Sin­ga­pore in the driv­ing seat as it ne­go­ti­ates new F1 deal

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

SIN­GA­PORE: Af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing Sin­ga­pore's cur­rent For­mula One (F1) deal, Bernie Ec­cle­stone said in 2012 the hard­est thing was ex­plain­ing to the au­thor­i­ties that "we don't race for free".

Four years on, the F1 boss ap­pears to be frus­trated again as he tries to keep one of the most glam­orous races on the cal­en­dar af­ter the con­tract ex­pires in 2017, at a time when the city-state is weigh­ing whether the event makes eco­nomic sense any­more.

With its tourism in­dus­try in­creas­ingly di­ver­si­fied, a stronger coun­try brand than when it first hosted the event in 2008 and other ma­jor sport­ing events in the bag, Sin­ga­pore seems to have the up­per hand in the talks with F1.

More­over, Ec­cle­stone and F1's new own­ers, US ca­ble TV mogul John Malone's Lib­erty Me­dia, face a new risk: with Malaysia pulling out of a new deal, they could al­to­gether lose their pres­ence in South­east Asia, one of the world's fastest-grow­ing re­gions.

F1's 86-year-old commercial supremo first told Ger­man mag­a­zine Auto Mo­tor und Sport that Sin­ga­pore does not want to host F1 any­more, then clar­i­fied he did not want to lose Sin­ga­pore. His com­ments sug­gest talks get­ting tougher.

"I think Sin­ga­pore has come in and ne­go­ti­ated hard and has re­alised they are in a po­si­tion of strength to do so," said James Wal­ton, head of the Sports Busi­ness ser­vice line at Deloitte Sin­ga­pore and South­east Asia.

"This is one of the top ranked grand prix ... and one of the mar­kets that the key spon­sors of F1 are most in­ter­ested in."

Sin­ga­pore's gov­ern­ment funds 60% of the S$150 mil­lion (RM466.25 mil­lion) it costs to host the race each year. An­a­lysts say the citys­tate is weigh­ing the costs, and ben­e­fits, of stag­ing the event in the fu­ture.

Sin­ga­pore GP, the event's or­gan­iser, said it would not com­ment on "on­go­ing commercial ne­go­ti­a­tions". A de­ci­sion is ex­pected be­fore year-end, Ec­cle­stone has said.

The Sin­ga­pore race is one of the most pop­u­lar, tak­ing place at night on a street cir­cuit with spec­ta­tors en­ter­tained by mu­sic acts such as Bey­once and Justin Bieber, while TV watch­ers get a bird's-eye view of the glitzy sky­line.

As a top wealth man­age­ment hub, the city- state is a nat­u­ral draw for the re­gion's af­flu­ent peo­ple, a key tar­get of For­mula One spon­sors such as Hugo Boss and Tag Heuer, a lux­ury LVMH brand.

But the sig­nif­i­cance of that is big­ger for Ec­cle­stone than for Sin­ga­pore, which also hosts events such as the WTA women's ten­nis fi­nals and the Rugby 7s se­ries that bring over 100,000 vis­i­tors each.

While the F1 ini­tially played an im­por­tant role in boost­ing the tourism in­dus­try, Sin­ga­pore has di­ver­si­fied its of­fer­ing, now fo­cus­ing on the emerg­ing mid­dle classes from China, India and In­done­sia. – Reuters

REUTERSPIX

Sin­ga­pore is weigh­ing the costs, and ben­e­fits, of stag­ing F1 in the fu­ture, say an­a­lysts.

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