F1 to look to its future at historic circuits

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Formula One’s TV audience has been in marked decline since the high point in 2008, where it was claimed 600 million people watched the events that year. By 2014 this figure was just 425 million, and as TJ13 has repeatedly reported, this number is in further decline during 2015.

In the UK. No race since Monza this year has achieved more than an average of 3.5 million viewers and the return of the Mexican GP also failed to generate significant interest in the UK. In fact as the F1Broadcastingblogg reveals, the TV viewing figures from the Mexico City weekend were a mere 400,000 higher than F1’s lowest number in modern times.

https://f1broadcasting.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/2-8-million-watch-mexican-grand-prix/

One problem for Formula One has been the expansion into the East, and whilst the new countries are prepared to cough up in excess of $30m to FOM for the right to hold the race, the unsociable times the cars are on track has seriously affected the core TV audience in Europe. TV companies pay FOM broadcasting rights fees based upon the value they place upon the number of viewers they can attract. There is a limit to the price per pair of eyeballs that the TV broadcasters will pay. When looking at the TV income in totality for FOM, a drop of x million at some point becomes more costly than raising $35million from a host country in the East which fails to generate much interest in Europe.

By way of contrast, races in the Americas mean Formula One in Europe is aired closer to Sunday evening prime time TV. Last week, Tavo Helmund revealed he would be announcing a new F1 project in the USA and unlike Ecclestone’s ‘new circuit’ proclamations, Tavo has a 100% record in delivering events on which he embarks.

Since NBC have taken on the broadcasting of Formula One in the states, they have been building the TV audience impressively. As discussed on a recent TJ13 podcast, if a part of the F1 season were focused on races in the America’s, this would aid NBC’s efforts further. Audience would become familiar with F1 weekends being broadcast live if say Canada, Austin, AN Other, Mexico, Brazil and possibly Argentina were all run in some kind of sequence.

This weekend, the local government of the ‘North Holland’ province declared an interest in bringing Formula One back to their historic circuit. Formula One last raced at Zandvoort in 1985. However, this ambition is not something new. There have been noises about bringing back F1 to Zandvoort pretty much since the revised GP circuit was opened in 2001. Dutch noise regulations have been a significant barrier to F1 returning previously, but the new V6 Hybrid Turbo’s appear to cause no issue on this score.

A member of the ruling party in Holland, told NU: “Everyone is excited about it,” said Jerry Kramer. “I think we need to tackle it together: governments and businesses in the region. It is a historic circuit, it would be so nice if we could get back on the calendar. I realise that it will cost tens of millions of Euros to bring back Formula 1, but we should certainly explore the possibilities.”

Realistically, Zandvoort will not return to the F1 calendar for some years as circuit director Erik Weijers admits. “There is a lot of money involved, but this is a first step,” he said. “Should it come to a concrete plan it will take some time. Perhaps in 2019 or 2020.

“Simply put, three things must happen. The infrastructure needs to be improved, the circuit needs to be refurbished and the financial requirements of the Formula 1 organisation must be met. And if we do that then we get another Grand Prix in the Netherlands.”

This is a big ask, given the exacting natures of the FIA’s regulations for approving a circuit as a category 1 facility – fit to hold an F1 event. Even following the re-configuration work completed 15 years ago, the costs would be in excess of $50m before the external infrastructure requirements are taken into consideration.

However, the talk of Zandvoort and Argentina returning to the F1 calendar, may indicate there’s finally a shift in where Ecclestone is looking for future venues. There’s only so many 6am ‘rise and shines’ the European’s will take to follow Formula One live on TV, and more races in Europe and the America’s would rebalance the calendar and mitigate that extent of this effect.

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24 responses to “F1 to look to its future at historic circuits

  1. Maybe they could have an ‘F1 babies’ championship based around the eastern circuits, a sort of Asian championship that could act as a proving ground for pre-F1 talent, and one that indigenous populations could get into,, being broadcast at times more suitable for their domestic viewers.

  2. What I find interesting in this reasoning is that it is assumed that having F1 races at diner time in Europe will favor the European F1 fans. And as fan of F1 and an hater of football/soccer I support this reasoning but I know that at least in the Netherlands the majority of sport enthusiasts will switch to Studio Sport at 19:00 and I bet it wouldn’t be much different in the other European F1 countries (and when I read the latest on TV viewing figures at that time from Germany it seems to be even worse there than in the Netherlands)

    • Speaking personally as a European fan, I rather like the Far East (day) races because I can get up at a suitably civilised hour on Saturday/Sunday mornings and straightaway watch the (recorded) live coverage on my video machine as if it were live, but also being able to fast forward any boring bits of the pre-race coverage!

  3. 6 am races? That’s the standard in the western half of North America. And those races in the Far east and Australia generally late Saturday night. You have to be a real fan to watch F1 in North America.

    • Only if you are talking “watching it in real time”. I won’t do that. I have satellite TV (used to have cable) because those are my only options. Set up my DVR to record FP2, Quali, prerace-race-post race, and fast forward thru the commercials.

      • Also comes in handy to fast forward thru the talking heads, which are never in short supply or even short of a word……

  4. I have a DVR and record FP2, Quali, and pre-race thru post-race, to watch when convenient and fast-forward thru the commercials on NBCSN, NBC, CNBC, or some combination of two of them.

    • Part of the problem here in the US is the early live broadcast time (5:00 am for me), so DVR does help, but the other part of the problem is that it’s broadcast on American TV. We have cut the cable TV ties at my house, so I watch (sometimes) the Sky broadcast on the interwebs. The NBC broadcast is so full of commercials it’s ridiculous and the constant interruptions ruin the continuity of the racing. A solution could be something like live streaming of the BBC or Sky on Netfilx or some other streaming service, as well as anytime playback. I’d certainly pay Netflix some extra money for that and the ability to watch in the afternoon when I can have a couple of beers would be fantastic.

      • Years ago..not enough in my opinion, f1 in the UK arrived on commercial TV and was nearly brought to its knees with the constant ad breaks you could guarantee that just when a car was overtaking or setting a fantastic lap we would have an ad for Loreal or claim direct,so bloody annoying. However,and I urge caution, I now have sky and pay for the privilege and inho..its even worst. I miss a full BBC broadcast ,one that really added to the sport and not the wet,hopeless football style of presenting we have now. If we pay for sky, we don’t want breaks, its easy but during practice and quali we get breaks…and i thought i paid for an uncluttered TV..heyho,wayof the world. But I do miss a full season with the beeb

  5. Pff Zandvoort. No special track. One good corner and that’s it… I’d rather have Imola back. Or turkey.

  6. This article just furthers cements my opinions some/many Europeans seem to feel they are entitled to Formula-1. With a 20 race calendar there is no need to have more than 7 races in Europe. Having races in Hungary and The Netherlands makes little more sense than having a race in Bahrain, or Azbeka-whatever. If F1 wants to grow it needs to expand globally. If you look at a list of the largest economies in the world it is hard to fault F1 looking to races in India, China, Korea, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore, Abu Dhabi etc. It also takes time for new countries to adopt a new sport. Japan is a good example. We wouldn’t cancel Japan today, but I’d wager a tenner if TJ13 was around in the early 70’s it too would have ridiculed a Japanese, or even Canadian GP. If Europeans are too inconvenienced getting up at 6am to watch a race then maybe they are not that dedicated? Fans in North and South America have to wake at 6am to watch a Euro race live. Now it becomes a problem because poor Euro fans have to more and more as well? It seems to me Bernie has more of a long-term vision than the pundits.

    • Don’t think any sense of entitlement is being expressed – but it is a fact that the TV audience is predominantly in Europe – and if those eyeballs continue to disappear, the TV companies will pay FOM less and less. The probably reality be Bernie will press for 25 races a year.

  7. Biggest reason for declining tv audiences in Europe is the fact that between 2008 and now more and more pay-tv is used for broadcasting F1. Not a lot of people (except the die hard fans) are willing to pay the grand prize for watching F1.

  8. If the nr. of TV viewers is an issue, then the solution is simple: make F1 more attractive. Now there is too much domination based on technical superiority. Drivers mainly come from European countries, For this hard to have a favorite coming from for instance USA, or China. People need local hero’s. Also more wet races (more action) with sprinklers. Why not a wet race in Abu Dhaby artificially, with drying conditions, wettening conditions, at least 2 times tire changes. Simply take care something happens all the time. F1 has chosen the path to be a world wide sport, the consequences are time differences for sure, but 2 BLN people in Asia, you can’t ignore, as well as more then 1 BLN in Africa, who even don’t have a home race.
    Having realized that, the pairs of eyeballs will increase without any doubt.

    • How many of those billion Africans a) have electricity, b) radio and TV, c) a personal car/truck, d) extra spending money, e) a knowledge of and interest in motor racing, other than perhaps the Paris-Dakar and other rallies?

      • Don’t keep up much on Africa, that’s for sure. That representation of a whole continent is like thinking all Europe is like Greece because that’s what most of the news coverage shows.

  9. F1 was taken off TV this year in Australia, last year every qualifying & race on TV, this year every second race on live every other seems to be highlights for an hour and no qualifying.
    Its a very odd way to promote a sport and sponsors, get people to not see you and forget you!

    • Al of the races are available if you’re prepared to pay Mr Murdoch for the privilege as TV rights are shared between the Ten network and Foxtel. Or do as I do and find somewhere streaming the race – the quality isn’t the best but it’s that or pay $50/month ($600/year) for 10 races.

  10. I have to say… Complaining about the 6 am start times feels like whining. As you know, that’s par for the course in the Americas. We get 4 races at a decent time and those conflict with other sports. Not to mention the wife complaining how “suuuuure you get up at 6 for a race but you can’t do it if I ask you”. Now that’s a real problem right there.

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