When Liberty Media bought out Bernie Ecclestone and his company, Delta Topco, in 2017, it marked a very significant change in the path that Formula One would take; but it wasn’t a change that we would see instantly. But looking back now, especially through the lens of the recently announced Miami Grand Prix, it is very easy to see the path that Chase Carey imagined for the sport. He wanted, first, to bring America to Formula One, and second, to bring Formula One to America.
When Carey came into Formula One, he did so, not as a motorsport fan (because he’s not), but as a businessman looking to drag the sport back into the modern age. Netflix’s hit show, Drive to Survive, is the perfect example of the small changes that Liberty put into place in a very quick and efficient manner - filming for the series took place in 2018, barely a year after the takeover. Increased fan interaction via social media has also changed how F1 works.
Finally, you cannot talk about Carey’s legacy without talking about the new Concorde agreement, and the rule changes that come with it. Firstly, let’s talk about the cost cap, and the US$200 million anti-dilution fee. These two rules work together to create what is, essentially, a franchised system. Franchising is seen in most big American sports, like Basketball, American Football, Baseball and Ice Hockey, where there are a set number of teams. The cost cap is in place to try and even up the competition over a number of years, so that how well a team does is based on their performance rather than how much money they have.
So that covers bringing America to Formula One. What about bringing Formula One to America? The American market is one that has remained mostly untapped for all of F1’s history. So is now the right time to hit that market? I’d argue it was a great plan, but just a few years too late.
In the 80s and 90s, America had its motorsports - NASCAR and Indycar/CART, and they were mightily popular. In 1996, a split occurred between what is now Indycar and CART, leading to a significant fallout for popularity in single seater racing in the US. NASCAR did see an upswing as a result, but it failed to maintain that, and since 2005 viewership has been falling, and in the last five years, it has been dying rapidly.
So where have all these NASCAR fans gone then? Some to F1, perhaps, but certainly not as many as it could have been. Five years ago was 2016, the year that Haas entered Formula One, and in their first year they did surprisingly well. Now though, Haas are a far cry from the American team that they could have been marketed as. The Red, White and Blue might be on the car, but it’s hardly in the way that those in the states will be happy to get behind.
So we find ourselves caught up to the present day, and the announcement of the Miami Grand Prix for 2022. A study in 2018 ranked the city second on purchasing power in the US, so it certainly has the money, despite the fact it lacks the population. By the time we reach Florida next year, there may not even be an American team on the grid - Gene Haas must surely be looking for an exit, and the Mazepins provide a good option.
Imagine a world where the Miami race happens five years earlier. The quadruple whammy of a new race in the US, a new and reasonably successful team entering the sport, a new American owner, and Drive to Survive bringing in new fans would provide the perfect spearhead into the American market.
Individually though, those factors have not and will not have the same effect. With Indycar recovering, Haas most likely leaving, no Carey and no American drivers, the most patriotic country on earth just won’t flock to the action like they might have done.
-- Archived from 26/04/2021 --