue unabated. Should a race happen on the Left Coast, I will enjoy it for the brief period it thrives until F1 screws that up too. Nobody over here is gonna pay Bernie’s ransom for more than a brief period of fiscal insanity, and F1’s arrogance simply makes that period shorter.

    As for the Olympics, yes, paying to have the Olympics come to town is insane. But one brief F1 weekend is not anything like the Olympics. You can compare them as you like, but they’re completely different animals. Nobody (and I do mean nobody) in the US will view them as even vaguely analogous. The Olympics are a big deal that captures the public’s attention. F1 isn’t and doesn’t.

    If you want to see F1 succeed over here, there are 3 basic requirement.
    1. Drop the price… by a lot.
    2. Humble up.
    3. Have a minimum of three races in the US. Five or six would be a lot better.

    Without satisfying those 3 requirements, you’re just howling at the moon.

    Given how F1 does things, Azerbaijan is a much more realistic target.

    1. Excellent post, RShack; you covered the points I was going to make, but better than I would have.

      As a very long time American F1 fan I have seen exactly what F1 can do for an American city:

      Watkins Glen – a real race track.
      Long Beach – pretty good for a long time, then it got too expensive.
      Phoenix – what can you say?
      Las Vegas – again, what can you say?
      Dallas, Texas – again, what can one say?
      Indy – okay, falling attendance then the tire disaster and too expensive to renew.
      Austin – nice actual, real track, but seems to be doomed due to costs. The state of Texas didn’t change its mind on supports, it simply used real numbers of out of state visitors to recalculate the subsidy, per its contract.
      New Jersey – that was never going to happen.

      So, if I were an American city looking to put on a Formula 1 race I would certainly have second, third, and fourth thoughts. The only way for F1 to make it in the US is as RShack suggests AND to get CVC to actually promote the damn thing. I understand that race promoters are not even allowed to use actual F1 racing footage to promote their events. WTF?

      And, in regards to the Olympics, American cities seem to be actually wising up; Boston withdrew their bid for the Olympics after a huge public outcry over costs and disruptions.

      I live here, am as F1 fan, and observe how well F1 is known and promoted in the US of A. Believe me, most Americans have no clue F1 even exists and couldn’t care less about it. F1 does need more races in the US, it needs to actually promote the events, it needs to be less insular, and, if it wishes to succeed it really needs to keep the races it has and have them become institutions. The constant jumping of venues chasing the race fee dollar does not and has not worked here.

      We had one of the best races I’ve seen in a very long time in Austin last year and now the race is only tentative. Good job F1.

    2. The corollary to RShack’s comments is to suggest that the alternative approach (favoured by BE) is that the US:
      1. Raise the dollars… by a lot. (because F1 is worth it)
      2. Humble up (because there’s more to international sport than the US)
      3. Pay for a minimum of three races in the US. (because F1 is worth it)

      I’m not suggesting that either side is right, I’m just pointing out that the F1-in-US problem is down to more than just arrogance on the part of BE/CVC, it’s a massive game of chicken. And for the time being, BE can cope with F1 not being as big in the US as some people in F1 would like it to be. His family trust is perfectly well oiled without it.

    3. I do wonder about the longer term PR impact of Olympics vs Grands Prix – I daresay it’s rather hard to quantify but it would be interesting to know, for example, whether people are more aware of cities like Atlanta and Barcelona hosting OG in the ’90s or of Austin and Barcelona hosting F1 races.

      As a comment on the PR effect on a city itself, while the Spanish GP is attached to Barcelona, it’s not *in* the city in the way that, say, the Olympic marathon route was (I assume, I can’t remember it) and I wonder whether that too affects the PR value of a GP to a city. Clearly a street race allows camera shots framing key landmarks and the racing and the pre-race / post-race shows will include shots of nearby sights to see.

  8. Surely the major difference between the other sporting organisations you mentioned, the IOC and FIFA and F1, is that here they are not dealing with the FIA, but with Bernie and co. Whereas with other international sporting bodies, their ostensible primary objective is to govern and promote their sport, whereas with F1,the object is to suck as much money as possible out of anyone who has any connection with the enterprise. (Or who walks past at the wrong moment.)

  9. Having lived in the SF Bay Area for 20+ years, I cannot imagine where anyone would put a “racetrack”, even if it were a temporary one situated in a more permanent park like venue – i.e. Montreal. Anything with water views is likely already developed or protected. We all know how parking lot tracks turn out. You’d need to get down to Morgan Hill to find enough open space to build a park the size of Ile Notre Dame.

    And then there would be all the social/environmental do-gooders that would put up a grand fight to keep that ‘nasty car racing’ out of their backyard. They would point to Sears Point (Sonoma Raceway) and (Mazda Raceway) Laguna Seca as fine places to go race cars, and why build another one?

    Big hurdles to overcome.

  10. I’d love to see a league table of the most profitable races and how much they earn – or lose – the organisers. I hear there’s already talk about ditching Baku because the oil price has bombed – shame, as I was looking forward to the European chic and glamour!

  11. Silicon Valley may be ground zero of high tech, but formula 1 is not. There is a lot of innovation d forward thinking in business out there, elements that are non-existent in F1 right now.

    The current “power units” (nee engines) may be high tech but they are overly complex and highly regulated. Most innovation is stymied by ever more restrictive rules.

    While I’d certainly welcome a Bay Area race, and one on the East Coast, and will continue to watch almost every session through the season, I don’t see F1 making ground in America until it makes some major changes to get back to becoming the pinnacle of Motorsport.

  12. Holding up the Canadian model as an example of what you are suggesting is fine, but it should be noted that one reason the the various government levels in Montréal are willing to pay (in conjunction with private partnerships) Bernie’s ransom is the tremendous fan base F1 has in Québec (i.e. the Gilles Villeneuve effect). For F1 to work in California, one would, also, have to develop and maintain the necessary fan base to keep it going.

  13. Hey Joe! I commend you for your enthusiasm for the sport and an always looking for a way to make things happen for the positive. The world could use more like you on so many levels. Personally, I encourage you to never lose faith. Having stated my admiration for your outlook and your integrity, I don’t always see eye to eye with you however. In today’s case, what we’re dealing with is, as the saying goes, trying to make a silk purse out of a saw’s ear. If we look at the recent history of F1 in the U.S., Tony George pretty much held the U.S. Grand Prix financially, until his mother and sisters said “No More” The city of Indianapolis, when approached said “No way!”. The reason why is that they would have to put up the sanctioning fees of say, $25 – $35M, and yes, the city overall would bring in $200M, but none of that money was going back into the city’s bank account. They would still be out the $25 – $35M. Local businesses were the ones who prospered with the $200M. It’s not as though they shared it with the city. No, that went into their accounts. With F1’s structure, F1 got all of the proceeds, the city would get a $25 – $35M loss every year. F1’s recent record in the U.S. speaks for itself. F1 lasted several seasons in Indy, then dissolved. In Austin, the new city planners are seeing things pretty much the same as the city of Indianapolis did. The added dilemma in Austin is that $400M was spent on the facility itself, which now is in question. I’ll wager my bank account that the staff in Austin are currently speaking to IndyCar, as they shake in their boots. Fact is, with IndyCar everyone can make money and the sanctioning fees are miniscule compared with F1. New Jersey and Long Beach dropped out of having a G.P. because of the aforementioned structure. Throwing salt on that wound, both Indianapolis and Austin, attendance dropped every successive year. The first year of these events are all pomp. Then it starts sliding into the toilet. These are things investors look at.We can’t use FIFA as an example, as the World Cup has never been held in the U.S. to my knowledge? As for the IOC, having an Olympics anywhere draws so much attention, comparing it with F1 is akin to comparing it with a mouse to an elephant. Additionally, with F1 fans are on the world wide decrease, largely to the addition of pay TV, world attention is going down the slide, instead of up the ladder. You mentioned that private money, with the addition of a bit of public money would work. To a degree I agree with you, however only with IndyCar where the promotor actually can make money. F1 is akin to a panhandler on the street saying “Hey brother, can you give me $400M to develop a track and another $30M a year to run it?”. Yes, Canada works. One reason it works is that it has a facility already built, and has been for thirty years. Doing a $2M upgrade every few years is a whole lot easier then coming up with $400M. Regarding Santa Clara, indeed, setting up the stadium was genius. However, for one, how many times a year do the 49ers play there? For 2016 they play eight times the amount that F1 would. Additionally, the TV audience brings back the mouse and elephant analogy, especially where U.S. audiences are concerned, which is the prime objective for any investor here. The Super Bowl takes this to an entirely different dimension. TV viewership in the U.S. peaked at over 120M and the average was 114M. That’s over 1/3 of the population. F1 drew less than one million, at 880K. In addition, the investors are getting a return on their investment with the NFL. That’s where it all boils down to Joe. Yes, the manufacturers want exposure in the U.S. and as I understand it, it’s a prime thorn in the side that they may lose the one they have in Austin. Yes, Bernie talked grandiose a couple of years ago about having three GPs in the U.S. Fact is, there may be none this year. The simple truth to the matter is: Investors want a return on their investment. That includes exposure, but it also includes a monetary return on their investment. They’re not interested in a charlatan with a smoke and mirrors display who says “If you do this, that and the other thing, you will have a huge success! “ Joe, I wouldn’t doubt that F1 is talking to Santa Clara, or San Jose. However, until F1 restructures their organization so that investors can see a monetary return on their investment, F1 is just blowing smoke up a dead cow’s ass.

      1. Hey Joe, It’s kind of like say, Ferrari going from their 2014 car, to the 2015 car. A completely new car was needed. Same is true here. In F1’s case, money invested doesn’t bring any return. It’s throwing money out the window like confetti in a ticker-tape parade. It’s gone and it’s not coming back. I’m not looking for problems Joe, the problems are right there, waving and grinning at the window. All I’m doing is pointing them out. The current F1 business plan has France out the window, Belgium on an every other year basis, Germany comes and goes with the wind. Italy was threatened last year, and Silverstone seems to be an bi-annual punching bag for BE. Joe, you know as well as anyone I’m right here. If Bernie Ecclestone came up to you tomorrow and asked you to mortgage your house, giving the equity to any F1 gig race in order to keep it going, your wife would have you committed to a sanitarium and put in a straight jacket if you even suggested the idea. Like I say, I’m not looking for problems. The problems are already there. I’m just reminding everyone what they are, so we’re not sticking our heads in the sand. What’s good for the goose, must also be good for the gander. Right now it’s a one way vacuum. The F1 business plan needs to make sense for everyone. Right now it’s only good for F1 and the hell with anyone else.

        1. We are aware of the problems. They will either be solved or the sport will die. I know which is the more likely outcome.

          1. Joe, it’s people like yourself in particular. who voice their opinions. Who knows? We can’t ever give up.Maybe at one point, someone will listen? Right now, it’s a system based not on a business partnership, but a greedy snake oil salesman. It’s like you say, at the moment Bernie doesn’t care about the fans. Somebody needs to because if the next Idi Amin throws a suite case full of money at Bernie for a Grand Prix, yet his country is filled with poverty. It makes little sense for manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, Renault/Nissan, Ferrari/Fiat/Chrysler, and Honda, to spend their time and development being, in a market where their products have no chance of being purchased. Likewise with the sponsors products.The reality is at this rate, something is going to snap sooner or later. If the manufacturers, teams, and sponsors banded together, they will catch someone’s ear. It’s people like us who can start bending their ears. Bernie doesn’t care about fans, but every manufacture, team, and sponsor does.The fans are their life’s blood and why they’re here in the first place. After all, the fans are the one’s who buy their products. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” Mr. Spock.

    1. +1 – sound analysis Chris, IMHO you’ve nailed all the salient points with a comprehensive objective approach

    1. Given the state of the rush ‘hour’ traffic in the Bay Area, they’re probably fairly fed up of motoring in general.

  14. I don’t know about the local economics for the specific race weekend or two week tournaments like the Olympics but for those of us watching on TV F1 doesn’t do much for a city. I learned more about Melbourne – its landmarks, history and even local fast food favourites – from watching the Australian Open tennis for a few days on U.S. television than I did from watching 20 years of F1 races. F1 just shows an aerial view and that’s pretty much it. The TV people covering F1 don’t seem too interested in where they are; in fairness they’re also pressed for time. For the World Cup, Olympics, and tennis the host gets several weeks of non-stop coverage which usually gives the millions of TV viewers around the world some familiarity with the place thus raising its prestige and creating interest. (Although it might’ve backfired a bit with Sochi).

  15. I was lucky enough to go to The Glen , as well as Montreal , for the Grand Prix races there between , 1974 and 1980 , for USGP East , Canada 1988-1994.

    Both events were massively , popular .

    Both events easily had 100,000 PLUS spectators on Sundays.
    We would go for the weekend , Thursday – Monday.
    The crowds were huge in Montreal even during practice and qualifying days.
    The Glen crowds were big as well , but more spread out.

    It took around 6 hours to drive to both events from Connecticut.

    The contrast between the locations of the events were polar opposite !

    Upper State , NY , where the USGP / East took place , was in a very rural , country setting , with a small local population of 10,000 people .

    The race took place early October .
    The Fall foliage and rolling hills , provided a stunning backdrop to the amazing full circuit
    The weather was ALWAYS , predictably , unpredictable !
    During a typical weekend , the temp could swing from beautiful , sunny , warm conditions in the 60 degree range , to snow showers and pounding rain in the low to mid 30 degree range !
    Except for assigned bleacher seats around the circuit , on race day , you could find many wonderful vantage points around the course.

    Access to the Kendall Center , where all the F1 Teams could house their cars and equipment , was very opened to spectactors to get up close and personal with the fantastic F1 MACHINES , mechanics and sometimes the drivers.
    I have many great memories and stories from what we saw andwho we talked to there !

    The cost for tickets , travel , camping areas etc.. , were very reasonable.

    The traffic getting into and out , was horrendous !!

    That is why we would get up there on Thursdays and leave on Mondays.

    The Canadian GP experience and enviorment was very different.

    Being in a cosmopolitan city ,provided a very different backdrop as well as provided a future template for race circuits.

    We always booked rooms in a small hotel or motel that was relatively close to the circuit, at a reasonable cost.
    All the major hotels downtown would charge crazy rates !!

    A 15 to 20 minute trip on the outstanding Metro would transport us to the circuit .

    It was nice to spend time exploring this very beautiful , dynamic city , especially at nights , as well as Old Montreal .

    We bought GOLD package seats from scalpers that had us sitting across from the new pit complex near pit exit.

    Many wonderful vantage points
    Security people were usually quite annoying to deal with !

    Especially in the later years !!

    In conclusion,though very different enviorments , both events were fantastic experiences overall !

    As you stated Joe , modern F1 is a marketing platform for multinationals to entertain their clients at exotic locations .

    Spectators and true race fans , rank low on the list

  16. Joe do you know what currency BE uses for the race fee? With the Canadian dollar dropping like a stone I wonder about Montreal’s future. We were at par with the US dollar during the last contract renewal and will only have about 60% (or less) of the value come June.

  17. I can’t see how how you can compare a multi-use facility like a football stadium (with the opportunity for multiple events and uses beyond football) to a single use racing track. Even with more races, Austin cannot survive (according to the promoters) without a meager 25 million dollar subsidy, and they host other racing series to boot.

    Frankly, I think auto racing, on all levels, is going to go the way of the Dodo, and will extinct itself due to high costs and lack of interest. Lack of fan interest as amply discussed in other columns and postings.

    An exciting concept you’ve brought up for discussion, and i would dearly love to see this happen. From your keyboard to the racing gods eyes, whoever that may be to make this happen.

    1. Would disagree that motor racing on all levels is on the decline. MotoGP attendance figures have been on the up with a healthy fan base that views the series in a positive light and I believe the same may be true of WEC (although can’t say definitively as I don’t follow it as closely).

    2. “Frankly, I think auto racing, on all levels, is going to go the way of the Dodo”

      If you were watching from the late 1960s through the early 1990s then you know it is already well on the way there.

      1. Agreed Gary. Been a fan of racing, with varying degrees of passion, since the mid 60’s. Really got got into it while helping a friend race his Mini in SCCA events. SCCA, at the time, was the essence of automotive competition (IMHO); amateurs, with limited budget, usually wrenching their own cars, and racing for the sheer joy and excitement of it all.

  18. F1 thinks it’s sexy and glitzy and high tech? In the Bay Area? I’m rolling on the floor and choking back my howling. Around Stanford and Berkeley? Where Google is? Where Intel is? Where ARM Holdings’ CEO has his office? Where NASA has their gigantic wind tunnel for testing parachutes for Mars landings? Where billionaire nerds only wear hoodies and jeans?

    Step away from the F1 bubble. If Bernie’s circus thinks it’s going to alight in Santa Clara like to impress the locals and create a impressive event, it’s got to have a nice long rethink first. Wow.

      1. Yours and James Allen’s blog are two of the sensible voices on F1. I’ll stay if you’ll have me, but F1 is being pulled far from its strengths as Bernie loses his grip.

    1. Great reading here today! I am picking your comment to react to Estefan Gomes. Nothing personal, just that by now I have scrolled down the comments and seen the same sentiment enough to see a pattern.

      And as much as we all might hate to hear it, I see exactly the same “we are better” sentiment coming from many of you who live in the aera.

      Let me give the message to you guys – its not an inch harder to do an F1 race in your place as it is in any civilised spot in the world.

      The same objections will be raised in Zandvoort, around Paris, in the London area, in LA/SF etc as they came up in Austin (interesting hearings, they were on line), were an issue in New Jersey as are yearly raised in Melbourne, and even come up in places like Spa or in the mountains of Austria each time. And I think that had the track not been there to use, the Mexican GP would have been staged either not at all, or far outside the city too.

      Saying that Joe, or anyone else for that matter, can’t even imagine the issues just shows that you overestimate the issues. Its enough to look at what is involved in building your own home or building a new hall for your business.

      Ultimately, its then a matter of having the ideas and money to propose solutions.

      But back to basics. YEs, if nobody is ready to take the money in hand, then no race is going to happen anywere. And finding a good space is one of the things that is easier in a country like Abu Dhabi, Azerbajian or Russia.

      As mentioned, Joe just reported on what he heard is being talked about. No need to get all over that to tell him how often you have been disappointed by lovely ideas not bearing fruit. Or by Bernie not really being into figuring out how to promote the sport, especially in the US.

  19. > But if these companies were willing to pay to bring the
    > Super Bowl ‘to the city, it is a safe bet that they would ‘
    > invest also in a motor racing facility that would benefit ‘
    > the local area.

    I don’t think that’s a safe bet at all. For the management of these companies, Super Bowl is like Champagne and F1 like the cheap wine sold in cardboard boxes at Safeway.

    I used to work for HP and at one time attended a meeting where the WW senior VP of Corporate Marketing was presented the status of sports sponsorship. I was shocked by the outright hostility towards motorsports and F1 in particular. That was at the time when HP was the title sponsor of Williams. Which was inherited after they bought Compaq. Otherwise that would never had happened. And Compaq signed the deal with Williams because one very high level manager was a big fan of F1 and liked to take clients to the Monaco race, as Williams VIP guests. Sure, that HP VP was a very small sample size in terms of high level management views on F1. But all I’ve seen in my years on this side of the pond is that the European entities of American companies sign F1 deals of some type, and the American HQ can not understand why the money is being spent on F1. So would that HQ support a race in the Bay? Very unlikely IMO.

    I’m a current resident of the said area, and if the race should happen, I’m sure it would be well attended. By good sample of the hundreds of thousands of Europeans like me, South Americans and Asians who live here. And odd few Americans. I’ve attended various live F1 race TV viewing events, and the demographics is always the same. Barely any Americans. That’s the reality where they have to start growing the sport in the US.

    Indy Car had a down town San Jose race for couple of years. It was quite nice and very easy to access with local trains. But the facilities were well sub par to what Bernie wants to see. If he wants to make it in the US, he needs to give up on some of those requirements, make easy to access, cheap to attend races available in more than one location. Invest heavily in promotion and social medial. In other words, it won’t happen until Bernie is gone.

  20. If I was the mayor of silicone valley, I’d be taking a long, hard look at Formula E as a sporting partner.

      1. Don’t think so. Silicon Valley is south Bay area. It incorporates Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda, as well as part of South San Fransisco.

        (Unless you are talking about a part of Pam Anderson’s anatomy. In which case, yes, it’s probably closer to LA)

        1. Gareth’s pulling your leg, Steve. You mispelled “Silicon” as “Silicone”, which is the material used in breast implants (and quite a lot of cooking utensils) hence his little joke.

    1. That would be 16 mayors. Each city has one. But likely the race would be only in one, unless it’s long as old Nurburgring.. 🙂

  21. Re: the supposed image of F1 vs. Californian IT companies // sexy technology rather than nerdy technology:

    I think a good part of F1’s generational problem is that the perspective of a growing number of young people on this comparison has already changed to the opposite over the last decade or so: to them, Apple, Facebook and Twitter etc. will be a lot sexier than some hyper-nerdy, overly techy motorcars going in circles.

    1. Negative, negative, negative. It’s a wonder you have the enthusiasm to lift a finger and drop it on a computer key.

    2. Fair point Schmorbraten – the demographic of F1’s follwers is getting older (unsexy and uncool). Given that those charged with marketing F1 don’t care about attracting Generation Y and Z (younger/cooler) followers, there is certainly a cultural divide that would need to be bridged before appealing to the liberal west coast masses.

      1. It is doomed and impossible to find new people… Have you ever heard of Cars? It’s a movie franchise for kiddy winks about (guess what?). And it is wildly successful. And I mean $12 billion wildly. The fact that F1 is not scooping up these fans is, as you rightly point out, a failing. But the world keeps turning… New people come along with new ideas. Empires have ups and downs…

        1. …and almost every empire meets its eventual end, dissappearing to be replaced by something altogether new and fresh.

  22. Raise the land/ house prices in Weehawkin, NJ and neighboring areas? You haven’t tried to buy property there have you? If that was the logic behind the NJ race it was a ridiculous idea from the start. Believe me, Hudson and Bergen Counties don’t need F1’s help to increase property prices – or property taxes.

  23. I don’t think there is a real audience in the US. I doubt the majority of the people who attended the COTA races could tell you the difference between an Indy and F1 car. I would guess less than 1% of the population of the US have an idea what F1 racing is. I do not think F1 is relevant to the average person in the US like the sports that have built large stadiums.
    Really not trying to be a pessimist but I think your analogy public support of a sporting event would be great if F1 was a sport/event that anyone in the US cares about.
    As an Engineering Manager I love technical aspects of F1 to a point however the sport has been somewhat boring for the last 5-7 years. Maybe that Engineering is too good and there is less driver skill involved has made it meh.

      1. “I’ll tell the F1 circus not to bother with the U.S”
        I agree and do something to make racing watchable. Like the following who were quoted the last couple days.

        Hembery believes there should be more emphasis on other elements of racing and not just increased speed, adding that overtaking and more competition should receive more attention.
        “You need to be pragmatic about these things,” Hembery told Crash.net.
        “If you are in a circuit or watching on TV, you can’t see the speed anyway. What you can see is overtaking and battles, and that is really what people need,” added the tyre supplier.

        “There are differences to the McLaren winning streak in my time,” Berger told German publication Auto Motor und Sport. “Firstly, the fans were still entertained by the driving spectacle. Secondly, the races were more unpredictable back then, because there were so many failures, or because there were so many mistakes. Who runs out of fuel nowadays? The sport is now so perfect that dominance affects the entertainment value more.

        1. I’m never sure whether F1 should react to these evolutions or embrace the change over time and learn to promote what is there.

          Once upon a time, the default football formation was the 2-3-5 and defending was seen as almost unsporting behaviour. The average number of goals per game has steadily dropped over time and the number of defenders and defensive work done by midfielders has only gone up – yet this has covered the most successful commercial period in the game’s history and its rise from a major sport in Europe to a huge global industry.

          There have been minor tweaks to football rules over that time, IFAB and various federations have made slight changes to rules and to equipment here and there too. The line between a fair tackle and a foul has been pushed further and further towards protecting the player with the ball; the ball itself is lighter than ever; pitches are smoother, flatter and harder; the offside rule has flicked back and forth so much no-one really understands it any more.

          No-one has made any effort to tweak rules to make scoring noticeably easier, there is no footballing equivalent of KERS or DRS.

          Football is a tenser, less predictable game for it. There is something impressive in a defense in the face of attacking onslaught – a few years ago Chelsea held off Barcelona despite being a man down for most of the game and it was as impressive to see the defending as it was to see Barça’s artistic attacking play.

          There are limits to the use of comparing football to F1, clearly, but I just think it’s interesting to reflect on the route that rulemakers have gone in each sport and the evolutions each sport.

  24. With the cost of the Olympics, does the host pay the IOC any money though? Even if they did, it’s slightly different a government paying for an organisation than paying to Bernie/CVC’s bank account.

    I’m not criticising Bernie’s model at all (CVC yes..), I think he deserves to be in the position he’s in. I’m just saying for a government, especially in a time of austerity it’s a more questionable decision.

  25. Hi Joe and all.
    If there is a place in the States where F1 could should work is Miami. The fan base is already here: the professional class from South America. We are not that ” Eco green” oriented as California. We already have free to air F1 coverage with no commercial breaks which helps a lot in having a big following.
    Time zones are less disruptive for the European tv viewers.
    Miami is Enterteinment as well as F1 and the money is here. CVC/FOM only need either to find a promoter willing to embark on this or promote it themselves.
    BTW I am talking about downtown Miami or Miami Beach, not Homestead that to me is a boring place in the middle of nowhere.

    1. Miami has free to air F1 coverage with no commercials? Who is providing that? I thought NBC had the American rights.

    2. I have not lived in Miami but I have spent time there. It seems that downtown Miami floods during even typical south Florida tropical weather, I’ve waded shin deep downtown, that doesn’t seem very F1 compatible. What if it rained an abnormal amount?

      I do agree that south Florida culture is more in tune with F1. Miami Beach would be great, but that will never happen.

      What is a ree-nolt? And why is it written on a car?

      1. CART/Indy used to come to Downtown Miami with the IMSA prototypes/GT opening act. It was great fun.
        Yes it rains in Miami but not everyday and not every year we have huge storms. Also rains in Silverstone and in Monaco and in Barcelona and so what
        And we know what a Renault is.
        Everyone talks based on their own life condition.

  26. A fascinating discussion as always. Some very good points from all sides I think.

    On the face of it F1 in California is a non-starter unless it is at an existing circuit

    such as Sears Point where they have capacity crowds at major races.

    The facilities are sort of all right, although probably not for Flavio’s

    Euro trash friends who might put up with it as long as a 1000 dollars for two

    dinners are thrown in

    at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry just up the road in Napa.

    Couple of points. The new Santa Clara stadium is a huge success in spite of the

    49ers because they have ice hockey, wrestling, Taylor Swift, you name it.

    If someone could sell the concept of a joint F1/ Formula E track they would have

    to come up with some amazing ideas for year round use.

    Right now the- currently- most successful basketball team the Golden Gate

    Warriors are hoping to move to San Francisco. The plans are ready, the private

    funds are ready and they cannot start because of various objections. If the local

    heroes can’t do it (maybe one day) what chance of Bernie succeeding?

    As for the Olympics..Antonio Samaranch insisted on a new road system for

    Barcelona which had to be guaranteed prior to bidding. That is what I call a

    lasting benefit. (He was a crook and a friend of Franco’s but is another story)

    As for making money..here is the States the only ones who make or made real

    money from the Olympics ended up on Cornflake packets such as Lindsay

    Vonn or Shaun White . The rest go back to their day jobs such as being ski

    instructors in Squaw Valley.

    As for nerdy technology I’ve just visited some profs at Stanford University.

    The carbon fiber technology they are working on for F1 is anything but nerdy.

    Finally as someone who had spent some wonderful weekends at the Glen

    if anyone were to ask me-which is unlikely although Bernie’s people did ask me

    about Treasure Island once – I would say drop the attitude, drop the

    farcical fees and have the race

    at Sears Point (Sonoma) . Enjoy the friendliness, the great food, locals wines,

    San Francisco (45 minutes away) and for the bad boys of F1 we even have


    1. You nailed it, Andrew. But Sears is too low-rent for the current state of F1, alas. Maybe 30 years ago. (Mazda Raceway at) Laguna Seca would be great but the thousands of wealthy NIMBYs surrounding it would be displeased and Sears now has better facilities. Except for Highway 37…

      There’s lots of money in Silly Con Valley, but also maybe even more smoke and mirrors. That said, most major automakers have a tech presence in the area and there is an automotive & motorsports program at Stanford. Formula E could actually be acceptable, and a foot in the door for F1. The problem is where to run, if not at Sears or Laguna.

      The downtown San Jose track as used by CART was marginal even for them, and don’t expect better anywhere else. Rallycross would be a better fit — I’ve read that we in CA have the third-worst roads in the US, to Alaska and North Dakota. Who have weather excuses. There’s a long list of “ghost tracks” in the greater Bay Area, now all under housing developments and shopping malls. With land costs and the myriad other things competing for possible spectator interest I wouldn’t get too hopeful.

      I may be a geezer (started following F1 at age 11 in 1963) but I do know a few 20ish gearhead fanatics, so all is not lost. But there are not a lot of them. Most Americans view cars as transportation appliances and watch football, basketball, and baseball. And there are far more activities and inactivities competing for people’s time and attention now than there were 50 years ago. Or even 20.

  27. Joe,

    Thank you for your great blog. Please keep up the great work. Apologies for all the negative nannies from the USA. Where ever F1 lands I will travel too. It makes great vacation destinations.

    Austin was awash this year, but hope springs eternal that it will last. If not, I’d like to tick off Monza from my must see races next year.

    1. Mark, Laguna Seca may be an exciting looking track in places, with plenty of elevation change, and the fantastic corkscrew, but at F1 speeds, the concrete walls are just too close, and the catch fences too low.

  28. I grew up in the Boston area, late 1960s 1970s, in an SCCA racing family. I got my Formula One from Autoweek, every Tuesday, and once per year at Watkins Glen. The Boston Globe would not have reported on a motor race if Richard Nixon had won. The Boston TV channels would preempt the occasional network coverage of car races.

    And having grown up there, here’s the bottom line: if an Indy Car race can take place in downtown Boston, then ANYTHING is possible.

      1. I know, absolutely shocking considering how Boston as a market could not have cared less about motor sports. Baseball, basketball and hockey were all that mattered, not even American football. Bryar Motorsport Park (an old road racing circuit in NH) was my second home as a youngster (SCCA club racing Trans AM, etc.); once that was taken over and converted into a NASCAR stadium I think the market evolved.

  29. I’ll state the obvious. F1 needs a long term plan to grow the sport in America by courting media and sponsors, charging reasonable rates so the tracks and communities can make money, promoting its drivers and cars as the extraordinarily talented and awesome things they are. The NFL is popular enough here that they can get away with grab-the-money-and-run-to-the-next-pigeon as F1 does with Korea, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Valencia, etc. But with the gang that’s running F1, I don’t see it happening.
    But instead Bernie likes to say idiot things like who needs the largest economy in the world with a lot of car enthusiasts and that a woman will never succeed in F1 in a country that could very well have a woman President in a year. Honey, not vinegar, attracts customers

  30. I’m a big fan and supporter of F1. And have paid handsomely to attend select F1 races. Since the 90s I’ve either seen or mostly watched every F1 race live. Having said that, I believe the F1 business model is brutally unfair to everyone, except, apparently, to Bernie and CVC. Thus, I do not believe Governments (democratic) should provide funding to F1, except to Silverstone – (more on this later).

    We are all familiar with the widespread contentions that F1 provides significant economic benefits to the localities in which the F1 spectacle appear. Thus deserving of significant government financial support. So far no one has produced any empirical evidence supporting such lofty contentions. Often we hear that one survey says this economic benefit… that, one report says that economic benefit…But these are always scientifically unproven.

    We have seen, quite often, that when the promised economic returns have not been realized, then the race become unviable. Governments that previously bought into the promised economic returns become disillusioned. So they reduce, phased out, or are in the process of phasing-out funding for their F1 race. Promoters who have been or are dependent on significant government grants to pay Bernie have been or will be unable to satisfy their obligations.

    In the 90s Germany had two races, today due to government funding constraints they are struggling to support one race. Due to funding constraints, Spa can barely afford to support its race. The government of Barcelona recently announced that they will be phasing out their support of its F1 race. In Austin, the government has reversed itself and will continue to provide the $25 million.

    However, due to the unconscionable 10% escalator increases in Bernie’s fees, the promoter will be hard pressed to pay the 2016 $37 million fees. In 5 years it will balloon to $60 million. Good luck to him with that one.

    Although Montreal has been passing the hat around, they are currently experiencing difficulties paying Bernie his fees. If F1 were stimulating sustained economic boon as advertised then we would still be having races in South Korea; Turkey; India and Valencia. It’s important to note that Bernie was the promoter in Turkey, yet still, he pulled the plug.

    Undoubtedly motor racing in general and F1 in particular has been, and continue unabated to provide significant economic boon to the UK. Silverstone is one of F1’s most famous and prestigious races. The race is noteworthy for attracting high rollers to Britain, However, its ticket prices is one of the highest in the sport and probable has plateau. Its fiscal resources also are highly stressed. Thus it could definitely benefit from and is deserving of financial aid from the state. Unfortunately it won’t get it. This stems from the fact that any form of state funding will very likely result in adverse consequences for the government.

    How? As soon as it becomes public that the government is providing funding to help defray Bernie and CVC’s fees, Fleet Street will be merciless in criticizing the government for providing state funds to support the fees of billionaire Bernie and Billionaires at CVC. Doing so, would definitely cause a major uproar in the House during Question Time. The PM maybe turfed by his caucus. So funding Silverstone, although well deserved, could have some adverse consequences. Too bad

  31. To paraphrase Don Cherry: “Don’t poke the kangaroo!”
    I’ve been following F1 since Giancarlo Baghetti was driving for Ferrari, but I had no clue about a projected F1 race in the Bay Area. So thanks Joe.
    One of the joys of motorsport is that it has been everywhere. I was hooked as a youngster by the faraway places with strange sounding names.
    I’ve been to races at Sonoma and Laguna Seca, so that is two trips to California where I dropped some dollars.
    As far as F1 in the US is concerned I find on my regular visits to the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen that the true believers are still mourning the loss of the Grand Prix there. This facility is testimony to the wellspring of support in the States. The east coast has waited long enough. RGDS RLT

  32. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the fact that Eddie Cue, one of the top 5 guys there, is on the board at Ferrari

  33. In all its dealings FOM try to keep F1 exclusive by keeping the prcese high, Tv, fees, hosting fees, Ticket prices Paddock Club etc.

    Perhaps if it took more than being the highest bidder then cities would be willing to put more effort to getting a race, the way it is now there doesn’t seem much point in the likes of New York to be associated wit Baku.

  34. If F1 was thinking about holding a GP in the Bay Area, they might use Sonoma Raceway. IndyCar has their GP of Sonoma there, NASCAR has a race there, and the NHRA dragsters make a stop there. Those are just a few of the races/events on the calendar.

    I grew up in Marin County and my mom’s house isn’t far from Sonoma Raceway I’m about 2 hours away and have passed the track on different weekends that have events and it’s pretty crowded. It’s a nice track with the essentials that are needed to have good races there. It not far from Napa either and the vineyards.

    Mercedes Benz Research and Development North America has a campus in Sunnyvale which is 1.5-2 hours from Sonoma Raceway in the East Bay.

    What F1 could do if they wanted to hold a GP in northern California, is have practice, qualifying, and the race at Sonoma Raceway. They could have other GP related events for sponsors and fans either in Napa/Sonoma, Marin County, San Francisco, and/or East Bay/Silicon Valley.

  35. If they’re thinking about closing off city streets in San Francisco or the East Bay, it will be met with public resistance because of the traffic problems that it would create.

    F1 might not be enough of a wow type show right now to gain real traction and interest. The people in Silicon Valley could think that it’s a bit of a yawn. They’re used to multiple-million dollar holiday parties.

    1. They are not thinking about closing off city streets in San Francisco or the East Bay.
      The San Jose Grand Prix was a Champ Car race was held between 2005 and 2007. Official attendance was 60,000 fans on race day, and a 3-day crowd of 150,000.
      It only stopped because Champ Car went bust.

  36. I remember it. I’m not sure that F1 would have the same results there now because things have changed. There are other things now that compete for people’s entertainment dollars now. The show would have to really improve from what it is currently.

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