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F1 could face this new crisis

Formula One has been trying to ‘crack’ America for decades and it appears the sport is finally making huge inroads into the US market. Yet there is a price to be paid for becoming successful in the USA which F1 may be willing to pay, but which may pervert the world’s premier prototype motor racing series forever. A new crisis could be upon the sport if the new money disappears overnight.

Liberty Media who acquired F1 from Ecclestone and CVC Capital partners in 2017 immediately dismissed Ecclestone as their CEO. Yet Ecclestone had succeeded in taking F1 from racing in muddy fields to a global sport where only the richest could become partners and pay a huge premium for it.

The new FOM liberty media owned commercial rights holder is taking Formula One in a new direction.

Whether by luck of genius, FOM has engaged with Netflix to produced A USA hit docu-drama based on each season’s track action and the off track battles within the piranha club.

This season’s 10 episodes will be difficult for Netflix to schedule given the silly season drama’s which began to unfold following the final race before the summer break. Fernando Alonso scuppered Alpine’s plans when he announced he was leaving for Aston next year. Alpine’s team boss revealed the first he knew of it was from the Spaniard’s media release.

Then Alpine lost their much coveted young academy driver Oscar Piastri in a bizarre move which saw the Aussie announced as the team’s driver for 2023 only 90 minutes later for him to refute the French outfit’s claims

Such has been the rise in F1’s popularity in the States, F1 stars like Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo have been appearing on prime US TV shows. Both are consulting on upcoming F1 big budget movies one of which will star Brad Pitt.

F1’s owners are benefiting hugely from this expansion as a new survey reveals 100 American companies are now partnering with the sport.

Spomotion Analytics have discovered these partners have doubled in recent years with more than 30 new US partners joining F1. They include technology companies like Qualcomm, Alphabet and Salesforce. Tech companies account for almost half of the new partners with most of them listed on the stock exchange.

US partnerships now total around a third of all global partners of the sport and McLaren with American CEO Zak Brown has been quick to capitalise. The British racing marque have in recent years signed partners like Dell, Arrow Electronics, Alteryx Analytics, Cisco, DeWalt, Gopuff, Alphabet and Goldman Sachs.

The usually conservative Ferrari team now have 7 US companies on board with just 10 Italian companies by comparison.

Spomotion Analytics partnership analyst Björn Stenbacka described the US as having “Formula 1 fever.”

“What we see is exceptional,” Stenbacka said. “Formula 1 has traditionally been ‘the European racing series’, but not anymore. Since Liberty Media took over in 2017 a lot have happened. USA is now the most important single market for Formula 1, with a lot of attention from both fans and companies.

“We will probably see more Fortune 500 companies in Formula 1 in 2023. USA has the Formula 1 fever.”

However, there are voices of caution about the newly obsessive USA partners for Formula One.

Bernie Ecclestone believes “Liberty could distort and ruin F1 because they have no experience.”

“They’re producing Formula 1: American Style,” Ecclestone told Bloomberg. “It may well be that it’s good, because so many stupid things come out of America and everyone’s happy, but it wasn’t the way I ran things.”

With fake lakes in Miami and a permanent F1 center to be built on the Vegas strip, the sport is clearly on wildfire. Yet F1’s guardians need to ensure they protect their core values. The loss of at least 2 European circuits by 2024 has not for example gone down well in the F1 heartland.

The real risk here is that in the blind pursuit of a new and untested market such as the USA, F1 could well find itself abandoning its core reliable base with a potentially unsubstantial structure in the guise of US money in its place.

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