Formula 1 may like the more exotic locations it visits each year and who can blame them? A night race in Singapore? Monaco streets? Abu Dhabi sun-setting? While chasing larger and larger sanctioning fees, F1 has maintained its global spectacle while also finding national government support for its product. It’s kept the revenue stream intact through challenging economic times and while you may not be keen on losing some European venues, keeping the teams and investor flush with revenue in dour financial times has been a real coup from F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.
I was reading a story today on the Malaysian Grand Prix and I wonder just how long this Asia-Pac move of F1’s will last? Will it eventually wane or simply follow the cash around the world with BRIC next and then, who knows? Or will it simply continue to grow with no end in sight?
What I find interesting in this article is the concession that F1’s tickets sales are down 15% this year for the Malaysian Grand Prix and this is not a similar number to MotoGP’s ticket sales. This means that motorcycles might still be of more interest to local racing enthusiasts. Sepang International Circuit CEO Datuk Razlan Razali said:
“In terms of international sales, we see a growth of 2% from year to year, which is good for international tourism.
“We are still waiting for local fans to buy tickets and hope that there will be last-minute purchases in the next two weeks,” he said, adding that 80,000 tickets were sold for the three-day event last year.
Razlan noted that the Singapore Grand Prix had reported a 15% drop in their ticket sales compared to last year.
“So with the indefinite condition of the local and global economy, it might affect ticket sales for F1, but MotoGP is not affected that much this year,” he said.
Interesting that there is still not a strong local fan base to draw from and this is after 17 years on the calendar I might add. Surely long enough to build a local fan community and strong local event participation, no?
I recall having a long conversation with then marketing director of COTA ahead of their first grand prix. I recall speaking about the need for national ticket purchases and not just local folks checking out the race. It takes both and certainly from a tourism standpoint, increasing international ticket sales is what Austin and Malaysia would like to see. No doubt. But local fan participation is also important as it could be construed as part of the track economics the facility needs for all kinds of motoring events at the circuit.
This isn’t to say there aren’t race fans in Malaysia, of course there are and the people I see in the stands really do seem to love the races. I’m just intrigued in that these far-flung exotic locations are bankrolled and backed by governments in the hopes they bring tourism and legitimacy to their nation and that’s a big ask but it provides a stunning backdrop for a race, that’s for sure. I’m still always thinking about track economics and the infrastructure and people that work for the circuit. Look at the revolving door at COTA in just three years. It’s a tough business and it would be good to see these nations build a stronger and stronger local motorsport fan base to draw from to keep the facilities, commerce and track a viable option.
It’s not lost on me that the cost of tickets for an F1 race may be a very large part of the lack of local attendance but that’s another topic.
Hat Tip: The Star