F1 team prize money takes $50m dip in 2017

Photo by: www.kymilman.com/F1

Autosport’s leading sentence is, “The 10 Formula 1 teams collectively received $47million less than the previous year during the first season of Liberty ownership” and we’ve discussed this at length during several of our podcasts before.

The increase in FOM staff, new offices, London Live event added to costs. Additionally, CEO Chase Carey’s desire to engage in more marketing events, fan outreach, and a new F1 TV service intended to increase F1’s appeal and gain new viewers has been a cause of the increase also. Chase said:

“We’ve settled into our new London headquarters,” he said on Thursday.

“With headcount currently around 120, expecting to settle around 150 by mid-to-late 2018.

“Overall we expect the associated incremental step-up in overhead to be $50m annually compared to 2016, excluding marketing and development expense tied largely to new initiatives.”

As we discussed, the challenge is that Chase has to build a long-term plan and to stave off the decreasing viewership numbers, gain more fans, put more bums in seats at races and offer more fan-forward events, and this takes money and investment. At least that has always been his position since taking over the sport a year ago.

What becomes difficult, and Chase knows this better than anyone, is how to limit team spending while improving the on-track competition and creating a more exciting series. That’s a tall order for anyone and ripe with politics, money and opinions.

The issue of prize money is massive and as Autosport points out, some teams believe this is an investment that Liberty Media must make instead of using the underlying profit (prize money) to pay for the additional costs to improve their product.

On the surface, that seems like a decent argument but if I am Chase, I believe I would state that F1 is a business and has to pay for its opportunity costs and own SG&A. I can understand that teams would rather Liberty make even more capital investment in the series instead of using their precious prize money but I doubt very strongly that Liberty Media is keen to that idea having spent the money it did to acquire the series.

As Chris points out over at Forbes, Chase says that most of the expenses are intended to improve the sport in the long-term and the cost increases were…

“primarily due to spend on fan engagement, filming in Ultra High-Definition and higher freight costs”

I’m trying to not feel like I am being blamed in this statement for being a fan and demanding London Live because I don’t even live in the UK. A bit like being blamed for banning grid girls. ;)

With the teams sharing 68% of the prize money and F1 increasing its costs and reducing the underlying profit in which the teams rely on, it is a huge issue and this is why we say that this year could be the most critical year in F1’s history…or next year. Regardless, the negotiations that happen now for 2021 are massive!

F1 lost UBS and Allianz as series sponsors, as Autosport points out, but it also had one less race in 2017 and I would imagine the lack of a broadcast renewal package with NBC Sports (rumored to be in the neighborhood of $3 million) also had a large impact.

All of this is tied and when the teams start feeling the financial pressure of lower prize payouts, it will be very challenging for Chase. Making sweeping regulations changes to improve the racing will also have serious knock-on effects. I thought Chris’s quotes of Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff were prescient to the discussion to add gravity to how serious this profit reduction is, increased expense is and changes of F1 are.

Marchionne said:

“if we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognizable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore.” He has a window to carry out his threat as the teams’ contracts to race expire at the end of 2020.

“There is the possibility to create an alternative championship from 2020/2021,” he added. “If they think we are bluffing then they are playing with fire.”

Wolff said:

“if I were Liberty Media’s new Formula 1 promoter, I would not continue provoking Marchionne with unacceptable suggestions or demands or nonsensical changes.”

Asked what he means, Wolff said, “Bringing rules or show elements into the game and turning F1 into a cheap shopping channel. Formula 1 must remain in its basic structures what it was and what it is. We have to improve them and face the new media environment. But we need evolution, not naive revolution.”

Tough situation for Chase and let’s hope he’s got a master plan to keep all the plates spinning.

Hat Tip: Autosport and Forbes

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A staff of 150 people, with a $50million budget, when Bernie used to do it all himself?


Did he really do it alone? I know that was always said, but there had to be others in the background(?)


How much did L.M take out of F1 in 2017? We used to hear about CVC raping and pilliaging the sport by taking out super-profits. I’m guessing L.M need to be taking similar sums out each year to give themselves a return on their $4.6 billion investment. (Is that what you’re referring to as SG&A, Todd?) So there won’t be any surplus of money to invest in the sport – CVC’s parting gift to F1, thanks you bunch of investment *ankers! Here you go TPF people, another Forbes article that explains how L.M funded the purchase of F1, using ‘only’… Read more »

sunny stivala

CVC made an estimated $4.4bln from F1 before selling to LM.


A good little earner for that bunch of *ankers

sunny stivala

Unlike LM both CVC and their pusher before them recognized from early on that joining the bad boys instead of fighting them and making them extremely rich was the only way to making themselves even more richer.

sunny stivala

The biggest fall in last decade. While CVC are recognized as having been the biggest winners ever in F1 LM will go down in history as the biggest losers.


I don’t know how Autosport is doing their maths, but by looking at the numbers they have reported over the years it’s not all as bad as it reported. The trend over the last few years has not been pretty, but a slow reversal is being seen. The payout have been as follows; 2014 season $884M 2015 season $966M, +82M 2016 season $940M, -26M 2017 season $916M, -21M note: I used the season the money was earned, not the year of the payout. Again, these are using numbers that Autosport has published over the years. As you can see, the… Read more »

sunny stivala

Figures “RELEASED BY LM” revel that the prize money paid to the ten teams that contested the world championship in 2017, the sports first year under its new ownership fell $47m to $nine one nine m, a drop of 5%. LM bought the sports commercial rights in January last year in a deal worth $4.6bn and by the end of the year revenue was down $12m to $1.8bn, the biggest fall of the past decade. An admission by LM that is sure to cause interest among the teams, is that “additionally, stock based compensation increased related to awards granted to… Read more »


I still don’t see where they are getting the numbers. I read the annual report of Liberty. They have no deltas as they didn’t report anything from 2016. The only correlation would be how CVC reported vs LM, and i’d be very surprised of the two companies, based in different countries, used the exact same accounting methodology. The numbers could be higher or lower. Even so, a 12M loss on 1.8B, while a lot for me and a lot of individuals, is a rounding error for Liberty. They have also paid off over $1B debt from the purchase of F1.… Read more »

sunny stivala

These people cannot be trusted with the figures and stats they push out.
Forget about reading from autosports and motorsports, go do some proper reading, reports by forbes and stylt.
Such as”- “About those F1 viewing figures, news story 06-01-2018.” “Why F1 burned up stg 95M in losses so far this year, news story 15-08-2017”.

sunny stivala

The maths done by Autosports as regards LM as well as the maths done by LM themselves will always have doubts cast on them, they been found-out/exposed before “by Forbes”.

Schumie Toronto

I wonder how much “the mustache”, “the eyebrow” and “the brains” took off the top? I expect $3 – 5 M of that $47 M!