S’PORE GP IS MARQUEE RACE, WE WANT TO RENEW CONTRACT: F1 BOSS
SINGAPORE — Questions over the future of the Singapore Grand Prix have intensified this week as the iconic street race heads into its 10th edition — and the final year of its contract with Formula One’s owners.
But in what will be seen as a boost to Singapore’s bid for a renewal, Chase Carey, Formula One’s chief executive and chairman, stressed repeatedly yesterday that he would like to see the race return to Singapore for the long term, beyond 2017.
Talks to extend the night race have been going on since last year, and Carey said on the sidelines of the All That Matters (Sports Matters) conference at the Ritz Carlton Hotel: “It’s our goal to try and reach a new deal that enables us to continue the partnership we’ve had in Singapore.
“We’re proud of the relationship we’ve had in Singapore, we’re proud of the race, we have a good relationship with our partners and we’re actively engaged in trying to reach an agreement that works for the both of us.
“This is the marquee race and our goal is to renew the contract.”
The American, who succeeded former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone last year after Liberty Media’s US$8 billion (S$10.8 billion) takeover of the sport, would not be drawn into details on the contract negotiations, or a timeline for talks to conclude.
He added: “Given this is the last race under our current deal, we recognise it’s important for us to reach an agreement on what’s the future. I’m not going to put that line to it (on whether talks will conclude by Sunday).”
Previously described by Ecclestone as “F1’s crown jewel”, the Singapore Grand Prix also has a huge fan in Carey. Recalling his first experience of the night race last year, the 63-year-old said: “What really struck me as I arrived at night … that first impact of the city lit up, cars racing around the track with the city in the background was just awe inspiring. It was unique, it is something that distinguishes the race here in Singapore.
“Singapore is a very important race for us, it’s a signature race for us … Singapore in many ways is a gateway to Asia, a city famous around the world and the race here is spectacular when it’s lit up at night. It is a very distinctive race and we want each race to have its own identity and this race really has an identity that’s recognised around the world.”
While there is keen interest from the region and worldwide to be a part of the F1 calendar, Anthony Indaimo, legal sports advisor and partner at Withers KhattarWong, believes that the biggest factor for negotiations between both parties is the hosting fee for the race. Each edition of the Singapore race costs about S$150 million to organise, with the Government cofunding 60 per cent of approved costs.
Indaimo said: “I don’t think it’s competing cities (that’s the main factor), I think it’s purely the finances, but I think the finances are purely a function of what Chase Carey was saying.”
Tickets sales at the Singapore Grand Prix took a hit last year with its worst-ever spectator turnout — overall ticket take-up was 15 per cent lower than the average attendance in its inaugural season in 2008. According to a Singapore GP spokesperson, 10 ticket categories are now sold out, with 15 ticket categories “selling fast”.
“Out of the seven corporate hospitality and executive packages, five are sold out with very few seats left for the two remaining categories and we are expecting to sell out by tomorrow close of business.”
However, Carey is not too worried about the figures. Since taking over the sport, Liberty Media is looking into ways to engage with existing and new fans via digital platforms and other engagements.
“In recent years we do not feel the sport was doing some of the things it needs to do to make sure it is creating the excitement and engagement with fans,” he said. “We’ve launched a number of new initiatives at our events — we’re at the early stage, the transition and ownership of management occurred only about six months ago — but I do think we have a fresh energy and momentum to the sport.
“This year, our attendance has
Singapore is a very important race for us, it’s a signature race for us ... It is a very distinctive race and we want each race to have its own identity and this race really has an identity that’s recognised around the world. Chase Carey (picture) Formula one ceo and chairman
been up in almost every race, so we got things going in the right direction and have a fresh energy to it … we can do things to improve the sport on the track and improve everything around it and improve the ability for fans to engage with the sport — for example, in digital platforms where F1 didn’t develop its capabilities in a digital world. That’s so important today for current fans, new, young, old fans to be able to engage, follow the sport, follow the things that make the sport so special.”
Indaimo also believes that the owners’ ideas for fan and sponsor engagement will help increase revenue for host cities. “It probably is a question of the economics,” he said.
“But I think once they see what the vision is for growing the sport, sponsor and fan engagement, for increasing revenue, then I think they should be at least encouraged that they have a partnership with the new managers of F1 whereas it wasn’t really a partnership before.”
Complicated rules and multi-million-dollar budgets could also be a thing of the past under the new leadership, Carey indicated. “We’ve let the cost of some of the teams get to a place that doesn’t make sense, some of them are spending half-a-billion dollars to race for the season,” he said.
“The downside is it creates a competitive imbalance. We don’t want to dumb the cars down … but make it healthier for teams and those involved. It’s better to have an engine that’s not as complicated but still is state of the art. Those initiatives and cost … simpler, cheaper, louder, make it a better business for everyone.”