LONDON (AP) Formula One’s new owners plan to add a street race in the United States in an attempt to improve a sport which they feel stagnated under Bernie Ecclestone’s control.
Chase Carey, who ended Ecclestone’s four-decade reign as F1’s chief executive, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the sport will no longer be run as a “one-man show.”
Carey, though, will be as dogged as the 86-year-old Ecclestone in negotiations with circuits, insisting that less-lucrative races in heartlands like Britain will have to prove they can become more profitable rather than being allowed to renegotiate hosting fees.
International sports and entertainment firm Liberty Media, which is controlled by 75-year-old tycoon John Malone, completed its takeover of F1 on Monday from investment fund CVC Capital Partners.
Driving growth in the United States is seen as a priority for Liberty, which also owns baseball’s Atlanta Braves and has investments in cable TV companies. F1 currently only makes one stop during the season in the United Sates – to Austin, Texas – but adding a street race is high on Liberty’s agenda.
“We would like to add a destination race in the U.S. in a location like New York, L.A., Miami, Las Vegas,” Carey said in a telephone interview. “We think we can create something that will be a really special event. Obviously the U.S. is all upsides for us. We haven’t invested in the way we need to build the U.S. market.”
The sport has remained stuck in the past, making “events feel a little tired,” while the modern media landscape was not grasped by Ecclestone, according to Carey.
“Bernie really ran a one-man show,” Carey said. “I don’t plan to run a one-man show.”
Although Ecclestone remains on board as an honorary chairman and will be an F1 adviser, power clearly now rests with Carey, who is a veteran Fox executive.
“The last half dozen years I think the business has not reached its potential,” Carey said. “With all the things you need to do to be competitive in an increasingly fragmented online world, you need an organization doing many things at the same time.”
Ecclestone was criticized for overlooking historic popular race venues to move into new, wealthier markets including Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Azerbaijan, which held its first race last year. The German Grand Prix has been dropped from the 2017 calendar because of Hockenheim’s financial difficulties, while the British race at Silverstone is at risk because of hosting costs.
“Western Europe is important for us and to some degree we have to engage to make those races bigger and better than they are while respecting their heritage,” Carey said, while ruling out cut-price deals to keep historic races.
“We are willing to invest in the sport but we are the new guys so everyone wants to come in and figure it’s a chance to renegotiate. So I don’t think that’s the right mindset. We think these races (in places like Britain and Germany) should be bigger and more profitable and we are willing to work with promoters to figure out how to achieve that. That’s our goal.”
The takeover, which gives F1 an enterprise value of $8 billion and an equity value of $4.4 billion, comes as the series is poised for a shakeup.
Changes such as wider tires, car design, louder engines, and more overtaking opportunities are set to make F1 more exciting in a bid to win back a large chunk of unhappy fans amid flagging attendances at some races.
“We can certainly do things to make the race day more engaging, more exciting – make the race itself more exciting,” Carey said. “I have gone around and talked to lot of people and hear many of the same things about predictability, rules too complicated, engineers overtaking drivers, the engines could be faster, louder, cheaper.
“And so there are a number of things we can do to improve the race, the race day.”
Such as tapping into the “excitement and buzz” found at the NFL’s showpiece game and turning races into week-long festivals in host cities.
“What I would like to have is 21 Super Bowls,” Carey said. “Priority 1 is to make the races bigger and better. We have some great races like Singapore, Mexico and Abu Dhabi but we have to make all the races have an energy and excitement that really makes them unique events.”